Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center / Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic

2101 E Yesler Way

Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center and Odessa Brown Children's Clinic, Seattle, 2020, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center and Odessa Brown Children's Clinic, Seattle, 2020, HistoryLink photo by David Koch
Odessa Brown Clinic, 172 20th Ave, Seattle, 1972, Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives (191738)
Mayor Wes Uhlman signing contract between Health Advisory Board and Odessa Brown Clinic, Seattle, 1970, Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives (77412)
Herzl Congregation Synagogue, 172 20th Ave, Seattle, ca. 1925, Courtesy UW Special Collections (JEW0052)

2101 E Yesler Way

Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center has served the Central Area since its founding in 1969. Providing free medical care for Black Seattleites was one of the primary initiatives of the Black Panther Party, and Leon “Valentine” Hobbs opened the first clinic. The original clinic, located in the Madrona neighborhood, primarily served expecting mothers and babies, and offered testing for sickle-cell anemia. Eventually the grassroots clinic evolved into a permanent primary care and pediatric facility. In 1978, it was renamed after Carolyn Downs, one of the Panthers’ earliest members, who died of breast cancer at the age of 25. The clinic remained in operation in Madrona until it merged with Country Doctors Community Health Centers in 1994. The Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center has been in this location in the Central Area since then.

The other clinic that shares this building focuses on pediatric medicine. It was named for Odessa Brown, a community organizer for a youth-focused program called the Central Area Motivation Program (CAMP). Brown was a fierce advocate for health care for the District’s Black community, and persuaded the Model Cities Program commission to include a provision for a children’s clinic. Although Brown did not live to see the clinic’s opening in 1970, the commission named it after her. Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic relocated to share this building with Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center in 1994.

Just outside the entrance to the Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center, an unassuming sculpture sits nestled in foliage. My Testimony in Stone, carved in granite, was created by artist James Washington, Jr. in 1981. Washington is one of Seattle’s best known and most prolific Black artists who worked in a variety of media. On the subject matter of his art, he said: “Everything we deal with is symbols, and all symbols lead to truth…Symbols can convey an emotional state beyond the capability of words.” He was self-taught, and worked almost exclusively out of his home studio – now the James and Janie Washington Cultural Center – on 26th Avenue between Howell Street and East Denny Way. He also taught art to many young people, encouraging and empowering them to find their own artistic potential.

Walk west on E Yesler toward 21st Avenue and go left on 21st Avenue. Make another left onto S Washington Street to enter the park.

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