Winston-Salem Time Traveler: Ladies…We Need a Hospital!

In the late 1880s, the lure of manufacturing jobs attracted workers of all ages and situations to Winston. Some found jobs while others went from job to job, living in boarding houses of questionable cleanliness and without funds to purchase food and medicine.

Rev. Harry O. Lacy, the rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, saw the living conditions that plagued the poor and he knew that unsavory living conditions adversely affected the recovery of the sick. Even the care of a good doctor could not adequately compensate for squalid rooms and poor nutrition, not to mention the lack of daily care.

So, why didn’t the minister or the doctor convince the individual to leave his boarding house and go to a clean hospital that provided regular meals and daily care?

In 1887, Winston citizens received medical care, including operations, in their homes. Doctors maintained offices for check-ups and simple treatments, but they made house calls for seriously ill patients. Home care was fine if the home was clean and if the patient could pay.

Rev. Lacy urged the women of his church to consider taking up some charity work in the city, and the idea of a hospital was discussed. Another meeting resulted in the organization of the “Ladies Twin-City Hospital Association.” Mrs. James A. Gray was elected president of the organization and dues were set at 10-cents per month per member. The sum of $83.58 was collected at the next meeting, and it formed the nucleus of a fund that was to work for improving the lives of the sick and suffering for more than 25 years.

The women knew that fundraising was necessary if a hospital was to be a reality. With winter approaching, the women began to solicit funds, and they requested $12.00 per month from the mayors of Winston and Salem. They rented the Martin Grogan house on Liberty Street for $25.00 a month and furnished it almost exclusively with community donations.

The Twin-City Hospital opened on December 1st, 1887 and the first patient was admitted four days later. Patients were charged $5.00 per week maximum. Patients who were determined to be unable to pay were not charged. Physicians donated their services, druggists donated medicines, and women furnished many items from their homes, such as milk, to decrease the hospital expenses. Sunday school classes donated money, while churches held musicals and lectures, with a percentage of the receipts given to the hospital.

The idea of going to and being treated in a hospital was a new phenomenon for all citizens. As its acceptance took hold in the city, the hospital attendance grew. By 1891 the small building was unsuitable for treating the sick of a fast-growing city.

The Twin City Hospital closed in 1892 and reopened entirely debt-free in a new building on Brookstown Avenue in 1895. Miss Mollie Spach, originally from Salem and the first graduate nurse in the city, was the superintendent and served until 1900. Additional rooms and wards were added in 1899, and a children’s ward was added in 1901. A school to train nurses began in 1902, and three students graduated in 1904.

Winston voted $90,000 in bonds to erect a new hospital on E. Fourth Street in 1912. The old Twin City Hospital closed in November 1914, and the new hospital of the same name opened two days later. The Ladies Twin-City Hospital Association sold the Brookstown Avenue property and used some of the money for a nurses’ home at the new hospital. The women continued to aid the hospitals and the sick and crippled of the city until 1921 when they turned over their remaining funds and disbanded.

The name changed to City Memorial Hospital in 1922 and served in that location until 1964 when Forsyth Memorial Hospital opened on Silas Creek Parkway. Today this hospital is called Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center.

Coming in April: “Winston-Salem: The Easter City.”

Molly Grogan Rawls is the author of the Winston-Salem Time Traveler website. Contact Molly at or