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History: Fayetteville's first hospitals


By Weeks Parker

In 1896, Dr. John Henry Marsh and Dr. Jacob Franklin Highsmith organized the Marsh-Highsmith Sanatorium, North Carolina’s first private hospital. The 14-bed facility was located on Green Street near the corner of Green and Old streets, and the right-side entrance was across the street from the McNeill Milling Company.

In 1900, Mrs. Eva S. Cochran from New York purchased the former home of Dr. Ben Robinson, which was to the right of the Marsh-Highsmith Sanatorium and built a charity annex which was connected to the hospital. In March 1904, Dr. Highsmith became the sole owner of the sanatorium and at that point the name was changed to Highsmith Hospital.
Ethel Howard was one of the first nurses who graduated from Marsh-Highsmith Nursing School about 1915. She died at age 35 of tuberculosis, In 1906, the original Highsmith Hospital was destroyed by fire and then rebuilt. The new hospital was one of the finest in the state and covered the entire block from Market Square to Old Street where the First Citizens Bank now stands. In 1924, the Highsmith Hospital on Green Street had a total of 75 beds, which was vastly inadequate for the large number of patients who came to Fayetteville from all over the state.

For many years, Dr. Jacob Franklin Highsmith had dreamed of establishing a newer, larger hospital overlooking the city. On April 8, 1926, his dream came true when a 100-bed hospital bearing his name was opened in Haymount. The hospital was named Highsmith Hospital. In June 1963, the name was changed to Highsmith-Rainey Memorial Hospital in honor of both Dr. Highsmith and Dr. Thomas Rainey, who, until his death in 1961, dedicated 40 years of his life to the practice of medicine at Highsmith Hospital.

The old Highsmith Hospital building on Green Street was later converted into the Millbrook Hotel, and subsequently torn down to make way for the First Citizens Bank.
In 1912, Dr. Seavy Highsmith, a general practitioner, and Dr. Thomas Marshall West, a surgeon, founded Cumberland General Hospital. Seavy Highsmith was the nephew of Dr. Jacob Highsmith. Later, Dr. R. B. Hayes became associated with the hospital. This red brick structure was located on Old Street between the First Baptist Church and the Carolina Telephone and Telegraph Company. Over the entrance to Cumberland General Hospital was a stone cross. Babies born in that hospital were often referred to as having been “born under the sign of the cross.”

The original building had a basement and two stories. A third story was later added. Dr. West returned to his native Pennsylvania because of poor health. Dr. Highsmith continued his practice on the main floor until his death in 1942, which ended the practice of medicine at Cumberland General Hospital. Years later, the building was converted into a rooming house known as Ivy Inn. This building was destroyed by fire in November 1977.

Dr. Raymond L. Pittman, who came to Fayetteville in 1913, founded the Pittman Hospital in 1919. This large hospital was located on the south side of Hay Street to the right of Huske Hardware House almost directly across from the Prince Charles Hotel. The present City Hall is now on that site.