Cheongra Hill & Museums of Medical Missionary Works

published by Devon Furbush
On its 100th anniversary, the Keimyung University Medical Center (Dongsan Medical Center) established the homes of American missionaries into private museums. These were the people who helped spread Christianity and modern medicine across the city during the late 1800s. Other special sites on the hill are a cemetery for the missionaries and their families, a granite Gothic-style church, and part of the wall of the original Dongsan Medical Center. The Museums of Medical Missionary Works are located right in the middle of Daegu’s modern history walking tour. Cheongra Hill isn’t only the place of three historical homes. Among these are other monuments and relics that have deep roots in the development of Daegu's history and culture.

3.1 Independent Movement steps

Considered one of the most recognized areas in the city, these 90 steps were marched on by hundreds of patriots and freedom fighters on March 8th, 1919 during the movement against Japanese rule. March 1st marks the day of the first movement that happened in Seoul; it is now recognized as a national holiday. If you get the chance, try taking a photo at the photo zone at the top.

The top of the steps leads to Cheongra Hill. It is here where Christianity in Daegu takes its roots. This was the place where American missionaries lived, worked, and raised families. While serving Korean society, they cultivated a place where modernization in Daegu took off. The original name of the hill was Dongsan, which means ‘east hill’ because it is located on the east side of Dalseong Park. It was a small area purchased by missionary James Adams and Dr. Woodbridge Johnson in 1899 that, over the years, became a hub for education, churches, hospitals, and missionary residences. Though no one is sure how many homes actually were originally built, currently there are three still standing. Each looking just as they did when they were first erected over 100 years ago.

Chamness residence, the Museum of Medicine

The first home you’ll see is the Chamness residence, named the Museum of Medicine. Named after Pastor Vaughan Chamness, he lived alongside missionary Showertek, hospital director Howard F. Moffett, and Keisung HS’s 2nd principal Mr. Rainer. Just like the Switzer Residence and the First Presbyterian Church, this home’s foundation has stones from Daegu-eup seong Fortress. The museum inside is home to dozens of medical devices and equipment that showcase the progression of modern medicine.

Garden of Mercy 

Right across from the Chamness residence is the cemetery of the missionaries and their families who dedicated their lives to the citizens of Korea. The first American to die in Daegu, Nelly Dick Adams, is buried here. She was the wife of James Adams.

Blair residence, the Museum of History and Education

The Blair Residence was home to Pastor Blair. I believe it was the first residence to be built among the three. This home, in particular, gives a good look at how traditional American homes in Korea looked. It has been transformed into a history and education museum. Inside is a reconstructed elementary schoolroom from the 60s and 70s, schoolbooks, memorabilia from the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea-Japan, pictures from the Daegu March 1st Independence Movement, and more. Of the three homes, this was the only one that was locked. The 2nd floor isn’t open to the public because it contains rare tangible precious items.

Korea’s first hyperbaric chamber

In 2010 when Daegu’s urban monorail was under construction, this structure from Dongsan Medical Center was relocated to Cheongra Hill in order to preserve its unique architecture and history. Originally built in 1931 by Superintendent Archibald G. Fletcher, it was the main entrance of the historical hospital which was used as a treating center for the police force in 1941 and it became the Daegu branch of the National Police Hospital in 1950. Over the decades it has grown to become one of the most locally visited and recognized hospitals. Placed inside the structure is Korea’s first-ever hyperbaric chamber.


Switzer residence, the Museum of Mission

The final home we’ll visit is the Switzer residence, the Museum of Mission. To me, this has the best view from the outside. There is an open lawn, some huge trees, and the bell tower celebrating 100 years of Dongsan Medical Center. Inside the Museum of Mission, named after Martha Switzer, you’ll see a brief timeline and history of the missionaries’ services including relics of the Protestant Church, portraits, newspaper articles, and more.   Martha lived with 4th principal of Keiseong HS Mr. Henderson, and Dean of Keimyung University Mr. Campbell. The 2nd floor isn’t open to the public because it contains rare tangible precious items.

Dongsan Bell Tower

At some point in history, the Korean government set out a nationwide movement to demolish surrounding walls. When the campaign was active in Daegu, Dongsan Medical Center promptly participated. I don't know why they did this but apparently it was something the hospital wanted. During this campaign, two pillars from the central and main gates were moved to this location next to the Switzer residence and the bell tower was built. The hospital established an early pioneer church that sought out to preserve the bell and its symbol of spreading gospel.

Jaeil Church

Of course, I can’t forget about the humongous church sitting on top of the hill. It was built from 1989 until 1994 and sits at the same site as the old Yeongnam Mission School. It’s being used as an educational center as well as a public place for the local residents and church members.

Address: Jung-gu, Dalgubeol-daero 2029


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