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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Babies Hospital

by Michael Hill, 2006"Photograph of the front facade of the Babies Hospital, Wrightsville Beach." Image courtesy of the Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear, accession #: 83.476,1.

The Babies Hospital was a seaside pediatric institution that operated in New Hanover County from 1920 until 1978. Medical professionals had long proclaimed the benefits of ocean breezes for childhood ailments and had often instructed parents to take their sick children or infants on a trip aboard the daily steamer from Wilmington to Southport to take advantage of the air's curative powers. Acting on such beliefs, Wilmington physician J. Buren Sidbury in 1920 opened the Babies Hospital on the sound just across from Wrightsville Beach overlooking the modern Intracoastal Waterway. In his appeals for contributions, Sidbury, believed to be only the second doctor in the state to specialize in pediatrics, cited the success of similar resort hospitals in Virginia Beach, Va., and Atlantic Beach, N.J. Until Duke Hospital opened in Durham in 1930, Sidbury's hospital was the only pediatric care facility in North Carolina.

In its 58-year history, the Babies Hospital never received public funds. The original cottage housing the facility burned in 1927 (with no loss of life or injuries) and was replaced the next year by a fireproof structure directly across the road. The new building featured 22 rooms, a spacious ward, and a roof garden with high walls for sunning. Through 1939 the hospital was open only during the summer months. From 1942 to 1967 the Babies Hospital conducted a nurses' training program where senior student nurses statewide received three months of pediatric training. Pediatric supervisors throughout North Carolina and South Carolina were also trained there. Although the hospital served primarily the eastern parts of North Carolina and South Carolina, it was not unusual for patients to be referred from other East Coast states.

In 1954 a third floor was added to the building, in 1955 a nurses' dormitory was built, and in 1962 a pediatric research center was completed (since used by UNC-Wilmington for marine biomedical research). Patient use of the Babies Hospital peaked in 1967. In 1978 the board of directors closed the facility, as progress in the treatment of children's diseases had made its traditional sea-breeze therapy obsolete. The 1928 structure was subsequently leased for commercial office space.

References:

Diane Cashman, The Lonely Road: A History of the Physicks and Physicians of the Lower Cape Fear, 1735-1976 (1978).

Lockert B. Mason, "Babies Hospital, 1920-1978," North Carolina Medical Journal 45 (January 1984).

Additional Resources:

NC Historical Marker, Babies Hospital: http://www.ncmarkers.com/Markers.aspx?MarkerId=D-94

Image Credit:

"Photograph of the front facade of the Babies Hospital, Wrightsville Beach." Image courtesy of the Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear, accession #: 83.476,1. Available from http://hslcf.org/cgi-bin/search.pl?field=subject&query=Hospitals--Wilmington%2C%20NC (accessed July 6, 2012).

 

 

 
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Comments

Comment: 

Exact address of Babies Hospital please.

Comment: 

Dear Frances,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia.The address to the historical marker is US 74 at Summer Street west of Wrightsville Beach. The marker is typically near the associated site. You can find more infromation here (http://www.ncmarkers.com/Markers.aspx?MarkerId=D-94).

Francesca Evans, Government & Heritage Library

Comment: 

My uncle spent time in Wilmington during part of 1943-45 and was in the Civil Air Patrol during part of WWII. My cousin Mires Joseph Zett was born here in Babies Hospital Nov. 2, 1943 and taken here for several days when evacuated and separated from his sister and parents on Sept. 14, 1944 from oceanfront on the beach as "The Great Atlantic Hurricane" brought 100 mph winds and very stormy encroaching sea. In front of his terrified mother and sister he was dropped momentarily from the evacuating officer's arms into the water but quickly recovered. For many years following, my aunt would recall this story as we drove across the Waterway on our way to Wrightsville Beach for vacation.

Comment: 

I would like to get my medical records, I was there in 74-75.

Thanks

Comment: 

Hi, I was there around. 1962. Was wondering if you had any luck gettong your records. Thank you,

Comment: 

Hello Dwynn,

If the records were saved when the facility closed in 1978, they would most likely be found today at the Betty H. Cameron Women's & Children's Hospital, a division of the New Hanover Regional Medical Center. You can contact the hospital at 910-667-7360.

I hope this helps. Please feel free to respond to this post with more questions or comments.

Best Wishes,

Christopher Luettger - NC Government and Heritage Library

Comment: 

I was a patient at The Babies Hospital in 1943 or 1944. I would like my records as I do not know what my affliction was. I remember sitting n the nurses laps and pushing carriages with babies in them as she rocked back and forth. Two birds with one stone type thing. I am currently needing those records but don't know where to look. Thank you.

Comment: 

I was operated on at Babies Hospital in Jan/Feb of 1952 at 5 weeks old. I was on the 2nd floor in Room 27. Are any of the records available for that time period and, if so, how would I request them? Thank you.

Comment: 

I was adopted in 1952 trying to find some info. Born at babies hospital in Wilmington NC 1952

Comment: 

I was a patient sometime around 1947. Always told it was a mild case of polio. Would like to find the records. Any help would be appreciated.

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