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Grace Hospital - Noteworthy Moments - Part 1 - (back to History Wall Main Page)

Timeline

1913
During 1913, World War I takes its toll on the hospital as cost of medical supplies increases. The church and hospital make appeals to the community for support, gifts, supplies and volunteer services.

1916
Grace Hospital has been in operation 10 years. Alice Wood Wilds returns to work as a visiting nurse. Mrs. Hughson makes note of the July flood that washed away bridges and roads.“In July, this section was visited with the most terrible freshet in its history, the river rising forty-one feet above normal, sweeping away all bridges, laying waste the fertile fields, and leaving utter ruin and devastation in its track,” she wrote. “Crops were ruined, the gathered grain was swept away, and many were driven from their little cabins with the loss of all their household effects. It will be long before there will be easy communication again between the town and some parts of the county, and the shortage of crops will work much hardship everywhere.”

1920
Morganton experiences a “baby boom” in 1920 as 40 babies pass through the maternity ward this year as compared to a high of 20 in previous years. Some of the babies are placed in bureau drawers.

1923
A new two-story hospital addition is constructed and includes a new operating room on the second floor; a maternity ward, a dispensary and administrative rooms. “Morganton takes justifiable pride in the beautiful new addition to Grace Hospital which has been receiving finishing touches during the last few weeks. With the addition, Grace Hospital takes rank as one of the most modern hospitals of the State and offers to Morganton and Burke County unexcelled hospital service.”
The News Herald, April 12, 1923

1929
The hospital building on College Street opens. The new building is a four-story brick structure with a basement. The Duke Endowment agreed to pay $50,000 if the community could raise the rest. They did and this building, which ended up costing $175,000, equivalent to $2.5 million in 2015 dollars, serves the community for 44 years. It is licensed for 50 beds. Dedication of the new building is held Sept. 19, 1929. The installed cornerstone includes a “prayer book, a Grace Hospital cross, reports of the hospital for each of the 23 years since the establishment, photographs of the founder, Rev. Walter Hughson, and of Mrs. Hughson, current copies of the newspaper, etc.,” according to The News Herald. The newspaper also reports on the three reasons for Grace Hospital’s success: (1) The hospital is built upon the foundation of prayer. Daily, Mrs. Hughson gathers nurses for a moment of prayer. (2) The hospital is built upon the foundation of no debt. (3) The hospital never turns away a patient seeking comfort and relief.

1934
Kirksey and Company purchases its first ambulance specifically designed to transport the sick and wounded in 1934. In the early days of Grace Hospital, Mrs. Hughson instituted a horse drawn ambulance driven by Mr. Charles Ward, son of Mr. L.A. Ward who owned the Morganton livery stable. By 1920, Kirksey and Company, a general store that consisted of three separate units - furniture and hardware, funeral services and heating and plumbing - is furnishing emergency transportation in a model-T truck equipped with army cots. That same year Kirksey and Co. acquired a combination hearse-ambulance. The mortuary establishments of the county operated an ambulance service as part of their businesses until 1968 when the cost of the services had become prohibitive. At that time, the county began subsidizing the service at $3,000 a month. In 1973, the county government established the Burke County Emergency Medical Service (EMS) and accepted full responsibility for the transportation of the sick and wounded and for their care prior to arrival at the hospital.

1939
Although hundreds of black patients have been treated at Grace Hospital since it opened, now a new department is created totally for the black community with a capacity of 20.

1941
Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and the United States enters World War II. The medical staff decreases as many of the doctors go into military service. During these war years, there is a great need for nurses’ aides to serve in the hospital. Many generous women from the community volunteer and by 1944, there are 37 volunteers assisting with patient care in the hospital.


ADA FAIR WORTMAN
GRACE HOSPITAL SCHOOL OF NURSING
CLASS OF 1946

“The first six months of nursing school consisted primarily of classes. This was called the “probationary period.” If you were there at the end of the probationary period, as a rule, you were there to graduate two and a half years later. The Chapel was in the basement of the student nurses dorm, Hughson Hall. At 6:30 in the morning the Director of Nurses or her designee conduced a brief prayer session. On Wednesday mornings, the hospital chaplain conducted the service. Anyone who missed or was late for Chapel was scheduled to work over time or an extra shift where help was needed.”

FROM 1947 THE NEWS HERALD
“What I have on my mind at the moment is the thought that comparatively few of us appreciate what a wonderful asset Morganton and Burke County have in Grace Hospital. We have become so used to having the services that it renders that we are prone to take it too much for granted, as we do our families and friends and many blessings of life. We rarely stop to think what it would mean not to have a first class hospital in the community, here at hand to serve us in illness and emergencies.”

- BEATRICE COBB, EDITOR


1948
Polio epidemic sweeps across Burke County. Construction starts on new wing.

1951
Grace Hospital begins a building project in 1948 using funds made available by the federal government after World War II to improve public health and welfare. When construction is completed in 1951, the number of hospital beds available increases to 120.

1956
For its 50th Anniversary in 1956, Grace Hospital holds a re-dedication and open house on Sunday, May 13. The event starts with concerts from the Drexel High School and Morganton High School bands followed by historical sketches and guest speaker Dr. C.C. Carpenter, dean of the Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Wake Forest College.

In keeping with its Episcopalian roots, the ceremony of re-dedication is led by the Rt. Rev. M. George Henry, Bishop, Diocese of Western North Carolina, Protestant Episcopal Church. Staff members lead the public on tours of the hospital and Hughson Hall with an informal reception held in the staff dining room. Administrator Grayson Brothers praises the medical and nursing staff as well as the School of Nursing. “You can be sure that Grace Hospital will continue to grow in size and in its dedicated mission to serve every hour every day,” Brothers said.


FROM 1967 ABOUT YOUR HOSPITAL
PINK LADIES

“Grace Hospital Guild is an organization of about 150 of your friends and neighbors who gladly serve you in many ways at the hospital. In addition, the young ladies in the candy-stripe dress are teenagers who, likewise, voluntarily serve you, as well, as on occasion, the Senior Girls Scouts. All these offer their services free of charge.”


1969
Groundbreaking is held for the new hospital. Construction is expected to take two years.

1973
New Grace Hospital opens with 161 beds. Dedication is held May 10, 1973. The new stateof-the-art facility costs $6.7 million and opens debt-free. This Grace is the first hospital in Southeast to incorporate the new Friesen design. Each room featured its own toilet and shower. Capacity increases from 120 to 161.


FROM 1967 ABOUT YOUR HOSPITAL
BLOOD BANK

“The blood bank is operated as a service to you. If you have a current blood donor card from the American Red Cross, you are eligible to received, without replacement, your complete blood needs. If you do not have this American Red Cross blood card, it will be necessary to secure pledges and have all blood used replaced at the next visit of the bloodmobile.”

DEAN BALL STRICKLAND
GRACE HOSPITAL SCHOOL OF NURSING
CLASS OF 1959

“I was sent to begin my three-month stint in the operating room while the beloved supervisor, Miss Berryhill, was on vacation. Without having even observed an operation or getting much information, I was told to scrub for a C-section. Dr. Phifer, the surgeon, was very tall. The table was elevated and a stool was brought for me to stand on. Within minutes, I had contaminated a drape and was told by Dr. Phifer, “Missy, you’ve contaminated that! You don’t know what you’re doing. Get off that stool and go stand in the corner far from this table.” How humiliating! When Miss Berryhill returned, she was apologetic for my experience and tried hard to build my confidence and knowledge in the operating room policies and procedures.”

FROM 1967 ABOUT YOUR HOSPITAL
“Television sets may be rented at $1.00
per day.”


1979
The old Grace Hospital cornerstone – set in 1929 – is opened 50 years later in 1979 by the Grace Hospital Board of Directors. The concrete cornerstone is 24 inches in length with the words “Grace Hospital” on the side. Mrs. A.B. Stoney, an emeritus trustee, uses a hammer to crack through the lid. She is assisted by her son, Morganton Mayor Andrew M. Kistler II, who is a new board member.

The contents include a Holy Bible, a Book of Common Prayer, a Book of Offices and Prayers for Priests and People of Episcopal Churches. Inside this book rests a tin model of a cross worn by the Rev. Walter Hughson. The model may have been used by jewelry manufacturers in producing replicas of the cross which is the insignia of the Grace Hospital School of Nursing. The school adopted the cross instead of the usual pin used by most nursing schools. Former hospital administrator Stanley Moore writes in The News Herald about the cornerstone in 1979.

Moisture has gotten inside the cornerstone so when the copper box is lifted from the concrete, the nameplates on the books are illegible and the pages are a deteriorated mess. According to “Amazing Grace” a book on the history of Grace Episcopal Church, the copper box was melted and crosses are made for limited distribution.

1980
The City of Morganton purchases the “old” Grace Hospital on College Street for the erection of an auditorium – now known the City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium (CoMMA). The hospital is demolished in 1982.

1983
Phase 2 expansion of Grace Hospital is completed for $17.4 million. The expansion is financed largely through bond placement plus $2 million Grace Hospital funds and $900,000 from the Duke Endowment. An additional two floors are added to the hospital increasing the bed capacity to 210. All semi-private rooms are converted to private rooms.

First outpatient surgery is performed at Grace. Oncology services are established for treatment of cancer patients.

1985
Officials announce a $13.6 million construction project – 82,000 feet of new space including a new emergency room department, new outpatient surgery and recovery areas, and expanded surgery, radiology and lab facilities. The kitchen and cafeteria is renovated.

1986
Grace Hospital celebrates 80 years of serving Burke County and the surrounding community. Recognizing the importance of exercise and fitness to overall health, Grace acquires the Racquets, a health and fitness club.

1988
Grace acquires a nursing home behind the hospital which becomes Grace Heights Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

1988
Medical Records Department becomes computerized.

1990
A permanent CT scanner is installed. Lithotripsy services are added and Occupational Health Department is established. Grace is the first hospital in the area to offer newborn hearing screenings. Home Health is established to bring care back into the home and help reduce lengthy hospital stays.

1991
In February 1991, Grace Hospital acquires Mountain House Retirement Residence and renamed it Grace Ridge Retirement Community.

Located on 52 acres on Lenoir Road, Grace Ridge is completed in 1987 and in 2015, consists of 135 apartments, 27 cottages, a health care center with 25 skilled nursing beds, 35 adult care beds, and 12 special care beds. The facility is accredited as a continuing care facility.

1992
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Cardiac Catheterization and Color Doppler Sonography services are added. Grace Center for Behavioral Medicine and Women’s Health Connection are established. State-of-the-art anesthesia monitoring equipment is installed in surgery. Grace goes smoke-free in hospital rooms and offices.

1999
Blue Ridge HealthCare is formed with Grace Hospital, Valdese Hospital, Grace Heights and College Pines Nursing and Rehabilitations Centers, Phifer Wellness Center and Grace Ridge Retirement Community.

2001
Grace Hospital celebrates its 95th anniversary.

2005
Hospital system has a successful $78 million bond offering for new construction. Pulmonology/Sleep services are added for the first time.

2006
Grace Hospital celebrates 100th Anniversary. Blue Ridge HealthCare goes tobacco free at all facilities and campuses.

2007
The redesigned, renovated Grace Hospital opens after two years of a massive construction project. A new Medical Office Building to the right of the hospital also opens.

2012
Grace Ridge Retirement Community celebrates its 25th anniversary and begins extensive renovation project.

Moments

Grace Meets Challenge of Caring for Patients


After the outbreak of measles in 1911, Mrs. Hughson appealed for donations to build a Contagious Disease Pavilion. The hospital purchased a cottage nearby and soon there was enough money to enlarge the porches (on the back) and add bathrooms. “The completed porch gives us room for nine beds if necessary,” she wrote in the 1912-1913 report. “With the completion of the bathroom, we feel ourselves able to cope with almost any emergency that may arise.” That emergency came later, in the 1920s, when the cottage would be used to house tuberculosis patients.

MEASLES 1911
Mrs. Hughson wrote of a measles epidemic in 1911: “An epidemic of measles in the winter, which caused widespread distress, found us wholly unprepared, and unable to help in any way. Nurses could not be spared from the Hospital, nor had we any place for contagious diseases. An opportunity came to buy a small cottage next to the Hospital, of which we available ourselves for this purpose, and we now need beds, chairs, a bathroom and other articles to convert this into a proper ward for such cases.” The cottage later became a pavilion for taking care of tuberculosis patients.

GREAT INFLUENZA 1918 (ALSO CALLED SPANISH FLU)
The Great Influenza of 1918 was a pandemic killing between 50 million and 100 million people worldwide, and was spread throughout the United States by soldiers returning from World War I. Two thirds of those deaths occurred in the 24-week period between mid-September and mid-December of 1918 and roughly half of the casualties were in their 20s and 30s, in the prime of life. In Morganton, the Red Cross opened an emergency hospital to supplement the beds at Grace Hospital.

Because of the demands of World War I, there were few medical personnel available to tend the sick, and medical supplies cost dearly. Only four doctors were available and one of these became sick after weeks of constant work. Women from the community volunteered to help because there weren’t enough nurses.

Quarantine laws were in effect. Officials closed schools, churches and theaters, and all public gatherings were forbidden. Attendance at funerals was restricted to immediate family. In her annual report in 1919, Mrs. Hughson wrote about the flu. “For some time the reports of the suffering from influenza came to us here, safe, apparently from its ravages, but suddenly it was amongst us, and the suffering was great. The Red Cross Chapter proposed to open an emergency hospital, to take care of the sick, for here as everywhere, it was impossible to find nurses. We offered to give the hospital over to this work, reserving a room for emergency operations and one for possible maternity cases, and with a little help from the ladies of the community, we nursed all who came. It was hard work, for several of our own nurses were ill at once, and the strain was a prolonged one. This has made a large increase in our death rate and lessened the number of patients, for patients did not come for usual operative work. All meetings were forbidden throughout the county, so our Social Service work was at a standstill, perhaps fortunately, as we were all busily employed in nursing.”


These are photos made in 1948 of the polio ward at Grace Hospital. The outside photo shows children exercising to ward off the effects of polio.

POLIO
Severe epidemics of poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis swept through the United States in the 1940s and 1950s after World War II. In North Carolina, the crisis peaked in 1948. In Morganton, 105 cases were reported. Grace Hospital opened an emergency polio ward, and it is estimated that 10 percent of all acute cases of polio in North Carolina were treated at Grace. The polio ward was closed in November 1948.

The News Herald on November 2, 1948 reported:

“Grace Hospital closed its polio unit as a treatment center for acute cases of infantile paralysis. The special emergency ward, which has admitted approximately 10 percent of all acute cases of poliomyelitis hospitalized in North Carolina during the record breaking epidemic, has been removed from isolation.

W. Stanley Moore, the hospital’s administrator, announced that no more patients were to be admitted.

A total of 208 patients were admitted to Grace Hospital’s emergency ward during the period between May and October and the world of Morganton’s community hospital has gained high praise for its work during the recent epidemic.”


1948 POLIO EPIDEMIC
A young Grace Hospital patient is shown here in an “iron lung,” used to help polio victims breathe since the disease sometimes paralyzed the lungs. The polio vaccine eradicated the disease, and the iron lung eventually became obsolete. It did, however, lead to the development of ventilators.


Grace the Only General Hospital in N.C. to Open a Tuberculosis Department

While not an epidemic, tuberculosis was a prevalent and incurable disease until the discovery of penicillin in 1944. One in seven people died of tuberculosis, also called consumption. For several years in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, TB was the leading cause of death in the United States.

Mrs. Hughson had great compassion for every patient, but it seemed especially so for the TB patients. In 1919, she wrote: “It would seem that there could be no more appealing class of invalids. Those who come to a general hospital expect to stay a short time, and to go home improved or well. There is a definite end in sight.”

“In tuberculosis, there must be a long, hard fight, and to most of those to whom we minister, the mere question of expense is overwhelming. They come to us, young fathers and mothers, torn with anxiety for those left at home. Young people, whose families must make great effort to give them the chance, and all this sense of responsibility counts against that freedom from anxiety, which is so essential to the cure. Surely, we cannot do too much to make them happy and contented, and to create a home-like and cheerful atmosphere around them.”

A 1915 pamphlet published by the United States Public Health Service reported that North Carolina had the world’s largest number of tuberculosis patients. This is probably because western North Carolina, particularly the mountains, became a prime location for TB sanitariums due to the climate. The accepted treatment for patients was to place them in an environment of clean air with low humidity, cool nights and abundant sunshine.

The 1914-15 annual report featured the photo of the child in the wheelchair above with the caption “A Little Patient for Our Tuberculosis Pavilion.” Other photos above show the men’s and women’s porches in 1920 used so patients could enjoy the fresh air.

A small cottage purchased by the hospital in 1908 was expanded to be used for a tuberculosis pavilion. It was enlarged in 1924 and replaced in 1928 with the new hospital building.

“There can be no part of the Hospital’s work of more value than this, and an earnest appeal is made for adequate support, that we may give such help and comfort of mind and body as well being these poor sufferers back to sound health and usefulness,” Mrs. Hughson wrote. “There are ten beds and they are all occupied. The need can be well illustrated by saying that at the State Sanatorium, there is a waiting list of five hundred!”

Mrs. Hughson wrote in the 1922-23 annual report: “The Pavilion for Tuberculosis has done excellent work, and we must now make it a little more comfortable for both workers and patients. We do not plan to take any who cannot wait upon themselves, but in this treacherous disease, there are occasionally sudden developments of a serious or even fatal nature, and we have no room in which to put the patient. We have also no sitting room in which they can talk to their friends. We must change all this. It is truly wonderful to see the improvement in those who are brought in, weak and ill, who, after months, perhaps, of rest and feeding, are able to go to their homes, to lives of usefulness. It is a splendidly worthwhile department of the Hospital, and this is the only general hospital in the State which has such a department.”

By 1959, Parts of Hospital Deemed Hazardous

By 1959, the new Grace Hospital building had become inadequate and obsolete. There was a waiting list for beds and an entire wing consisting of a 19-bed unit, the emergency department and parts of the lab and X-ray department needed to be replaced. The hospital Board of Trustees appointed a permanent planning committee whose research included hiring a hospital consultant, Jacque Norman of Greenville, S.C. His report, submitted in 1962, rejected the idea of trying to renovate and expand in the present location and recommended that a new site be chosen and for an entirely new building.

The architectural firm of J. N. Pease Associates of Charlotte was hired to evaluate the problems of short-term relief and long-term planning. In addition, technical teams from the North Carolina Medical Care Commission and the U.S. Public Health Service inspected the existing building. The governmental entities recommended a new building deeming parts of the current building to be hazardous.

The Grace Hospital Board purchased 51 acres of land near Interstate 40 owned by the Parker family for $67,000 in the fall of 1964. Hospital consultants, Gordon Friesen Associates of Washington, D.C., were hired to work with the architects and the hospital board.

In 1965, the hospital launched a fund-raising drive, which raised an unprecedented $1.25 million. Funding was secured from the Duke Endowment Fund $250,000, the federal Hill-Burton Act $1,584,000 and the Appalachian Regional Commission $2,216,000. Construction began in 1969 and the new hospital was completed for $6,680,000 in May of 1973.

Two Years of Planning, But One Thing Forgotten: No Locks

During Grace Hospital’s 95th anniversary, several employees were asked to talk about the old hospital. Keith Brown and Gilbert Kincaid had two moving stories.

“Our plan called for no new admission at the old hospital at midnight beginning the day of the move,” said Keith Brown, who was director of Materials Management in 1973. “Though many patients were discharged just prior to the move, there were still about 50 patients to be transported. We fed every patient an early breakfast of cereal and milk at the old hospital and a hot lunch in the new hospital.

Every ambulance and transport around was employed. Some patients that were able were transported in private cars.” The plan called for the entire hospital to be abandoned and locked up by the end of the afternoon.

The task of locking up old Grace fell to Gilbert Kincaid. Kincaid quickly realized that he had been asked to do the impossible. One important fact had been overlooked in the two years of planning: There were no locks on the doors of old Grace.

During 67 years of service to the community at its original site on College Street, Grace had never locked its doors to a single individual in the community. Gilbert had to purchase logging chains and padlocks to actually bring old Grace to rest.

Gilbert Kincaid was director of Plant Operations. He told this story about Moving Day: “On Moving Day at old Grace, I was headed down the stairs and on a landing with a window that overlooked the parking lot full of transports I found Dr. John Reece, long-time pathologist at Grace Hospital, gazing out the window on the scene below. Tears were streaming down his face. People had that kind of love for old Grace.”


The opening ceremony for the “new” Grace drew a large crowd.


Grace Board of Trustees Chairman Sonia Bounous, guest speaker Dr. Reece Berryhill, Dean Emeritus of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and Chairman of the Board of Directors Donnell VanNoppen cut the ribbon opening the new facility

Grace Board of Trustees Chairman Sonia Bounous speaks at the opening ceremony.

Many Residents Involved in Raising Money for New Grace

The future became reality in 1973 when the “new” Grace Hospital opened on South Sterling Street. Noteworthy is the fact that the $4.75 million hospital was built using no local tax money. Instead, federal funds, endowments and a 1965 local fund-raising campaign raised $1.25 million by public subscription, equivalent to raising $9.5 million in 2015 dollars.

Much like United Way operates today, the campaign asked Burke County workers to pledge money from each paycheck to help raise money for construction. “In short, the community will enjoy the services of a hospital worth nearly four million dollars at the cost of slightly more than one million,” said a campaign brochure.

Like its predecessors, the “new” Grace was built through contributions of Burke County people. The new hospital completed in 1973 increased bed capacity to 120. The building had been designed to allow for future expansion and by 1981, construction had begun again. Completed in two phases by 1985, bed capacity was increased to 170 beds by adding two additional floors.

All rooms were converted from semiprivate to private rooms. The new space included a new emergency room department, new outpatient surgery and recovery areas, expanded surgery, radiology and lab facilities, and a renovated kitchen and cafeteria. A new physician’s office building was erected adjacent to Grace Hospital. Sherrod Salsbury Jr., longtime trustee and Chairman of the Building Committee, said, “The Parker Farm, which ultimately became the new home for the hospital, was actually the second choice of the Building Committee. Our first choice was the beautiful rolling site where Western Piedmont Community College was eventually built.

The Parker land was just a wilderness when it was bought. People asked why we needed so much land for such a relatively small building.

Some of us never thought we were buying enough land.”

The fund-raising campaign for the new Grace Hospital building began in 1965. Donnell VanNoppen (shown here at the groundbreaking ceremony) was Chairman of the Board of Directors and T. Henry Wilson was chosen as the campaign director.

The elaborate and well thought-out campaign involved many of the community leaders at that time. The whole city was swept up in the effort. Corporations, churches, civic groups, employee groups, even children with lemonade stands and toy airplane displays contributed to the fund.



Hearts Break as ‘Old’ Grace Hospital Comes Tumbling Down

End of An Era
Grace dying with honor, but purpose is obscure

My father hadn’t been born when the original white-frame Grace Hospital opened in Morganton in 1906.

And my birth was still 20 years in the future when its three-story brick replacement opened in 1929.

By the time I arrived in Morganton in 1974, Grace Hospital was a gleaming modern building near Interstate 40, and the abandoned building sat forlornly upon its hilltop like a monument to the past.

The only time I ever set foot in the old hospital was to climb to the roof with some rescue squad members who were practicing rappelling to the ground.

Still, I couldn’t help wincing when the first photograph crossed my desk showing the wrecking ball making holes in the front of the old building. When I drove by later, the devastation was unbelievable. One man and crane had destroyed in a few hours a portion of the hospital that it probably took dozens of men months to build.

After the fierce first assault, the wrecking operation slowed as workmen began salvaging the hospital’s steel skeleton. The once-proud building, her face ripped off, sits patiently now like a wounded soldier who has accepted with dignity his inevitable fate. The demolition crew will prolong the agony perhaps as long as three weeks.

It won’t be a pleasant time for Burke residents who spent years of their lives attending the sick and injured within the walls of the old hospital. Even the beauty and efficiency of the splendid new hospital can’t erase memories of a slower, and some might say happier, time in the old building.

More than a few tears will fall as those who love the hospital are drawn like moths to a flame to watch the bricks and the mortar and the memories crumbling away.

The wrecking wouldn’t be so painful if the building were a bank or an insurance company or a department store. But a hospital embodies the history of a community like no other building can.

Burke residents have spent some of their happiest and saddest hours sitting in the old hospital’s darkened hallways and strolling its lawn. They’ve rejoiced over the births of their son and daughters and grieved over the sick beds and deathbeds of their family and friends.

And now the building that symbolizes those intangible emotions will be no more.

The loss might be easier to endure if people knew the old hospital was yielding its place for some great purpose. But city of Morganton officials, who ordered the demolition, maintain that there are no specific plans for how the property will be used in the future. One rumor making the rounds is that the site will one day accommodate a city auditorium. If there’s any truth to that, no one in authority is willing to acknowledge it.

It’s more likely, at least for the immediate future, that the property, which bore a monument to 76 years of Burke history, will sit vacant or be turned into a monument to the present – a parking lot.

Ted Hall - Editor
The News Herald 1982


Above: Sonia Bounous returned to help the hospital celebrate its100th anniversary on 2006.

Grace Celebrates 100 Years of Caring

In 2006, Grace Hospital commemorated its centennial with the theme: The Past, The Present and The Future. The first event celebrating Grace Hospital’s 100th Anniversary took place May 19, 2006, at the Morganton Elk’s Lodge.

“For 100 years, this legacy of compassionate care has endured through world wars and infectious diseases, through good and bad times, through change, adversity and the dawn of a new century,” said Kenneth W. Wood, president and CEO of Blue Ridge HealthCare. “Men and women, doctors and nurses, housekeepers and cooks have engraved their life’s work on the hearts and minds of a community that will never forget them.”

Current and retired employees who had worked at the hospital at least 30 years were invited along with physicians and family members of some of the first doctors to serve. Nurses were recognized for their special role in getting the fledgling hospital up and running in 1906.

Organizers hoped for a “reunion-type” atmosphere and succeeded by displaying old photos, instruments and information about the hospital’s first 100 years.

Future CEO Kathy C. Bailey (left) helped serve hot dogs to employees during the 100th celebration.

A “birthday” celebration was held that summer where celebratory cupcakes and commemorative water bottles were handed out old the lawn of the Old Burke County Courthouse. For employees, the hospital treated them to a free hot dog luncheon dished up by the vice presidents.

In looking toward the future, the hospital held a contest where employees could suggest items to be placed in a high-tech time capsule. A plaque on the capsule says:

This time capsule was placed to commemorate Grace Hospital’s first 100 years of service to the community. We are pleased to honor the men and women who worked tirelessly in bringing a new level of compassionate health care to Burke County. Please open in the year 2056.

The capsule is buried outside the administration suite on the lower level of today’s hospital. It rests close to the cherub that has been a part of the hospital since 1939.

During the summer of 2006, the hospital gave away “birthday” cupcakes and other goodies.

Continue on to Grace Hospital Noteworthy Moments - Part 2