Originally Watkins Memorial Hospital, the building opened in January 1932. It was funded by Elizabeth Miller Watkins, a doctor’s daughter and widow of Lawrence banker/financier Jabez B. Watkins, for whom it was named.
The unusual splayed-V design of the stone building, by State Architect Joseph E. Radotinsky, accommodates its site on the edge of the hill Watkins owned.
In March 1974 the larger Watkins Memorial Health Center opened; in May 1974 the former hospital became home to the School of Social Welfare and was renamed for Esther E. Twente (1895-1971), a pioneering social worker, author and educator who joined the faculty in 1937. She had overseen the development of first the department, which became the school.
In 2005, after the opening of the Hall Center for the Humanities, Social Welfare expanded into the former Watkins Home, built as a residence for the hospital’s nurses in 1937.
The limestone bas-relief of St. George and the Dragon and the animals, birds and reptiles carved around the front door were designed and created by Professor Marjorie Whitney, longtime chair of the design department, who also created interior murals of sunflowers and Jayhawks and designed many of the original furnishings. A portion of a mural and some furnishings are exhibited at the health center.