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Home North Carolina Gaston County City of Gastonia Historical Markers North Carolina Orthopedic Hospital

North Carolina Orthopedic Hospital

New Hope Road, Gastonia, NC, USA

Latitude & Longitude: 35° 14' 2.58036", -81° 6' 54.04464"
  North Carolina State Historical Marker
    North Carolina State
Historical Marker
    Marker Text:
"State institution for crippled children, 1921-1979. R. B. Babington was its first president; O. L. Miller, founding surgeon."
     In 1909 Robert B. Babington of Gastonia read a newspaper account of how a crippled child was turned away from an orphanage and noted North Carolina had no facility for the care of handicapped children. Babington began pressing the idea of a state-funded institution to provide such care. His efforts finally met with success in 1917 when the General Assembly appropriated $20,000 for the construction of an orthopedic hospital provided that an equal amount in matching funds was raised locally. Selected as the first president of the institution’s board of trustees, Babington led the successful fund drive.

     More state funds were forthcoming and, on July 1, 1921, the hospital formally opened on twenty-six acres purchased by Babington in Gaston County. At that point the administration building, dormitories, and the surgeons’s cottage had been completed. More buildings were added later. Major bequests were received from Benjamin N. Duke of Durham, who provided funds for a building to serve black children, and from Edward D. Latta of Charlotte. The hospital was the first of its kind in the South. North Carolina joined Massachusetts, New York, California, and Michigan, as the only states with such institutions.

     Doctors Michael Hoke, Oscar L. Miller, and William Roberts, in succession, were the principal surgeons through 1966. Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt visited the hospital on September 10, 1936. R. B. Babington died in 1936 and was buried on the hospital grounds. In 1939 the hospital auxiliary, the Tiny Tim Society, was organized. The polio epidemic in the 1940s led to increased activity at the hospital. The institution integrated in 1966 following a complaint by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People regarding unequal facilities.

     The decline in the number of cases of crippling diseases led to studies to determine the future of the hospital. A management consultant recommended that services be transferred elsewhere and the hospital closed on June 30, 1979. The teaching hospitals at Duke, the University of North Carolina, and Wake Forest by that time had assumed the role once played by the North Carolina Orthopedic Hospital.

Angus M. McBryde Jr. and Read McBryde Spence, A History of the North Carolina Orthopedic Hospital: A Dream Come True (1991)
Lenox D. Baker, “Orthopaedics in North Carolina,” in Dorothy Long, ed., Medicine in North Carolina (1972), 725-745
Charlotte Observer, March 25, 1934
North Carolina Orthopedic Hospital Historical Marker Location Map, Gastonia, North Carolina