Columbia revealed a new historical marker on the corner of Harden and Washington streets. The marker recognizes the Black nurses unit from the former Columbia Hospital through a partnership with the City of Columbia, Richland County, the Columbia Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association + Columbia Hospital.
Columbia Hospital School of Nursing trained + educated Black nurses for 27 years leading to 401 graduates of the program before eventually closing in 1966. Many members of the Alumnae Association were able to attend the unveiling of the new historical marker on Oct. 25, but before we get to the presentation, let’s jump back to 1892, when Columbia Hospital first opened.
At the time, Columbia only had a population of 15,000 and, for the most part, people didn’t seek medical attention at a hospital – rather, people were treated in their own home. Home care was expensive and there was a need for treatment options that were more affordable + safer than those that took place in your living room. To help meet that need, Columbia Hospital opened and grew quickly from approximately 70 beds to over 100. Shortly after, it expanded again and opened a segregated wing, also known as the West Wing, for African Americans in 1934.
Until the hospital began training nurses, doctors were the only medically trained personnel that worked there. In 1935, Columbia Hospital opened a segregated school of nursing for African Americans. Within the first three years, the first class of ten nurses graduated.
By 1941, a three-story dormitory was built for the nursing students on Laurens + Washington streets, which included classrooms, an auditorium and a library. The campus wasn’t the only thing that was growing – recent alumni established the Columbia Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association. Together, Mary Lou Corley, Helen Stahler and Minier Padgette established the organization in hopes to support + promote high standards within nursing programs that affect nursing policies, practices and education.
In 1943, about 10 years after opening, Columbia Hospital expanded the West Wing at this site, what was then 1301 Harden St. The four-story facility was designed by architects Lafaye, Lafaye & Fair + cost an estimated $330,000 (approx. $6.1 million today). When it opened, it was equipped for 165 patients and 30 infants.
The last class of five nursing students graduated in 1965. Nearly 80 years later, the Columbia Hospital School of Black Nursing is still able to celebrate its achievements through the historic landmark.