Attractive Statesville

Local History Notes

Notes about the history of Iredell County by Joel Reese, Local History Librarian.

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Dec 23

Billingsley First Hospital in Iredell County

Posted on December 23, 2019 at 4:13 PM by Jenny Levins

I recently received a photograph taken of the old Billingsley Hospital as it appeared in the 1940s not long before it would be torn down. The photo came from Steve Gilbert of King, N.C. who grew up on Park St. in the 40s. The photo had been taken and sent to his parents with a Christmas card by Pless H. Woodard who also lived on Park across the street from the building.

Iredell County did not have a hospital for many years. When the Bostian Bridge Train Wreck occurred on Aug. 27, 1891 the injured had to be taken to local houses and the hotels in town to receive treatment from doctors. In 1897, Dr. Henry F. Long opened a temporary hospital with Miss Bettie Walker, a trained nurse in an existing building, but it did not last long. Statesville’s first actual hospital building was the Billingsley Hospital on Park Street where Park Terrace is today. Rev. Amos S. Billingsley died on Oct. 12, 1897 leaving in his will $5,000 to be used to build a hospital for Statesville with the only stipulation being that it had to treat both white and black patients. The corner stone of the building was put in position by Rev. W. R. McLelland on Oct. 7, 1899 in the north east corner of the building. The inscription read, “The A.S. Billingsley Hospital, 1899.”  Under the stone were placed a copy of the Bible, a copy of “Life of Whitfield” by Rev. A. S. Billingsley, a sketch of the building showing origin, architect, contractor, etc, a town directory, a copy of Rev. A. S. Billingsley’s will, a list of the city physicians, some magazines, a list of the laborers employed on the building, and a copy of “Shop Talk.”

Billingsley and his wife had come to Statesville after the Civil War as missionaries from the Northern Presbyterian Church to the newly freed slaves in Iredell County. Billingsley founded several Presbyterian Churches for the black community including Statesville, Cameron, Logan, and New Center. In1910 his wife Mrs. Emily Hamilton Billingsley gave the money to found a school for the black children called the Billingsley Academy. The completed hospital building was presented to the city of Statesville in September of 1900. Statesville was reluctant to accept the gift of the new building saying it would bring too heavy a tax burden to operate it. Instead the hospital was leased in the later part of 1900 with Doctors W.J. Hill and Henry F. Long operating the facility.

Iredell County sorely needed a hospital and Billingsley even received patients from the surrounding counties who also lacked a hospital, but the city and county refused to fully support it with tax money. Dr. Long builds his own 15-bed hospital called Long’s Sanatorium in 1905 and leaves Billingsley. Local citizens held ongoing fundraising efforts to keep the hospital going. Billingsley Hospital opens and closes over the next few years as it struggles to remain open. The hospital itself may not have met the vision that Rev. Billingsley had as there were separate sections for white and black patients. On March 10, 1905, the Landmark reports that the hospital receives charity patients at a minimum charge of $5 per week. The Landmark describes the hospital on March 6, 1908 saying, “In the building are four wards for white patients and one for colored, the latter being in the basement.”

Billingsley Hospital struggled financially and finally ceased operating as a hospital after the flu epidemic in 1920. It was used as an apartment building and later in 1938 it was sold at auction to a developer. It was torn down in 1946 by G.F. Barnes of the Barnes Lumber Company from Scotts who also tore down the Wallace Herbarium. Houses were later built on the Billingsley location which became Park Terrace. In April, 1954, a little brick church, which had stood for 88 years on the south side of East Broad Street in Statesville was torn down to make room for the Statesville Record & Landmark building that still stands today. The church, called first the Second Presbyterian church and later Broad Street Presbyterian, was built by Rev. Billingsley and was the first black church in Statesville. Though these structures he helped build for both the white and black communities in Statesville are now gone Billingsley’s vision and influence on Statesville remains. 

Joel Reese, Local History Librarian

Iredell County Public Library

This article appeared in the Statesville Record and Landmark as “Statesville’s first hospital building” on March 4, 2014