This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News on July 4, 1976
Emergencies gave birth to first hospitals
None permanent until 1878
Necessity is the mother of many things. Among them, as the early history of Dayton and Montgomery County shows, was hospital care—a sometimes thing to meet the exigencies of the War of 1812 and later epidemics of pestilential diseases.
We had gotten our first doctor in 1797 and by 1876 had 58 of them, but it wasn’t until two years after the nation’s Centennial that a start was made on hospital facilities as we know them today.
It was in 1878 that the Catholic Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis set up a 12-bed hospital in a two-story brick house on Franklin St., between Ludlow and Perry. The two sisters cared for 183 patients in that first year.
IN 1882, ONLY four years later, a 200-bed hospital on Hopeland St. replaced that first one and eventually became the huge complex we know today as St. Elizabeth Hospital.
Miami Valley Hospital started in an even smaller way in 1890 when a German Lutheran pastor brought sisters, again only two, from the Protestant Deaconess mother house in Cincinnati to nurse the sick in their homes.
That small seed grew into the 37-bed Deaconess Hospital the very next year, when a large home on Fourth St. near St. Clair was leased.
The seed grew fast. In 1894, two years before Dayton’s own Centennial, a 60-bed hospital bloomed on “Charity Hill,” between Apple and Wyoming Sts., with 35 deaconesses on hand to nurse the sick. Hospital records showed 800 patients cared for during our Centennial year in 1896. An independent Miami Valley Hospital Society took over administration in 1903.
Even though it was now the 20th century, circumstances dictated a small start for the next hospital. In 1926, three osteopathic physicians opened the 10-bed Dayton Osteopathic Hospital in a large house on W. Second St.
IT BECAME A non-profit institution in 1938, under the administration of the osteopathic profession here. The first unit of the present Grandview Hospital was opened in 1947, with 65 beds, and two years later capacity was raised to 90 beds with the addition of a wing.
Meanwhile, a $1 million public campaign was launched in 1928 to build another hospital. It had a seed, too—a $500,000 contribution from the Catholic Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and their promise to operate the hospital.
Contributions came fast, small and large, including an important four acres of ground at Fairview Ave. and Philadelphia Dr. donated by a doctor.
The 10-day drive was oversubscribed by $14,000. So, Good Samaritan Hospital opened in 1931 in a big way, with 250 beds.
The last general hospital built here also stemmed from a charitable seed, in this case a seed that tripled in size before it bore the final fruit as a memorial to Dayton scientist and inventor Charles f. Kettering.
In 1958, the Kettering family announced plans for a 100-bed hospital on land to be donated from the family estate, situated in the city of Kettering. The capacity was tripled when the community raised $2 million for another 100 beds to match another 100 beds provided by the family.
Before Kettering Memorial Hospital opened on Mar. 3, 1964, under administration of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, the capacity was increased to more than 400 beds by $1.8 million more in private gifts.
HERE, AS ELSEWHERE in America, the love and the charity that made a start possible in 1878 got strong helping hands along the way—medical and hospital science and invention, education, specialization in facilities as well as in treatment and space economy measures, such as outpatient programs.
Nevertheless, there are times when being in a hospital is the only answer, in addition to those times when it is just the best one. There always were such times.
A temporary hospital at the northwest corner of Third and Main Sts. was not big enough when they brought the wounded here from the bloody Battle of the Mississinawa (in the Union City area) in December 1812 and they flowed over into the homes of Dayton residents.
A cholera epidemic in 1833 forced make-do measures, as did a small pox epidemic in 1836. That last sparked council action to establish a pesthouse on five acres across from the fairgrounds, which was closed in 1843 because of neighbors’ complaints. Thus, when another cholera outbreak came in 1849, there was no hospital facility. Mary Hess, who lived on Brown St. near what is now Hess St., opened her house to the sick. The city made another attempt in 1866 with a house on Wyoming St. between Brown and Alberta, which served as a pesthouse and a sort of infirmary off and on for more than a decade.
THE FRANCISCAN sisters recognition of the need for hospitals in times other than war and pestilence started the community on the way, no matter how small that start was.
Their 12-bed hospital represented one bed for each 6,250 people in the county in 1878.
By 1896, after the Lutheran deaconesses had joined the cause, there was one bed for each 430 residents.
A present day ratio, computed on Montgomery County population alone, without reference to specialized facilities on the one hand and the general hospitals’ larger geographical service area on the other, comes to one bed per 210 persons.
Miami valley Hospital has grown to 782 beds, St. Elizabeth to 552, Good Samaritan has 522, Grandview has 500 and Kettering Memorial over 400.
Plans recently approved by the state of Ohio call for the addition of 84 beds at St. Elizabeth by the end of next year and a 120-bed south satellite hospital for Kettering Memorial by the summer of 1979.
THE OLDEST OFthe specialized operations is the Dayton Mental Health Center, one of the two state hospitals opened in 1855 and now going under its sixth official name.
When Stillwater Tuberculosis Hospital was opened in 1907 about the only known tools for fighting that killer disease were fresh air and bed rest. The advances of medical science have changed that institution to the Stillwater Health Center, with patients from opposite ends of the age scale. Proposals to expand the geriatric space as replacement for the 102-year –old Montgomery county Nursing Home have been put forward a number of times.
The Children’s Medical Center has changed, too, since 1923 when little was known about the cause of poliomyelitis, nothing was known about prevention and the only remedies were braces and the heaping portions of loving care available at “Barney’s.” Even the name, Barney Convalescent Hospital, told of the hopelessness of what was then called infantile paralysis.
The newest of the special care facilities is the state-operated Dayton Children’s Psychiatric Hospital, opened in 1959.
In addition to the mental health services provided by the general hospitals and government al institutions, there is one private psychiatric hospital, the Dartmouth Behavioral Sciences center.