When the S.C. Baptist Convention decided in 1911 to take on health care as a mission, it pledged to do it right.
The convention spent $200,000 on downtown Columbia property, first buying a tract once used by the Colonia Hotel, then scooping up a burgeoning hospital when its owner died unexpectedly. The former Knowlton Infirmary was christened Baptist Hospital Sept. 1, 1914.
The convention touted its initial investment as evidence of the scale its hospital enterprise would take, according to The State newspaper account that day. “It is the purpose of the denomination to build up the greatest hospital in the state,” said the Rev. Louis J. Bristow, president of the board of trustees.
A century later, Baptist Hospital is Palmetto Health Baptist and it remains an important component of health care in the state.
The history of Baptist
Important years in the development of what is now called Palmetto Health Baptist.
1914: Dr. Augustus B. Knowlton, a physician in Columbia, founded the private Knowlton Infirmary on Marion Street in Columbia in 1900 and expanded it to two buildings in 1912. Knowlton died unexpectedly at 49 in 1914. The South Carolina Baptist Convention had decided in 1911 to take on a medical mission. The day after the convention closed on the purchase of the old Colonia Hotel property at the intersection of Hampton and Pickens streets in Columbia for a hospital site, Knowlton died.
The convention ended up buying Knowlton’s 60-bed hospital and nursing school from his widow, allowing a quicker start to their medical mission a few blocks away from the property they originally planned for their hospital. The Knowlton hospital officially became Baptist Hospital Sept. 1, 1914.
1918: The Rev. W.M. Whiteside became the hospital’s first full-time administrator in 1918 and stayed in that job until 1957. During his tenure, the hospital expanded by 32 beds, two delivery rooms and six operating rooms.
1954: The hospital continued its teaching role by adding a school of radiologic technology. A school of medical technology came online in 1963.
1957: Dr. William A. Boyce, who had been working at the hospital for 10 years, took over as administrator. Like his predecessor, Whiteside, he would spend 40 years at Baptist.
1966: The hospital’s school of nursing closed. During the hospital’s 52 years of training, more than 1,300 nurses graduated from the school. The Lily Hardin building, used as a dormitory for student nurses, was built on the site of Knowlton’s former home.
1979: The first hospital-based hospice program in the state was opened at Baptist, providing care for terminally ill individuals in their homes.
1980: The hospital changed its name to Baptist Medical Center Columbia.
1987: Charles D. Beaman Jr. became president and chief executive officer of South Carolina Baptist Hospitals Inc., which included facilities in Easley and the Harbison area of Columbia. The hospital also opened the Breast Health Center, a mammography center for women, and purchased the state's first mobile mammography van.
1988: The South Carolina Baptist Cancer Center opened.
1998: Baptist Healthcare Systems of South Carolina formed an alliance with Richland Memorial Hospital to form Palmetto Health.
2014: The 345-bed hospital marks its 100th anniversary, having logged more than 87,000 occupied bed days, the standard measure for patients kept overnight, in 2013.