THE MACON HOSPITAL
We typically think of hospitals as quintessentially modern places, but Macon has one hospital founded over one hundred years ago. The Macon Hospital, more commonly known as the Medical Center of Central Georgia or Medical Center, Navicent Health, was founded by a group of forward-thinking individuals in 1895.
In the late nineteenth century, people did not think of hospitals as places where one would find healing or cures. Many people actually detested hospitals as cesspools where society’s poorest members went to die. Going to the hospital to give birth, receive treatment, or have a surgical operation was a sign that you could not afford “proper” medical care at your home.
In 1890, several individuals, churches, and charities in Macon banded together to raise money for a local hospital. In contrast to the “common sense” of the era, these people saw hospitals as the future of medicine. This same period saw the increasing professionalization and specialization of physicians. By the 1890s, almost all physicians had been trained in medical schools and understood germ theory, much as we do today. They recognized that a dedicated hospital facility not only allowed them to treat patients with the latest equipment but would also reduce the risk of unnecessary infection.
It took five years, but the original Macon Hospital opened its doors on March 26, 1895 at what was originally addressed 818 Pine Street. The two-story brick building had most recently been the residence of James Calloway and had eight rooms. Between its opening and February 1, 1896, the Macon Hospital served 126 people and only lost eight patients. These statistics convinced many of the individuals who had been against opening the hospital.
The hospital soon grew busy enough to justify the construction of additional facilities around the original building. By 1908, the hospital had “modern” operating rooms, its own laundry facility, and segregated patient wards.
The original brick building no longer stands and the name has changed a couple times over the last fifty years, but the facility remains in operation today as the Medical Center, Navicent Health. It continues to serve residents of Macon and many surrounding areas and is the second largest hospital in Georgia.
-Kim Campbell, Preservation and Education Coordinator