- In 1920, Dr. James Davis realized his boyhood dream with the opening
of Carpenter-Davis Hospital. Located on South Center Street, the hospital
was a result of an arrangement between Dr. Davis, a prominent surgeon, and
Dr. F. A. Carpenter, an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist. According to
historians, the custom at that time was for a physician to make house
calls as well as have a small office for patient visits. With the opening
of the 35-bed Carpenter-Davis Hospital, Dr. Davis changed this by
establishing a group arrangement with assistants, nurses, technicians, and
In May of that same year, the hospital established the School of Nursing
with only three ladies in the freshman class. Miss Elizabeth Hill, a
graduate of Mitchell College and the School of Nursing at Charlotte
Sanatorium, (today Carolina Medical Center), was the entire nursing staff.
In addition to organizing the School of Nursing, Miss Hill was the first
Nurses at Davis, (considered today Director of Nursing/Chief Clinical
Officer). The School of Nursing continued operations until 1984,
graduating at least 720 people from the three-year nursing school.
Interestingly, all of the graduates were women, except for one man,
according to a long-time instructor.
In the hospital’s second year of operation Dr. Carpenter died, leaving Dr.
Davis to operate the hospital. While continuing to run the hospital, Dr.
Davis began searching for land for a new hospital. He chose a “cow
pasture” near the Wagner homestead on West End Avenue, his grandmother’s
home. This site would later become the home of his 250-bed hospital.
On December 17, 1925, Davis Hospital moved from its South Center Street
location to a handsome, new building on West End Avenue. An article
appearing in the local paper, The Landmark, described the new $80,000
hospital as “thoroughly equipped. Of the most approved design and
construction and with scientific equipment in every department, the new
hospital is one of the most modern and completely equipped institutions of
this type in North Carolina.”
Davis Hospital in it's prime.
In a Statesville paper written by Dr. Davis, he cited some of the firsts
that he and his hospital were responsible for, such as:
• One of the first hospitals in North Carolina to use a radiographoscope
to view x-ray films. (Radiographoscope was invented by a North Carolina
• One of the very first Emergency Departments in North Carolina to be open
and staffed by a physician 24 hours a day, seven days a week - not unusual
today, but a significant accomplishment in the 1920s.
• One of the first hospitals in North Carolina and one of the first in the
United States to install air conditioning in the operating rooms.
Utilizing air conditioning is a standard practice today, but not in the
early years of healthcare.
• One of the first hospitals in the United States to use glucose
• An early organizer of blood-donor services and had a blood bank very
early in its history.
The hospital as it appears today.
Throughout the years, Dr. Davis continued his quest of excellence in
healthcare with the addition of a maternity wing, more patient rooms, and
expanded surgical facilities. Unfortunately the largest and most
significant addition of a diagnostic clinic was completed in September
1955, just three months after his death.
Remembered throughout North Carolina as a dynamic, driving businessman and
a leader in state and national Republican politics, Dr. Davis was credited
with performing over 75,000 surgical procedures, a truly remarkable
accomplishment. Announcement of his death brought countless telegrams,
letters, and telephone messages of sympathy from many Republican and
Democratic party leaders, doctors across the nation, and also from the
American Medical Association. Dr. Davis was praised as a visionary who
gave his whole life for the advancement of medical science. Abiding by his
wishes, Dr. Davis was buried in an unpretentious tomb on the south lawn of
the West End Avenue hospital. (Upon sale of the West End Avenue property,
Dr. Davis’ tomb was later moved to Davis Memorial Baptist Church in Wilkes
Davis Hospital continued to operate from the West End location until 1981.
Over time 17 additions were made and the need for a newer more modern
facility became apparent. Construction on a $20 million dollar
state-of-the-art facility began in April 1983. On March 24, 1984, Davis
moved 58 patients from the West End location to their new hospital on Old
Mocksville Road, a 149-bed facility.
I couldn't find the exact date the old place's doors were last closed to
patients, but it was likely sometime that year, meaning the hospital was
probably completely empty by 1985. As you can tell, the hospital is an
important part of this towns' history, and for me, it seems folly to let
it sit and deteriorate when it could be used for so many things. At least
the original wing (pictured above is still in use by a local security
company, and so is maintained, though the rest is left to it's fate;
that's a small victory.
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