Knoxville’s Hospitals — a 1917 Overview

The hospitals of this city are very interesting in their every detail. There are about thirty-five hospitals and sanitariums in Knoxville.

The Knoxville General is constructed of beautiful red brick, with all the walls covered with green trailing vines. The lawn surrounding the building is nicely kept, with a beautiful hedge fence surrounding it. This building is conveniently arranged to serve the public. It is divided into six wards. Two of these wards are for the negroes of the city; two for charity patients; two for pay patients. These departments are so conveniently constructed that the attention of the nurses may be directed where needed without much trouble. The full capacity of all wards combined is about one hundred patients.

This building was constructed in 1902 under the direction of a commission acting for the city of Knoxville. The cost was $44,000.

Miss Laura Pierson, the former superintendent, completed three years of successful work before she became too ill to continue. She recently resigned. Miss Pierson was loved by all those who came in contact with her and the girls in training to become nurses were very closely attached to her. She was very successful in the training department, building up a reputation for herself that is enviable.

About June 1, 1917, Dr. Massey, who was connected with the institution, took charge of the work as temporary superintendent.

Dr. Massey is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn., and has been connected with the hospital since his graduation. He was first an interne [sic] during the years 1914-15. Then he was selected as house surgeon, which position he filled until he received the appointment as superintendent.


A few months ago there was opened up in this institution a dispensary for the benefit of the poor people who need treatment but who are not financially able to pay for same. In this dispensary the people who are not ill enough to be confined may receive medicine free of charge. It is thought this is one of the greatest additions to the hospital for many years past. Should it be necessary, these patients receive free examination.

During the past year approximately 3,000 patients have been treated.

One of the most interesting departments is that for the training of nurses. During the past year ten have finished their work and received their diplomas. Those in the underclasses number thirty-eight. These girls come from over a wide area of the southern states and the majority of them follow up their work after finishing the course.

Connected with the institution are three house physicians, Dr. Cross, Dr. Abercrombie and Dr. Cahill. There are two operating rooms, twenty-seven private rooms, a delivery room and a sun parlor.

The superintendent says that among the greatest needs at present are a home for the nurses, and an enlargement of the main building with the necessary equipment. As proof of this he says that patients are often turned away because no room is to be had.

Lincoln Memorial

The management of this hospital is under the direction of the board of trustees of Lincoln Memorial University, located at Cumberland Gap, Tenn. Formerly a medical department was connected with this hospital, but it has been discontinued. There are three buildings, the main building, which is now used for the girls’ home. The approximate cost of these three buildings is said to have been $100,000 and the cost of the equipment about $20,000. The main building contains two operating rooms and a thoroughly equipped new obstetrical department, which has been added by the efforts of Superintendent J. H. Mauney. The three wards accommodating thirty patients and the forty-five rooms are attractively furnished.

The management has been making several improvements. Among them is the establishment of a modern laundry.

During the past year there were in this hospital about 1,700 patients.

Some of the officers are as follows: Miss Ada Farris, operating supervisor; Dr. R. V. Depue, pathologist; Dr. S. D. Acuff, medical director.

The superintendent states that their need is another wing to the present building. This would enable them to take care of the patients that are turned away on account of the lack of room.

The superintendent, J. H. Mauney, was formerly connected with the Louisville & Nashville railroad. But for the past few years he has been engaged in this serviceable work.

The arrangement of the operating rooms is very modern and one is delighted to see the manner in which the operations are performed.

Improvements Planned

In keeping with the progress of the city, following the enactment of the recent law extending the borders of Greater Knoxville, steps are being taken to improve the hospital facilities, and it is probable that plans may soon materialize for increasing the capacity of Lincoln Memorial hospital from a 70 to 100-bed hospital and the erection of a nurses’ home.

This matter will be brought before the board at its annual meeting to be held at Cumberland Gap Tuesday, J. H. Mauney, the efficient superintendent, will present the matter in an address to be delivered at that time. Records show that the admittances to the hospital have trebled during the past two years and many changes have been made.

Estimates and blue prints are now being made by the Albert Pick Co., of Chicago, for a model diet kitchen.

Improvements to cost $15,000 are being planned and only recently several thousand dollars have been expended on the buildings, consisting of a renovation and remodeling process and the laying of hardwood floors in forty rooms. These improvements also include interior decorations. A model laundry also has been installed.

For more than a year the superintendent has been making efforts to secure greater facilities and the subject has been brought before the board of directors.

In the event the one million dollar endowment to the Lincoln Memorial university at Harrogate, materializes, which seems assured, a sum will be allotted and the efforts of the superintendent of Lincoln Memorial hospital will be rewarded and an addition in the form of a new wing will be erected, providing rooms for twenty-seven additional patients. This addition will cost, probably $10,000, and this will make the hospital accommodations adequate for the patients that are being treated there. Records of the institution show that patients from a wide area came to this hospital, those having been interned recently came from points between Middlesboro, Ky., and Atlanta and from Middle Tennessee to Charleston, S. C., also from the Carolinas, Virginia and southeastern Kentucky.

Speaking of the status of affairs in Knoxville growing out of the inadequate hospital facilities, one familiar with the situation said.

“There has never been such an urgent need for more hospital rooms in Knoxville as at the present time, and the Lincoln Memorial hospital is doing its best to meet this need sent out by surgeons and physicians as well as by hundreds of disappointed patients who have been turned away.

“Since the Greater Knoxville bill has been passed the capacities of this city’s hospitals are to become more greatly taxed than ever. It is a much to be regretted fact that Knoxville cannot provide adequate accommodations for the sick and suffering.”

Definite announcement is made that large expenditures will be made immediately for the establishment of a new modern private sanitarium, which, it is expected, will play an important part in furnishing adequate hospital facilities for Greater Knoxville. While it will be a private institution, one of the promoters asserted that it would be open to all reputable physicians and surgeons.

The new institution will be operated as the Riverside hospital and will be established in the Riverside apartments, a part of the estate of the late Col. B. R. Strong, on East Front avenue. The property has been vacated, and contracts have been awarded for the reconstruction and remodeling process which will be finished by July 1. Thousands of dollars will be expended in the project, which is to be designed especially to the suggestions of four leading surgeons and two specialists. A high class training school for nurses will be operated in connection with the new institution. Architects designing the plans for the improvements have arranged for the interior circular stairway to be removed, and a modern electric elevator will be installed at a considerable cost. Two of the largest rooms are to be converted into private wards that will be equipped after the most elaborately arranged methods that have been approved in the United States and by some of the most eminent physicians and surgeons of foreign countries.

Forty Rooms

There will be forty large and commodious rooms in the institution and the operating rooms will be convenient to the rest of the apartments. The equipment for each room will be installed at a cost of $150. A contract has just been placed with one of the largest manufacturers of Chicago and the equipment will be constructed and rushed to this city to be installed at an early date.

Due to the fact that inadequate facilities have at times been experienced in Knoxville hospitals for the past year, it is stated the plans for the new institution were projected and the building was leased for a period of five years, with the privilege of purchasing it, before the plans for the institution were made public.

Promoting the new institution designed to improve the hospital facilities of Greater Knoxville are Drs. V. D. Holloway, Herbert Acuff, J. H. Kincaid, S. R. Miller, Albert T. Kern and Charles Huff Davis.

Patients Turned Away

Speaking of the crowded condition of some of the hospitals at times a physician said that more room was needed for the accommodation of the public. It is said to be a common occurrence for patients to be turned away from the institutions that are already in operation.

The commercial organization of the city will be glad to report to the outside world that Knoxville is keeping pace in hospital improvements as well as in every other way since the Greater Knoxville plans were consummated. A physician stated that new residents or people contemplating locating in a city always inquire about religious, educational and hospital facilities.

Need for Facilities

The new project was started after years of experience taught some of the leading practitioners that there was a crying demand for expansion. An enterprising and public spirited citizen who for years has devoted time and energy to improving facilities for humanitarian reasons, said Sunday the dreams of enlarged facilities would soon be realized, much to the elation of the professional and scientific leaders of Greater Knoxville.

In connection with the Riverside hospital the architectural designs include plans for a modern diet kitchen and obstetrical department. A directress has been engaged from one of the largest eastern hospitals and will be here on the opening date.

One of the leading women of the city, who has been devoting time to getting the facilities of local hospitals increased, expressed delight that Knoxville institutions would soon be able to care for all the afflicted people.

She said: “Knoxville’s urgent need for better hospital facilities is being met by six of our foremost physicians and surgeons in the plans for the establishment of a modern sanitarium and the location, while near the heart of the city is ideal and noted for quietude and overlooks the Tennessee river.”

Knoxville’s only private hospital, 408 West Church avenue, operated by R. P. Oppenheimer and H. J. Kelso, M. D., was opened in June, 1916 [sic], and has been continuously and successfully conducted since it was opened. While it is not a large institution, the records show that more than 2,000 cases have been treated there since the opening date. This hospital is conducted exclusively for the patients of the proprietors, but when room is available the patients of other reputable physicians and surgeons are furnished accommodations.

Patients from Washington, D. C., Pennsylvania, Illinois, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Virginia and other states have been brought to the private hospital for treatment. It is operated as a general hospital and special attention is given to surgery. This institution conducts are required to take the three years course a nurses’ training school and the students required by the law. [NB: The preceding sentence is transcribed as printed.] It also affiliates with the Knoxville General hospital. Seven nurses are kept on duty at the private hospital and when the institution is filled with patients, additional nurses are employed. There are twenty-five beds in the institution. The reputation of this hospital has become widely known on account of the large and successful practice of eminent surgeons who have interned patients there. Many physicians and surgeons aside from the proprietors have sent patients there to be treated and to undergo surgical operations. The proprietors have worked assiduously to keep this hospital up to the highest standard in equipment and the appointments are systematically arranged to the convenience of the patients and staff of physicians and surgeons.

[Note: The advertisement for Oppenheimer & Kelso hospital that accompanies this article says the hospital has existed for eleven years. In 1917, Polk’s Medical Register & Directory of the United States and Canada indicates the hospital was a “surgical and gynecological hospital” (page 1416).]

Source: Knoxville Journal and Tribune – July 1, 1917 – Page 59

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