A Short Tour of Forsyth's Medical Past

Dr. Robert W. Prichard in 1987
Dr. Robert W. Prichard in 1987

This is a tour of about 28 miles, taking about 2 hours, intended for those who know little or nothing about either medicine in Forsyth county's past, or even the geography of the county.

Some old-timers may find a few things they didn't know, or a few places they haven't been to for a while that have changed a lot. Under these assumptions, details are given which may otherwise be superfluous. Defining "medical past" has its own problems, not the least of them offending someone whose favorite item may be left out. In general, the sites on the tour date from before 1941. In a few instances, they represent something which came and went as a medical artifact, yet remains interesting for some other reason for the 1981 resident of the community. The tour begins in the east and ends in the west for no special reason; everything has to start somewhere. The numbers on the map are simply a rough guide. Where there might be a problem in getting to a particular site, suggestions are made. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays are probably the best times for the tour, since part is downtown, and the Bethabara God's Acre is not open at other times.

1. Williamson's Hospital:  Coming off US 52 onto Stadium Drive, heading east, the first corner you get to -- the Williamson's Hospital Thumbnailsouthwest corner of Stadium and Vargrave -- is occupied by a large frame house. The house stands on two lots bought for $2,000 by Dr. J. C. Williamson in 1913. Dr. Williamson was one of the early black school teachers here. He left his teaching post and went to Leonard Medical College of Shaw University, while his wife continued to teach school here. After his medical degree was granted in 1913 he returned and, for an undetermined period, used his home as both office and hospital. A newspaper account of the treatment of an injured black boy at "Williamson's Hospital" confirms that situation in 1914, but there is no record of its years of operation.

2. Slater Hospital:  Continue east on Stadium and turn left onto Claremont, then right on Wallace Street into the Winston-Salem State University campus. At the first stop sign inside the campus turn right onto Price Street. Go past Bank Street to the end of Price Street. On your right you will pass Bickett Hall, which has served as a dormitory building since its first part, behind the white columns, was finished in 1922. Bickett Hall stands on theSlater Hospital Thumbnail site of the first black hospital in Winston-Salem, the Slater Hospital. Some say that a part of the old hospital was incorporated into Bickett, others say material from the demolished hospital was used to build Bickett; I cannot confirm either story. The Slater Hospital started its existence on paper in 1899, backed by money from R.J. Reynolds whose brother, Will, was a member of the board. It was built adjacent to the Slater Industrial and State Normal School, the forerunner of today's WSSU, on a part of the old Pfohl and Stockton Farm. It probably began to operate in 1902, but by May, 1904, it closed due to lack of water. It took until April, 1905, for it to reopen, a gala occasion highlighted by a fund-raising talk at the Elks Club, to a racially-mixed audience, by Booker T. Washington, whose aides praised the hospital in an article in the Tuskegee student newspaper. The water came from the closest point of the Salem water company's system. The hospital had a hard time financially, closing sometime in 1912. It was then used as a dormitory until Bickett was built.

3. Junior League Hospital:  Get back onto Claremont via a left on Bank Street, then a brief right on Stadium. Go north on Claremont across the I-40 interchange, then right at the first stop light onto First Street, after the entrance to westbound I-40. Just beyond Cameron Avenue, bear left onto Maryland Avenue and immediately bear right onto Junior League Hospital ThumbnailKentucky Avenue. On the right, at 1868 Kentucky, you'll see the sign designating the Resthaven unit of the North Carolina Baptist Homes for the Aged. The building opened January 8, 1929, as the Junior League Hospital for Incurables. This project began in 1927 when the late Miss Alice Gray, an indefatigable worker in health causes, rallied the 100-member Junior League to do something about the lack of what we would now call a nursing home. The only alternative, and that for the destitute only, was the county hospital, to be discussed later. In two weeks $60,000 was raised. The original building stood on 6 acres and had seventeen private rooms. By 1937 other facilities served the original purpose of the Junior League Hospital, and both the Junior League and Duke Endowment put their money to use elsewhere.

4. City Hospital:  Backtracking onto First Street, you'll get to Dunleith on your right, before getting back to Claremont. Turn right off First Street and after one block, you'll be at the old City Hospital, sitting on a large compound extending from Third to Fifth Streets, and from Dunleith to Cameron.City Memorial Hospital Thumbnail The site used to be a racetrack, and the 5 acres were bought from R.J. Reynolds for $5,000, which was raised in a bond issue. The original hospital opened in November, 1914, and was called the Twin-City Hospital or "New" Twin-City Hospital. By 1921, it had become the City Memorial Hospital, the name it bore the rest of its days. It grew from 85 beds to 300 beds and 55 bassinets before closing in May, 1964. It was subsequently used for the North Carolina Advancement School, intended to motivate under-achievers. When the school was phased out, the building was used briefly as a dormitory for Winston-Salem State University. As of October, 1981, it has been undergoing renovation for a new life as housing for senior citizens, their social services, and possibly WSSU dorms. Its successor is Forsyth Memorial Hospital, on a 77-acre tract at the south end of Hawthorne Road. View City Memorial Hospital Building in 1981.

5. Reynolds Memorial Hospital:  Leaving the old City Hospital grounds, head west on Fifth Street and turn right onto Claremont, perhaps stopping a moment in the Galilee Baptist Church parking lot to look northwest over the area between your stopping place and US 52. You can easily see the Reynolds Health Center at 741 Highland Avenue, Reynolds Memorial Hospital Thumbnailwhere today there is much outpatient health activity and an alcoholism treatment facility. This building opened in January, 1970, as a 250-bed, $6-million hospital, primarily for the black community. The idea of a black hospital was passe and in 1972, hospital functions ceased. Beyond Reynolds Health Center, gone in the urban renewal-Highway 52 Program, is the former Ray's Hospital at Thirteenth and Ridge (there is no longer a Thirteenth and Ridge). At that place, Dr. Alexander Hamilton Ray operated from 15 to 20 beds in a frame building owned by his wife; it appears as Ray's Hospital in the city directories from 1920 to 1925. Also gone is the premier black hospital of the city's past, the Kate Bitting Reynolds Hospital, usually called "Katie B." Its site on Highland and Cleveland Avenues was cleared too, in urban renewal, but it was a proud moment when it opened in July, 1938, with 100 beds. When 90 more beds were opened in February, 1941, it was the third-largest black hospital in the U.S. In 1944, there was talk of a black medical school at the hospital but it never materialized. A variety of financial and professional problems plagued the hospital until it was replaced in 1970 by Reynolds Memorial. If interested, you may wish to drive around these sites.

6.  Lawrence Hospital: Get back to Fifth Street, going west,and turn right onto Trade Street.Lawrence Hospital Thumbnail Continue north to Seventh Street, take a left onto Seventh, and then immediately turn right onto Oak Street. The Winston-Salem Rescue Mission on your right is worth a moment's pause. This basically handsome building opened in 1920 as the Lawrence Hospital, a 56-bed private facility which served both whites (mainly) and blacks. It was sometimes called "The Oaks Hospital," but that wasn't its name. Dr. C. S. Lawrence, its proprietor, had run a small private hospital in a brick building at the corner of Liberty and Seventh Streets before World War I. He closed the hospital when he went off to war with the Winston-Salem hospital unit which he also organized. Dr. Lawrence died in 1930; three years later the hospital was converted into apartments, and later sold to the Rescue Mission.

7. Twin-City Hospital: Continue down Oak Street until you get to Eighth Street, turn right onto Trade, left onto Sixth, and right onto Liberty. Go south to the block between Second and Third Streets. On the right-hand side, once First Twin-City Hospital Thumbnail236 Liberty Street, but now part of the NCNB Building, stood the Grogan house, which opened as the first Twin-City Hospital in December, 1887, with 10 beds. The idea came from the Episcopal rector and was picked up by a group of women in June, 1887. With the money they raised, and contributions from the commissioners of both Winston and Salem, Martin Grogan's home was rented and furnished for hospital purposes. In those days, people with homes stayed in them when sick; hospitals were for the indigent, so it was not likely that many of the patients could pay the $5 per week charge. In 1891, this hospital closed and for the following four years the two cities had no hospital.

8.  Spencer Sanitarium: From the same viewing spot on Liberty Street, you canSpencer Sanitarium Thumbnail see the northeast corner of Liberty and Second Streets, an area loomed over by the Hall of Justice. On that corner, from 1912 to 1917, stood the 35-bed Spencer Sanitarium, a private hospital operated by Dr. W.O. Spencer, whose interests were mainly general and gynecologic surgery. Although other physicians were said to be welcome to use the hospital, it was mainly the private preserve of Dr. Spencer.

9.  Dr. Christian D. Kuhln's House: Continue south on Liberty, onto the Old Salem bypass. Go through the light at the Dr. Christian D. Kuhln's House Thumbnailbypass' intersection with Academy Street. Turn left at the next street (Walnut Street) and go to where it intersects with Main Street. Opposite your stop there, on the southeast corner (901 S. Main), stands the handsome home of Dr. George E. Waynick, Jr., a dentist. The builder of the house was Dr. Kuhln, born a Moravian in Germany, who emigrated to Salem in December, 1818. In 1831, he built a house which contained both his examining room and an apothecary (a pattern common at the time in Salem and elsewhere). He was the last of the German-born physicians of Old Salem, practicing until his death from a stroke at age 66, in 1859.

10. "Continental Hospital" and Dr. Jacob Bonn's House: Going north on Main Street, go by Salem Square and stop at the next intersection, at Bank Street. There, opposite the magnificent Belo House, are two sites of medical historical interest. On the northwest corner of Bank and Main is an empty lot showing only the foundations of the "two-story house" which once stood there. On February 4, 1781, the pacifist Salem Community was called upon to provide a house with four rooms to be used by the "Continental Hospital" unit of General Nathanael Greene's Continental Army. Such a "hospital" was not a building, but a military unit. There had been earlier medical assistance by the Salem Continental Hospital and Dr. Jacob Bonn's House ThumbnailCommunity and there was to be more later, as well. General Greene's surgeon mate's request was met by preparing the two-story house, but it may have been used for only 1 day, since Dr. Reed of the Army ordered the hospital to move on the next day. Some say wounded were left behind.  Just north of the empty corner lot is the First House, which in its restored state, is designated as an Apothecary Shop. That it was, but its first occupant, Dr. Jacob Bonn, was also the Salem doctor. Brother Bonn, as he was known, had come to Bethabara after training in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to relieve the first Bethabara doctor, about whom more later. Brother Bonn had gone back to Pennsylvania for additional training and was ready when the Wachovia community moved its headquarters to Salem in 1772. There he began inoculation for smallpox, practiced medicine, and served as sheriff and justice of the peace. He organized a nursing service in the Moravian villages, holding periodic conferences with the nursing staff, which was both male and female. Mrs. Bonn served as a midwife. Perhaps all these duties were at least partly responsible for his local reputation as a poor manager, prompting attempts by the Salem overseers to help him with his personal affairs. When he died in 1781, at age 48, he left his family heavily in debt.

11.  Dr. Benjamin Vierling's House: It's probably easiest to leave your car parked and walk east up Bank Street to look at Dr. Vierling's house built in 1802. If you are there at a time when the house is open, be sure you have lots of time on your parking place. The Vierling house stands opposite the head of Bank Street on the east side of Church Dr. Benjamin Vierling's House ThumbnailStreet and is one of the most recently restored parts of Old Salem. Dr. Vierling began 27 years of practice in Salem on February 22, 1790. He was a Berlin medical graduate, and came to Salem after the Moravians had had a bad experience with a Welsh doctor and were ready to go back to their German roots. Vierling was an activist, introducing the new practice of cowpox vaccination for smallpox, agitating the brethren to build a hospital (they never did), getting them to build a "corpse house" -- a place to put dead people to be sure they really were dead before burying them, helping to build the fresh-meat market on the Square, performing difficult surgery and showing an interest in rehabilitation. As with Dr. Bonn, the elders worried about Vierling's managerial skills, especially when he built the large house you see. His sudden death in 1817, at age 52, occasioned great sadness. Because he died without a will, the contents of his house were inventoried room by room, making the restoration particularly accurate, though leaving some interesting questions, as you'll find out when you tour the house.

12. Second Twin-City Hospital: Go south on Main Street to Academy Street, turn right and go four blocks to the next stoplight, then turn right again on Marshall to Brookstown, which angles off to the left. As you travel northwest on Brookstown, through the heart of the industrial evolution of Salem, you will drive to the block between Second Street and Burke Street. On your left is the compound built by the Naval Reserve but now empty except for someSecond Twin-City Hospital Thumbnail Army functions. On a 1.5 acre plot there, the women who had organized the first Twin-City Hospital on Liberty Street opened the Twin-City Hospital in permanent quarters on October 18, 1895, admitting a patient with gallstones four days later. Their $10,000 structure had two stories and a basement, housing 19 patients. Like its predecessor, it was for whites, most of them indigent or poor newcomers -- the register lists many with Europe as their home. After July, 1912, with the Slater Hospital closed, blacks were admitted in small numbers as well. Before the hospital closed on November 4, 1914, with the transfer of patients to the "New Twin-City Hospital" -- City Memorial Hospital -- it had added a maternity ward in a separate building, a children's ward and a private room, and had started a successful nurses' training school in 1901.

13. 1920 Temporary Flu Hospital: Continue northwest on Brookstown until it meets Fourth Street; bear right and immediately turn left onto Summit Street and go two blocks to the intersection of Summit and Fifth Streets. On the northwest corner is a parking lot used by St. Paul's Church, with a handsome converted carriage house at its lower Temporary Flu Hospital Thumbnailborder. The carriage house is all that remains of the A. Clint Miller home and by extension, is the last structure associated with the flu epidemics of 1918, 1919, and 1920. The limited hospital facilities during that time necessitated the opening of temporary hospitals, which at various times were in the J.W. Hanes home at 1105 W. Fourth Street, the Depot Street School at Depot (now Seventh) and Patterson, in a new ten-room house at "Hanes Station" (now the area west of the Hanes Plant on South Stratford Road) and in a house on Maple Street (now part of US 52) owned by Charles H. Jones, a prosperous black real estate man. In 1920, the forty whites who needed care went to the A. Clint Miller home; they were again from the poor segment of the population.

14. NCBH/BGSM Complex: Going west down Fifth Street into Glade Street to its end, turn left onto Hawthorne Road. Go south along Hawthorne to Ardmore Hill, where in 1923, the Baptists of North Carolina opened their sole venture into the hospital business. Whether they were trying to outdo the Methodists, who in 1917 acted Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in 1981 Thumbnailserious about building a hospital to complement their Children's Home, cannot be said -- probably not, for it was part of the Southern Baptist Convention's "75 Million Dollar Campaign" which followed World War I. At their Asheville convention in 1920, the NC Convention authorized building a hospital in Winston-Salem, with many other cities competing. About 100 beds were built for $133,690. The Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest College, adding two clinical years to the two preclinical years taught at Wake Forest since 1902, opened in 1941 and graduated its first MD's in 1943. The most recent of many additions was dedicated in September, 1981.  This building, Watlington Hall, stands on the site of the 1923 building. The NCBH now has 703 beds and a medical student body of 424.

15.  Casstevens Hospital: Turn right off Hawthorne onto Queen Street and go west to its end at Knollwood Street, Casstevens Hospital Thumbnailthen turn right onto Knollwood. On the southwest corner of Knollwood and Stratford stands Stratford Oaks, an office complex occupying the land on which Dr. J.C. Casstevens opened his 30-bed private hospital in March, 1946. It was originally called a clinic and became a hospital in 1954, with obstetrics and minor surgery as its main functions. As recently as 1970, 1200 operations per year were done. When it was replaced by Medical Park Hospital in 1971, Casstevens closed, and Stratford Oaks was opened there in 1975. The place retains a medical aspect, having housed the offices of the Forsyth-Stokes-Davie Medical Society since 1976.

16. Graylyn: Turn right onto S. Stratford Road and go to its junction with N. Stratford, (two stoplights) turning diagonally left onto N. Stratford. Go north to the intersection with Reynolda Road; turn left on Reynolda and go until you come to the Graylyn entrance on your left. The big house itself, the "farm" buildings and the Amos Cottage have all had medical connections at one time. The farm buildings were given to the medical school in 1941, Graylyn Thumbnailintended for a role in research which was thwarted by World War II, although the farm fields on the western edge of the property, did house the medical school's farm activities, chiefly pigeon raising, in 1958-1960. In 1946, the main house and part of the grounds were given to the medical school for a psychiatric facility and for preventive medicine, though the latter never used the Graylyn location. From August, 1947, until January, 1959, the main house was used as a psychiatric hospital; additional rooms were built for it above the indoor pool wing at the south end of the main house. In 1951, Mr. C.E. Amos of High Point built a structure to the south of the outdoor pool designed to accommodate elderly people with psychiatric problems. It was used briefly for that purpose but for a much longer period served the needs of children with severe neurological and psychiatric problems. The "Amos Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital, " as a functional unit, was moved to new quarters on the Forsyth Hospital grounds in 1975. The original Amos Cottage is now used as the "Spanish House," a residence for students studying that language at Wake Forest University. When the psychiatric uses of Graylyn ceased, the North Carolina Advancement School, already mentioned when it was at the old City Hospital compound, moved in for a few years. At present, one of the few uses not being considered for the Graylyn property is medicine. As a sideline, Graylyn was initially considered as a site for relocation of the medical school/Baptist Hospital complex.

17. Speas Clinic: Returning to Reynolda Road, turn left and go to its intersection with Polo Road. On the southwest Speas Clinic Thumbnailcorner, at 2598 Reynolda Road, stands a large home built by Dr. D. C. Speas in 1938. In the white frame portion along Polo Road, and in his earlier clinic just south of it, Dr. Speas estimated that he removed 16,000 pairs of tonsils between 1929 and 1962. The 1929 clinic had 3 beds and the 1938 house-clinic had 15 beds, although members of a single family sometimes doubled up, allowing Dr. Speas to house 20 patients for a night. It is now a private home.

18.  Dr. Kalberlahn's Grave: Continue north on Reynolda Road to Old Town Drive -- this is on the far (north) side of the Pine Ridge Shopping Center -- and turn right at the stoplight. A short distance down the road on the right you will see a small black-and-white sign "God's Acre - Bethabara Moravian Church." The tarred dirt road at that point will take you to the cemetery. You are allowed to drive down the dirt road on Saturdays, Sundays, Dr. Kalberlahn's Grave Thumbnailholidays, and other times by appointment. This plot houses the graves of the earliest of the Moravians who died in North Carolina; the graves were numbered sequentially for a while. Grave number 6 is that of Hans Martin Kalberlahn (misspelled on the stone). Born in Norway, he had joined the Moravian brotherhood near Frankfurt in Germany, and had come to Bethabara in the original settlement party in November, 1753. In addition to his busy medical practice, he was the cook, general housekeeper, and bookkeeper. He was married July, 1758 in Bethlehem. In May, 1759 he returned to Bethabara only to find an Indian war in progress. Typhus was epidemic and two months later he died of the disease. Finding his grave requires a bit of attention. As you look into God's Acre from the entrance arch, you will see an obelisk commemorating an early missionary. To the right (east) of this monument, the fifth row of graves is the earliest group, which includes Dr. Kalberlahn's. Many other graves give silent evidence of the hard life of the frontier, especially for children.

19.  Dr. Kalberlahn's Laboratory: Go back to Old Town Drive and turn right. Turn right again on Bethabara Road and Dr. Kalberlahn's Laboratory Thumbnailpark in the lot adjacent to the Historic Bethabara Park Headquarters. Across the street is the Gemeinhaus, and behind it are several building foundations uncovered by the park archaeologists. The lowest is that of Dr. Kalberlahn's "laboratory," a two-room structure, completed in 1759. From what is known of the use of the word "laboratory" in the 18th century, the structure was probably used to compound medicines.

20. Nature Science Center: Turn right out of the Bethabara parking lot and go northwest on Bethabara Road to Nature Science CenterBethania Station Road. Turn right on Bethania Station and go to Hanes Mill Road which is beyond Shattalon Drive. Turn right and continue on Hanes Mill Road until you get to the Nature Science Center. In 1938, a $250,000 building program established a hospital and laundry facility on Rural Hall Road. It was, at first, an old people's home and also a detention center for psychiatric patients. Prisoners staffed the laundry. Between 1941 and 1943, maternal health services were started. Maternity patients were admitted and an operating room was built. About 1954, its work being duplicated elsewhere, this building was converted into a convalescent home and then was closed down in 1961-1962. The old hospital buildings are only partially used in connection with the Nature Science Center, which opened in 1964.

21. Knollwood Hall: Go back to Shattalon Drive, turn left and go beyond the North Forsyth High School entrance to Knollwood Hall, on the left. The older buildings, which you will come to first, were opened in February, 1930, as aKnollwood Hall $250,000 tuberculosis hospital for white patients. Its 148 adult beds and 24 children's beds were supplemented by a school on the grounds. Overcrowding at the first TB hospital was thus relieved, although the black patients were left there until transferred in 1931 to the children's structure and in 1939 to a new facility built for them by the Bowman Gray, Jr. family. A surgical unit was opened in 1947. When the state took over the responsibility for the declining number of TB patients, the hospital closed in October, 1955. In 1959, it had been renovated and reopened as an old folks' home. In 1961, the name was changed to Knollwood Hall.

22.  First County TB Hospital: From the Shattalon Drive entrance to Knollwood Hall, continue on to University First County TB HospitalParkway and turn left. Go north on University Parkway until you get to the entrance to US 52 South. Go south on US 52 until you get to the airport exit, Akron Drive. Go left on Akron Drive and continue to North Liberty Street where you will turn right. Just opposite the north entrance to the airport stands Piedmont Aerospace Institute. At that site once was the first county-operated TB hospital in North Carolina, which was opened in 1917, at the cost of $10,000. It stood on the county farm, which was essentially a poorhouse. By 1919, reports stated that it was full at all times, but it was not until 1930 that the second county tuberculosis hospital, what is now Knollwood Hall, opened. Many current residents remember the years when the old TB hospital was the place you would go to get your driver's license.

Although my suggestions for a medical historical tour end here, each of you may have some personal sites to add. The way things change in the space of only a short period, one realizes that medical history is far from static and that this tour would need annual revision.

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