Hill-Burton Before and After: Washington County Hospital

You may recall a newspaper clipping post (“Hospitals in Every County“) about the federal Hill-Burton program (technically titled the “Hospital Survey and Construction Act”) in the 1940s and 1950s that aimed to build health clinics and hospitals accessible to even the most rural parts of the country. As the 1948 Bolivar County News-Enterprise article noted, Mississippi–which it characterized as a “nationally recognized leader in the field of public health”–jumped on board this program and started building health clinics and hospitals as fast as we could:

During the first year of a 5-year hospital building program, for which federal funds are available to all states, Mississippi has led the nation in the number of projects it has secured, with 28 installations, or about 30 per cent of all those approved in the nation to date. A total of 17 hospitals and 11 health centers, approved under the program, will give Mississippi 639 of the 5,500 new hospital beds needed.

Next year’s program calls for construction of 30 hospitals and health centers, of which 24 have already been locally approved. An addition of 1074 beds will thus be provided.

Back in 1946, the Mississippi Legislature appropriated $5,000,000, the first large state appropriation in the Nation, as its part in footing the bill for a needed 5,500 hospital beds in the state. At the same time it created the Mississippi Commission On Hospital Care to administer a state-wide plan for construction and equipment of hospitals, nurses’ homes, health centers, clinics and related facilities as provided for under the Hill-Burton Bill passed by Congress.

Under this bill, known as public law 735, a total of $375,000,000 was appropriated as federal aid for use by state and local agencies for hospitals during a 5-year period. Mississippi will receive $2,400,000 per year, or a total of $12,000,000 for such hospitals for the 5-year period covered by the appropriation.

Bolivar County News-Enterprise, June 16, 1948

A little while ago, a friend kindly shared a copy of a publication the Mississippi Commission on Hospital Care released around 1949, and in that publication are a few renderings of the new buildings the commission was funding. I thought these needed a wider audience and a series of posts would give us a chance to check up on the buildings to see how they’re doing. Today’s rendering, the Washington County General Hospital in Greenville, is from the cover and was designed by N.W. Overstreet & Associates. As W. White pointed out in his comment to that earlier post, Overstreet’s nomination to be a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects highlighted his medical buildings and revealed that Overstreet was a member of the Advisory Council to the MCHC (which raises some interesting questions about conflict of interest).

A check of the MDAH Historic Resources Database shows that the hospital is still operating and now known as Delta Regional Medical Center. It also shows that another familiar name here on MissPres, Flint Brothers Construction, built the hospital, which opened in 1954. The database also gives us a few pictures of what the building looks like nowadays.

Delta Regional Medical Center, view from southwest corner. Photo by Jennifer Baughn, MDAH, Oct. 29, 2015

Well, the old girl has grown quite a bit and had one of those trendy bulbous additions that were so popular in the 1980s and 90s. And she’s lost her International-style panache with replacement windows and new exterior cladding, but she’s still going, still serving her original purpose, and with medical buildings, that’s often the best we can expect.

We’ll check in on more Hill-Burton buildings in the coming weeks.

Related posts . . .

Categories: Architectural Research, Greenville, Hospitals/Medical


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