Mercy Hospital 11-8-12



Charlotte, North Carolina


February, 1906


The history of the Mercy Hospital is a story of Faith and Love and Trust in God.  Those who undertook the work were women of heroic mold, and the endured the poverty and hardships of those pioneer days with so great a courage and enthusiasm that God has ever blessed their efforts with marked success.


At the time of the lowly beginning of Mercy Hospital, Charlotte’s population numbered 20,000, of whom less than 1,000 were Catholics.  St. Peter’s Hospital (Episcopal) was unable to care for all the sick of the city, and thus it came about that Father Joseph Mueller, O.S.B., pastor of St. Peter’s Catholic Church, turned his attention to the need and desirability of a Catholic Hospital operated by Sisters.


The parochial school, completed at this time, contained an auditorium adequate for parish activities, so the parish hall, a large frame building, was no longer needed.  With the consent of his bishop, the Reverend Leo Haid, O.S.B., Father Joseph renovated the building and equipped it for the hospitalization of twenty-five patients.  From the Community of Sisters of Mercy of Belmont, N.C., under Mother Mary Teresa Sullivan, who already staffed his parish school, Father Joseph was able to secure the foundresses who made his hospital plan a reality.


The morning of February 26, 1906, found the little hospital, under the deft and prayerful supervision of the Sisters, with its portals open and ready to enrich the community with its dispersion of God’s mercies.  Not only a large, but a very representative and appreciative audience witnessed the dedication.  Bishop Haid, assisted by Father Joseph, pounced the formal prayers, and blessed the building.  In his dedicatory address, the bishop spoke tenderly of the great duty all Christians’ one humanity in the care of the sick and suffering, and reminded them of the example set by the Lowly Nazarene, who healed all who sought his aid.  The speaker also paid high tribute to the energy and preservance of Father Joseph, and thanked the physicians and non-Catholic citizens of Charlotte who had given their aid and support to the project.  Mayor S.S. McNinch, in behalf of the city, said it gave him great pleasure to join hands with the promoters of the hospital in the formal opening.  “I gladly welcome”, he said, “the establishment of your hospital, because it is a Catholic institution, and because I well know that every movement made by the Catholics is for the God of Faith, I like to think that we all have the same beautiful vision of God, and that we can all join hands in works of charity and love.”  Short, but interesting and inspiring talks were made by Rev. Francis Osborne, Dr. F. O. Hawley, and Dr. F.M. Winchester.


All through the first day, lines of visitors and well-wishers thronged the corridors.  They saw light and airy rooms well-furnished a fully equipped operating department, healthful ventilation and steam heat fittings, complete hygienic and sanitary details and an abundance of piazza space affording shade or sunshine at all hours of the day.  Most of the private rooms had been furnished by interested friends in memoriam of their loved ones.  There was a male ward dedicated to the memory of the late, well beloved pastor, Rev. Father Francis Meyer, O.S.B., while the female ward stood as a memorial to the late Mrs. Rose McBeils.


All in all, Father Joseph had done all things well, and had accomplished great things with the proverbial shoe string.  As the tired but happy sisters knelt before the Tabernacle that night, their hearts were filled with great plans for the future; plans perhaps tinged with a touch of pride which we are certain the Recording Angel refrained from setting down in the Great Book. 


The next morning brought the first patients, and the “call to action” in the care of God’s sick and suffering.


Rev. Father Joseph immediately had the hospital incorporated under the title of Mercy General Hospital.  A training school was started at once with Miss Beulah Squires, a graduate of Baltimore City Hospital, as superintendent.  Miss Squires first graduating class consisted of Sister Mary Dolores, Sister Mary Bride, Miss Josephine Finch and Miss Rose Farley.


In ten years’ time, the Sisters realized that they must increase their capacity.  Although the original building had been up-to-date, and adequate for its time, it was now very evident that they must have more room and better facilities for taking care of the increased demands on their services.


Again, good Bishop Haid came to their assistance, and made it possible for them to receive the beautiful site on Fast Fifth Street.  With the aid of their faithful ally, the late Dr. John S. Clifford, and a host of generous friends from near and far, the sisters erected the first of the attractive buildings which today comprise the Mercy Hospital group.


The new hospital which was opened to the public on March 16, 1916, is one of the most modern and up-to-date institutions of its kind in the state.  In architecture, it follows the Tudor Gothic type, reminding one of the strength and durability of the medieval structures.  The plans called for east and west wings to be added later.


On the morning of the formal, dedication, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Haid celebrated mass at 8:00 o’clock in the new chapel, and then blessed the institution.  The feature of the afternoon was the house-warming attended by hundreds of friends and well-wishers.  Every part of the new building was inspected and commendations of the accomplishment of the sisters came from all sides.  The equipment and furnishings were as nearly perfect as could be devised at that time.  The hospital now had a capacity of 75 beds as compared with the 25 beds of the previous ten years.  Its equipment also provided Laboratory and X-ray departments, and very much enlarged surgical and obstetrical departments.


The first advisory board was formed in 1915, when the initial steps were taken toward the construction of the new hospital.  The board membership comprised Mr. Arthur Draper, Mr. Charles A. Williams, Mr. Henry McAden, and Mr. J.W. Conway.


As trust in God has ever motivated the sisters in their struggle for progress and improvement, the architect and contractor were again engaged, and in 1931, the handsome East Wing, intended for maternity patients, was under construction.  On January 5, 1932, the wing was blessed by the Right Reverend Bishop Hafey, and opened to visitors.  This wing stands as a memorial to the Duke Endowment Fund, which gave a substantial donation toward its erection, and to the generosity of kind friends and benefactors.  Erected at a cost of over $125,000, this wing was all that could be desired in both furnishings and equipment.  Its erection, furthermore, was a positive evidence of the evaluation which patrons placed upon the nursing and care received at Mercy.  The East Wing added 35 beds to the capacity of the hospital, and afforded space for a hydro-therapy department, which was great needed.  It was when the plans were made for this maternity wing that the Medical Society of Mecklenburg County gave its full support and approbation to the hospital.


Again, in 1938, our history repeated itself, and the hospital was compelled to increase its capacity.  At this date, a much greater Charlotte was facing an acute need for hospital space.  To help relieve this situation, the Sisters planned this West Wing, to be erected at a cost of $100,000.  Fortunately, the Duke Endowment again came to their assistance with a gift of $24,000, and work was begun at once on the new addition. 


On February 8, 1939, the new wing was dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Bishop McGuinness of Raleigh, assisted by the clergy of the city, and surrounding territory.  His Excellency commended the splendid work of the Sisters and briefly outlined their achievements in building the hospital up to its present outstanding status.  Mayor Ben E. Douglas represented the city and presented the municipality’s compliments to the Sisters and to all others responsible for the development of the institution, and for the work it is doing for Charlotte and the Carolinas.  As evidence of the extreme need for hospital space, all the beds of this new wing were occupied before the formal opening.


With the erection of this unit, the original architectural plan of the group was completed.  It increased the total capacity to 150 beds, and provided more space for male patients, a large, modern Pediatric department, and a complete surgical unit.  Three operating rooms were equipped for major surgery, two for minor surgery, one for orthopedic surgery, and one for urological diseases.  The improvements in the hospital were not confined to the new wing.  In the older part, terrazzo floors were laid, a new signal system installed, and a new arranged entrance to conform to the completed building group.


Other features added at this time were the sterilizing equipment, and the most modern illumination in both the old and new sections.  The completion of a hospital with 150 beds had long been the ideal and goal of the Sisters of Mercy.  Step by step, this objective was approved until its culmination.  From then on, the management began laying plans for further expansion.


As the war came upon us, Charlotte’s hospital needs were incredibly augmented, as they were obliged to meet the demands, not only of a rapidly growing city, but also of the surrounding country-side.


Within a radius of 60 miles, the population of the rural area numbers 1, 250,000.  The advisory board, made up of L.W. Driscoll, Thomas Griffith, Edmond P. Coles, H.M. McAden, C.H. Gover, George F. Stratton, Dabney H. Coddington, and Charles A. Williams, Jr., Charlotte’s business and professional men, strongly advised the Sisters to undertake a new $1,500,000 building project.  This problem, exceeded in scope any with which the board had hitherto been confronted, but after careful thought and earnest prayer, and very positive encouragement from their advisors, they reached their decision. 


The plans drawn up, and on October 20th, 1945, the contracts were awarded for a six story maternity building and a six story nurse’s home, to the rear of the building erected in 1923, and enlarged in 1936.  The program also called for a new kitchen, dining rooms for the Sisters and for the night nurses, and a general cafeteria for student nurses, graduate nurses, and for the staff members.  It was also necessary at this time to build an entirely new and much enlarged heating plant. 


With each enlargement and improvement of the past, the Sisters had liquated their financial obligation by prudent management and self-sacrifice, assisted by public-spirited organizations and friends, whose occasional, voluntary gifts were recognition of Mercy’s contribution to the well-being of the community.


Now for the first time in the forty years of service and growth.  Mercy Hospital found it necessary to make community-wide appeal for support.  With Mayor Baxter as its general chairman, L.W. Driscoll as assistant general chairman, and George T. Garey and Arthur Goodman as co-chairman, the campaign for funds was launched, and with the sum of $500,000 as its goal.  The drive, planned to cover the city of Charlotte, and its neighboring communities, had achieved everywhere success which surpassed hope, and almost the entire amount was received.  What is still lacking is coming in by payments and pledges. 


At the same time of the drive, Mercy’s staff was composed of 91 of Charlotte’s leading physicians, surgeons, and technicians.  These doctors believed in Mercy, and they endorsed the present enterprise by pledging their support as a staff, and as individuals.  The following resolutions adopted at the time indicate their stand:


WHEREAS, Mercy Hospital, of Charlotte North Carolina, has for more than forty years, been engaged in beneficent ministrations to relieve suffering, promote health, and prolong life.


WHEREAS, the Sisters of Mercy and their advisory board, through wise and prudent management, have been enabled at various intervals both to expand Mercy’s physical plant, and enlarge its services, and


WHEREAS, as a result of these policies, Mercy Hospital has been established as a sound, going concern, and through its benevolent services, extended without regard to creed or financial status, has been accorded public regnition as an institution devoted to the interests of the entire community, and


WHEREAS, Mercy Hospital is now engaged in a courageous program further to enlarge its plant, augment its facilities and extend its vital services to still greater numbers of our people, and


WHEREAS, Mercy Hospital is asking the people of Charlotte and neighboring communities to unite in support of this program, THEREFORE

BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the members of the medical staff of the hospital, immediately associated with its operations, and cognizant both of its needs and its opportunities, do hereby endorse the forward-looking plans of the hospital management and commend them to the thoughtful consideration of every citizen of Charlotte and its environs, for those well-being the enterprise is designed:


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we as the hospital’s medical staff, and as individual members thereof, pledge our whole-hearted cooperation in the community-wide effort to provide financial support to this public-spirited undertaking.


On May 25, 1948, the Maternity building was formally opened.  The blessing was performed by the Right Rev. Abott Taylor, O.S.B., assisted by Monsignor Arthur R. Freeman and Rev Father Gross, chaplain of the hospital.  The ribbons of the entrance were then cut and brief remarks were made by Mr. C Hundley Gover, Chairman of the Advisory Board, Mayor Herbert Baxter, General Chairman of the Fund Campaign, and Mr. Henry M. McAden,  member of the Advisory Board.  The building was opened to the public for a few hours only, as there were patients anxiously awaiting admission.  The capacity of the hospital was now increased by 110 beds and 75 bassiets.


All the rooms are either private or semi-private.  This increased capacity came none too soon, as the census to be taken in 1950, will probably give Charlotte a population of 150,000.  During the past year, 11,298 patients were admitted to the hospital and the records from the Maternity Department show 1,967 births.


In planning the new building, provision was made for much more space in the Physical Therapy Department.  Under the direction of a registered physical therapist, the treatments included Diathermy, Infra-red, Ultra-violet, Paraffin bath, Whirlpool bath, Sits bath, Cabinet bath, Needle spray, Massage, Exercise, Muscle re-education, Vasculature and special Muscle tests or polio cases.  During the past year, 2,628 patients were treated in this department.


The new building also provided space for a large Out-Patient Department and for a Pharmacy.  There were 7,064 out-patients treated in 1949, while from June through December, the Pharmacy filled 65,513 requisitions for drugs.


The Pediatric Department has 40 beds, but needs a great many more, as it is always filled to capacity.  Orthopedic, Surgical, Medical and Nutritional cases, and patients suffering from communicable diseases are treated.  In this department 1125 patients were received in 1949.


The Laboratory is conducted by Technologists with degrees.  Last year it made 65,228 tests, while the X-ray examinations numbered nearly 6,000.  The Surgical Department records 6,318 operations for the same period.


Mercy Hospital has had a school for nurses since 1906, when its first class consisted of four students.  It now numbers 170 students.  According to the State Board of Examiners it is a grade “A” school, and enjoys full accreditation from the North Carolina Nurses Association.  Its record of graduations is a source of pride to the hospital administration.  Graduates for the year 1949 numbered 26.  The new addition to the Nurse’s Home provides private rooms for all senior students, while those of the lower classes have semi-private rooms.  Their new building also contains a combination auditorium and gymnasium, together with lounges and reception rooms, all designed to contribute to comfortable and pleasant living.  The library contains 2,000 volumes.


The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps program was carried on here at Mercy from July 1, 1943 through February 29, 1948.  Ninety-seven Cadet Nurses took advantage of this program, and the amount paid by the U.S. Public Health Service during this period was $91,281.30.


In 1951, the present Diagnostic Wing was begun at a cost of over $800,000.  The North Carolina Medical Care Commission approved the use of the Hill-Burton Fund for 44% of the cost.  This Diagnostic Wing is located at the rear of the present Maternity Wing, and lies perpendicularly to the main axis of the wing.  It is three stories high and foundations are designated for six stories to be added later.  The ground floor has an attractive entrance, and a beautifully furnished waiting room for out-patients with a seating capacity for about thirty people.  There are five examining rooms and treatment rooms equipped with the most up-to-date furniture.  Sterilizing rooms, work rooms, and supply rooms (sterile) are also located on this floor.  An emergency room, plaster cast room, and children’s examining rooms are conveniently located.  Medical Social Service Offices, Doctor’s and Nurse’s Lounge and Locker Rooms are also on this floor.  It is adequately planned to take care of all clinics; pre-natal, post-natal, heart, cancer, diabetic, pediatric, medical and surgical.


The X-ray Department is located on the first floor, with 6,400 square feet of space, and completely air-conditioned.  The design and lay-out are the very latest to promote efficiency and ease of operation.  The equipment is all of the latest design and manufacture and consists of the following:


  1. One 300 milliampere high kilovoltage diagnostic x-ray machine which is phototamed.  High kilovoltage and phototimed machines are relatively recent developments, and allow for high quality films with greater safety to patients and hospital staff.


  1. One 300 milliampere high kilovolt unit, identical to No. 1 except for lack of phototiming. 


  1. One phototimed miniature chest unit for chest survey work of patients and hospital staff.


  1. One cassette changer, this a No. 3, operated by a 200 milliampere machine for stereoscopic x-rays.


  1. One Franklin Head unit for diagnostic work of all kinds on the head and sinuses.  This unit also has a Fairchild roll film cassette which allows taking two x-rays per minute, and is used for doing blood vessels studies of the brain; in diagnosing tumors, blood vessel diseases, etc.  It is also used for studies of the heart to diagnose congenital heart lesions or diseases of the great vessels.


  1. One Fluoroscopic machine for the use of doctors in the heart or chest clinics.


  1. Two portable machines/for taking x-rays of patients in their rooms who are too ill to be moved to the X-ray Department.


  1. One 250,000 Volt deep x-ray machine for treatment.  It is the only one of its kind in this part of the country.  The Franklin Head unit is also unique in this part of the country.


All rooms containing x-ray machines are lead-lined, and the treatment rooms contain about one-half inch of lead in walls, doors, ceiling and floors.  The large door entering the treatment room weighs over one-half ton.  Toilets and dressing rooms are convenient to x-ray rooms so that patient’s privacy is preserved.


There are offices, conference rooms, technician’s lounge, class rooms and a viewing room – very pleasingly designed.  On opening day, there was a real operating model of an x-ray machine on display which was loaned to the hospital by The General Electric X-ray Corporation.  There is a large, pleasant reception room, a dark room, and film processing area – excellently laid out, and containing the latest equipment.  Dr. John C. Glenn is full time Radiologist.


The entire second floor of the new wing is devoted to the Clinical Pathological Laboratories under the direction of Dr. Thomas S. Byrnes, and the supervision of Sister Mary Rosaria.  The Pathological Department is situated at the end of the wing, Microscopy, Hematology, Serology, Transfusions, and Basal Metabolism, throughout the opposite end of the wing.  Each room is equipped with the latest modern scientific apparatus to aid the doctor, patient and technician.


The furnishings and decorating are all of modern colors, in contrast to the usual hospital white.  The Basal Metabolism rooms are decorated in pastel shades, and are built with double doors to insure quiet and rest.  A specially equipped teaching laboratory is provided for the students in Medical Technology.  Mercy Hospital has been approved for some time by the Registry of Medical Technologists and Clinical Pathologists for the training of students.  A modern lounge for the technicians is provided in the air conditioned wing.


The Mercy Hospital Laboratory was officially opened in 1932, in the main building of the hospital under the direction of Dr. Harvey P. Barrett, and Mother Juliana.  At that time, only a few routine procedures were performed.  There was a gradual growth of hospital beds, with an increase of 500% as compared with the tests performed ten years ago. 


On the basement floor are located a most up-to-date Pharmacy, under the direction and supervision of Dr. Gilbert Colina, Purchasing Office, Maintenance Shop, Generator Room, Autopsy Suite, and Storage Room for Medical Records.  Not to be missed is the Service Tunnel, leading to a platform where supplies can be unloaded; thereby leaving all other entrances free for patients and visitors.  There are three elevator shafts reaching to the sixth floor of St. Mary’s wing, in one of which is a modern elevator installed by the well-known, dependable Otis Elevator Company.  Another elevator will be installed at some later date.  In addition, an electrical dumb waiter serves all floors, so that supplies, linens, etc., can be sent from Central Supply sources located in the basement.





The education of our youth has kept pace with the hospital.  The nursing school now has an enrollment of 150 students.  The School has been affiliated with Sacred Heart Junior College since 1952.  On completion of their three years course of Nurse’s training, the students receive their nursing diploma, and also the Associate of Applied Science Degree.  The school is also affiliated with Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.


Extension courses from Belmont Abbey are now available for our Graduate Nurses, and in the very near future Belmont Abbey will inaugurate the supplementary program for the B.S. Degree in Nursing.


The School of Medical Technology


The school was first opened in 1938, under the direction of Sister Juliana and Dr. Barrett.  After the death of Dr. Barrett in 1941, Sister Mary Rosaria, along with Sister Juliana, was in charge of the school.


In 1942, Dr. Byrnes and Dr. Summerville acted as part-time pathologists.


The present Laboratory facilities were added to the hospital in 1952.  Dr. Byrnes is now acting as full-time pathologist.  Supervisor of the Laboratory is Sister Mary Anne, and is assisted by Sister Mary de Chantal.


The School of X-Ray Technology


The School of X-Ray Technology was first opened in 1951, under the direction of Sister Marie Celine and Dr. Baxter.  The present x-ray department was completed in 1952 and Dr. Glenn was then appointed full-time Roentenologist.


As time goes on, and changes are necessary, Mercy will meet whatever is demanded in Medical care, treatment, or education.  Good education means good treatment for the patient, and at Mercy, the patient is our most important concern.