On Sunday June 10th, Nationwide Children’s Hospital will host a community-wide celebration and will officially open the new wing on June 20!
According to U.S. News and World Report (with data obtained from the American Hospital Association as recently as April 2012)
Nationwide Children’s Hospital is ranked nationally in 10 pediatric specialties and is a 451-bed children’s general facility with 19,015 admissions in 2011. NCH performed 7,325 annual inpatient and 12,439 outpatient surgeries and its emergency room had 194,356 visits.
That is a remarkable achievement, especially for a hospital founded over 120 years ago in 1891 with the intent, according to Mary McGarey in her book Children’s Grows Up, “to give free service to children of poor families.”
During the first meeting of what came to called the Children’s Hospital board of “Lady Managers” was held in the home of Mrs. James Kilbourne at 604 East Town Street, plans were laid out to host a benefit fair during the month of May 1890, that raised $125.00 in seed money. Those early dollars were placed in an account at the Deshler Bank and within a year of the filing of the articles of incorporation – February 27, 1891 – the women had raised $18,000.00 and were scouting a site to build upon. The lady managers and board of trustees settled on a lot of land at the corner of Fair and Miller Avenues near the newly opened Franklin Park (1884).
In the first annual report of the new Children’s Hospital, board of trustees President Colonel James Kilbourne remarked that the site was chosen for the healthy fresh air and open space. Additionally, it was “away from the heart of the city, but with easy access on the Oak Street trolley line.”
Initially, the doctors staffing the hospital were asked to donate their time while the women’s board of lady managers would supply furnishings, beds, food and would be responsible for doing the bulk of fund-raising.
The hospital hosted a grand opening celebration on December 30, 1893 and opened its doors in early 1894 with nine beds that quickly grew to 15 beds near Franklin Park.
As the hospital grew and expanded, the women’s board began a tradition in November that continued for 3 decades called “Donation Day” On this day, the women and their volunteers collected jellies, jams, potatoes, groceries, cash and other necessities for the hospital which were then stockpiled for use throughout the year.
During the teens, the hospital continued to grow and by 1916, a now-familiar philanthropy was begun at Children’s Hospital – TWIG. TWIG was founded by Mrs. Sellers after the organization of the same name in Rochester, New York suggested by Mrs. Robert Jeffrey’s mother-in-law Mrs. Frederick Allen. (According to Cynthia Laux of Children’s Hospital, our TWIG auxiliary is actually the second oldest in the country).
Children’s was growing by leaps and bounds and began looking in earnest for a new hospital site. Near the end of 1917, the President of the Pittsburgh Coal Company, W. K. Field offered up two lots he owned located near the former South Side cemetery – better known today as Livingston Park. The Board of Trustees purchased additional land near the park and the stage was soon set for a new Children’s Hospital.
World War I curtailed the expansion and in 1918, Children’s oldest auxiliary group the Pleasure Guild hosted the fund-raising ball that wasn’t – The Camouflage Ball. Invitations were sent on camo paper, tickets were sold at the Statehouse near a camouflaged cannon and boxed flowers were sent to patrons in lieu of the ball that raised more than a thousand dollars!
When the war was over, OSU began their affiliation with Children’s by sending medical students to the hospital and on June 1 1921, the cornerstone was of the new hospital was laid. OSU also allowed the brand new Ohio Stadium to be used as a fund-raising venue for a community concert in 1922.
The new hospital opened on June 16, 1924 with great fanfare. Looking out onto beautiful Livingston Park, the 75 bed hospital included two solariums and an outdoor children’s play area. The staff had grown to 46 physicians and 40 nurses-in-training were provided rooms at the hospital as well.
In 1928, a heart clinic was established and by 1932, the hospital’s bed capacity was 100 with an occupancy rate of 97 percent. In 1937, the hospital expanded again with a generous donation of $150,000.00 by the Amelia and Julius Marks foundation that included a swimming pool and gymnasium.
By 1954, construction had begun on the Sellers Wing, named for long-time women’s board chair Daisy Sellers that would be used for physical therapy for polio patients.
The growth of this remarkable hospital came with some unfortunate consequences. It was also during this time that the hospital expansion began to have some adverse effects on the residential character of the nearby neighborhood. Homes were bought by the hospital during the 1950s and 1960s to house departments as well as offices, before eventually being torn down to make room for further hospital expansion.
On February 6, 1963, Mayor Westlake signed a contract with the federal government to enable work to begin on the $3.8 million Children’s Hospital Slum Clearance Project that included $130,000.00 for moving expenses of residents of the area. Urban Renewal Director John Willison was quoted by the Columbus Dispatch as saying that “400 families will be replaced as the city begins purchasing 280 parcels of land in the area.”
During this time of what was then described as Urban Renewal, many fantastic things were happening as well with Ross Hall, as the first medical science research building at Children’s, completed in 1961 and in 1966, surgeons at Children’s performed central Ohio’s first successful kidney transplant on an 11-year-old boy.
As the years went by Children’s Hospital continued to grow and take care of the young boys and girls of central Ohio, including this writer whose tonsils were taken out in 1972. The nurses and doctors there did everything they could to make a 6 year old comfortable and my own memories are of lots of ice cream, clowns with balloons and candy stripers paying visits to me and my family.
By 2004, Children’s became the first freestanding children’s hospital in Ohio to receive “Magnet Recognition” – the highest honor for excellence in nursing.
And in 2006 – Children’s received an unprecedented $50 Million commitment from the Nationwide Foundation. That gift precipitated the change of name in 2007 to Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
So congratulations Nationwide Children’s for more than 120 years of caring for the children of central Ohio! And thank you to the leadership of so many dedicated men and women over the past 12 decades for making Nationwide Children’s a recognized world leader in pediatrics.
For further information, the author suggests We Too Built Columbus by Ruth Young and Children’s Grows Up: A Century of Caring by Mary McGarey.
For further information about the Community Celebration please visit – www.nationwidechildrens.org/grandopening.