Integration doomed Columbia hospital for blacks

03/13/2013 12:00 AM

03/13/2013 12:42 AM

When Benedict College student Lennie Glover was stabbed in 1961 in one of the few acts of violence during the Columbia lunch counter sit-ins, he was rushed to Good Samaritan-Waverly Hospital for treatment.

The two-story, red brick building at 2204 Hampton St., was the hospital for black residents during the segregation era. The efforts of Glover, who recovered quickly, and the other Civil Rights activists eventually led to integration of the white hospitals in Columbia, which prompted the downfall of Good Samaritan-Waverly.

The black hospital always had struggled financially, but the turning point came when white hospitals began welcoming black doctors and patients. Many black patients with insurance coverage or sufficient income to pay full price for medical care chose the more up-to-date facilities at the white hospitals.

That saddled Good Samaritan-Waverly with an even higher percentage of charity care in the late 1960s and early 1970s. When Richland County built the modern Richland County Memorial Hospital in 1972, Good Samaritan-Waverly no longer could compete. The hospital closed for good in 1973, only 21 years after it opened.

There had been a number of small hospitals for blacks in Columbia before 1952, often only housing a few beds, according to the National Register of Historic Places nomination for Good Samaritan-Waverly.

The Duke Endowment and the Rosenwald Fund helped finance a segregated black wing of the old Columbia General Hospital in the 1930s, but black physicians and community leaders were unhappy with limitations at that facility.

The leaders of the city’s two largest black hospitals — Good Samaritan and Waverly — decided to join forces in 1938 with the goal of building a new facility.

Years of local fundraising amassed nearly $100,000 for the construction. The Duke Foundation gave another $100,000, and the federal government pitched in $130,000. The 19,200-square foot, 50-bed hospital opened in 1952 and featured two operating rooms, an X-ray room, a lab and a pharmacy.

In that same period, the state was building schools to comply with federal separate-but-equal requirements. But in this case, the black community wanted a health care facility of its own.

Today, the building looks remarkably small and run down, with a chain-link fence surrounding the property and most of the windows missing. It has been little-used since the hospital closed in 1973.

Allen University bought the building in 1987, hoping to renovate it as a physical education center. Other plans for the building have included a library and a community technology center. But the university’s fundraising efforts to pay for renovations so far have fallen short.

Leaders of the Historic Columbia Foundation, worried about the destruction of African-American historic landmarks, met with Allen officials recently and toured the building. Robin Waites, director of Historic Columbia, pledged to help the university apply for historic preservation grants.

Good Samaritan- Waverly Hospital

History of the former health care facility built for blacks during the segregation period at 2204 Hampton St., in Columbia.

Background: Former Good Samaritan Hospital and Waverly Hospital boards merged in 1938 and raised local funds for a new, modern hospital.

Year opened: 1952

Year closed: 1973

Current owner: Allen University

Current status: Unused

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