#TBT: Babies Hospital

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Babies Hospital (Photo: Cape Fear Museum)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — From 1920 through 1978, the Babies Hospital in New Hanover County was a place for children to regain their health near the ocean.

Doctors said ocean breezes provided benefits for many childhood ailments and it was common for them to prescribe daily trips aboard the steamer from Wilmington to Southport to sick children and infants.

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Wilmington physician J. Buren Sidbury opened the Babies Hospital on the sound across from Wrightsville Beach. At the time Sidbury was believed to be the only doctor in the state of North Carolina who specialized in pediatrics. Until Duke Hospital opened its doors in 1930, the Babies Hospital was the only pediatric hospital in the state.

The hospital never received public funds. Originally there was cottage housing for patients, but that burned down in 1927 and was replaced by a fireproof structure across the street. The new building had 22 rooms, a hospital ward, and a rooftop garden with areas for sunning. Through the late 1930’s the hospital was only open during the summer months. From 1942 to 1967 the hospital has a nurses’ training program where student nurses did their pediatric training.

Pediatric supervisors throughout the Carolinas were also trained there.

In 1978 the board of directors closed the facility, as progress in the treatment of children’s diseases had made its traditional sea-breeze therapy obsolete.