N.C. Highway Historical Marker Recognizes Convalescent Hospital

Raleigh

In 1948 polio rapidly spread through North Carolina causing 147 deaths with 2,517 cases recorded. The Guilford County outbreak was the highest per capita both in the state and the nation. Citizens rallied and built a hospital there in just 95 days after fundraising began. After the epidemic subsided, the facility was used as a jail for civil rights protestors in 1963. The unique evolution and roles of the facility will be recognized with a N.C. Highway Historical Marker Saturday, June 15 at 3 p.m.

The dedication program will be at the historic polio hospital site, 710 Huffine Mill Rd., Greensboro. The marker later will be erected at Wendover Avenue at Elwell Avenue in Greensboro.

The Central Carolina Convalescent Hospital in Greensboro opened in October 1948 and served the entire state. The half million-dollar fundraising effort attracted national attention and received funds from across North Carolina, raising $325,000 in cash donations and $170,000 in materials and labor. Additional funds came from the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. Volunteers arrived from across the state to help build the hospital. “Life” magazine sent two reporters to cover the effort.

Patients came from Guilford, Alamance and Forsyth Counties and others traveled farther, from Charlotte or Rocky Mount, to receive the innovative treatments the doctors provided. The single-story white cinder block hospital was comprised of seven wings, 134 beds, operating room and rehabilitation rooms. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis donated iron lungs, hot pack machines and other much needed medical supplies. 

The center was unusual because it was racially integrated from the outset and treated and employed whites and African Americans. The National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis provided funding and had a policy of providing services to patients regardless of race, age or creed.

By the spring of 1963 the hospital had closed. In May of that year, more than 1,000 marchers participated in nonviolent demonstrations in an effort to desegregate movie theaters and restaurants. Hundreds of student protestors were detained from N.C. A & T, Bennett College and Dudley High School. They and other civil rights protestors were overwhelming the city’s jails. The former hospital was repurposed as a makeshift jail, especially for students from Bennett College. The mayor ultimately called for businesses to desegregate and by the fall a large number of them had complied.

For additional information on the dedication, contact (336) 334-5992. For information on the N. C. Highway Historical Marker Program, call (919) 814-6625. The Highway Historical Marker Program is a collaboration between the N.C. Departments of Natural and Cultural Resources and Transportation. 
 

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