Category Archives: Rose Library

Humble hospital origins

As a nine-story tower rises across Clifton Road from Harris Hall, I’m reminded of the Calico House.

The J Wing, as this new tower is called, is the latest addition to Emory University Hospital and will house 210 beds, new operating rooms, new ICUs, and a larger emergency department.

Hospital J Wing
Architect’s rendering of Emory University Hospital J Wing

The J designation means it follows wings A through H, all of which which were constructed during seven decades across the street and up the block from the new tower. (The letter I was skipped.)

The first of those earlier wings—A and B—were built in 1922 and at that time were named Wesley Memorial Hospital. You can see the façade of the A wing here:

Emory University Hospital

Here’s another look, circa 1922. The A and B wings, clad by construction scaffolding, appear in the upper-right corner against the edge of the photo.

Druid Hills campus 1922
Photo from Stuart A. Rose Library.

The vast complex that now constitutes Emory University Hospital had its beginning in an antebellum house on the southeast corner of Auburn Avenue and Courtland Street, where the Auburn Avenue Research Library now stands. Called the Calico House, because of the fashionable patterns on its interior walls, it served as the headquarters for General Sherman after the Battle of Atlanta and before the Union army decamped for the coast. Here is an early-20th-century photo of the Calico House:

Calico House
Photo from Stuart A. Rose Library.

When the Methodists of north Georgia resolved, in 1903, to build a new hospital, they decided to locate it in Atlanta but soon ran into fund-raising difficulties. Coca-Cola’s Asa Candler, a devout Methodist, came to the rescue and bought the Calico House for use as that hospital, which the Methodists called Wesley Memorial Hospital. It housed fifty beds, had a medical staff of thirty-four doctors, and offered a training program for nurses (the forerunner of Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing).

With the Emory School of Medicine functioning in Druid Hills after 1917, the hospital was moved to the A and B wings in December 1922. Twenty-five patients in the former Calico House were driven to the new hospital in ambulances provided by Atlanta’s funeral homes. The hospital was renamed Emory University Hospital in 1932 and has grown with the university.

Gary Hauk

Two Woodruff letters seven decades apart

Who knows how a disgraced student will respond to adversity? In Robert Woodruff’s case, the full impact of the response took seventy years.

In the fall of 1908, Robert W. Woodruff, scion of Atlanta businessman and banker Ernest Woodruff, enrolled as a freshman at Emory College, which was still in Oxford, Georgia. His letters home complained of eye strain from reading, leaks in his ceiling, and shortness of funds. By the turn of the calendar to 1909, his prospects at Emory looked bleak. So much so, that the president of the college, James E. Dickey (no relation to the later poet and novelist), wrote to Ernest Woodruff to suggest that a pause in Robert’s studies might refresh him.

Dickey letter to Ernest Woodruff
From Robert W. Woodruff papers, Stuart A. Rose Library

More than a pause that refreshed, of course, this was the end of Robert Woodruff’s collegiate career. He began work shoveling sand at the General Pipe and Foundry Company, then earned several promotions and soon was hired by his father as the purchasing agent for Atlantic Ice and Coal. Robert’s part-time stenographer was William B. Hartsfield, who was studying law and later would become mayor of Atlanta.

The story of Woodruff’s rise from laborer to head of the Coca-Cola Company has been told many times. Fascinatingly, seven decades after Emory’s president wrote a letter dismissing him from Emory, Robert Woodruff would write to Emory’s president with another aim.

Woodruff letter of November 1979

This letter conveyed $105 million dollars to Emory for unrestricted use. The letter was read to Emory’s board of trustees at their meeting on November 8, 1979, by his younger brother George, an emeritus trustee of the university and the instigator of the idea for the transfer. It was the closing of a circle begun seventy years previously.

Gary Hauk

Amazing how things have changed . . .

This year Emory is observing the centennial of its university charter (replacing the 1836 charter as a college) and celebrating a hundred years of making Atlanta its home town. How to measure change at a place during a century? There are many ways, but one is to look at some numbers at the beginning, midway, and now.

For instance, in 1915 Emory conferred 148 degrees; in 1964-65, 1,136; in 2015, more than 4,600.

In 1915 there were 61 members of the faculty, including 16 in Emory College, which was still in Oxford. There were no endowed professorships. By 1965 the faculty had grown to 200, with twelve endowed Charles Howard Candler Professors and three or four other endowed chairs. This year there are more than 3,000 full-time faculty members, about half of them in the School of Medicine. Nearly 200 faculty members hold endowed professorships.

In 1915 the enrollment of the entire university was 631 students; in 1965 that number had grown to 5,844; this year it is 14,769, with students hailing from more than a hundred countries.

One literally concrete measure of what has happened at Emory since 1965 is all the facilities that did not exist or were not owned by Emory fifty years ago. Here is Emory as it is today.

Emory in 2015

This  map of the main Atlanta campus does not include the Briarcliff property and, of course, the historic and still vibrant campus at Oxford.

Here is the same map indicating all the buildings that Emory has added since 1965.

What's been built since 1965

All of those yellow shapes are buildings that did not exist in 1965. No wonder alumni sometimes don’t recognize the place when they return! If I printed the list here the names of the buildings would number more than fifty—more than one building a year for the past 50 years. And this does not include the new library, science center, and three new residence halls at Oxford (and the new dining hall under way there), or the nine-story hospital bed tower going up on Clifton Road, or the renovation (sometimes twice) of everything that previously existed on both campuses.

What these maps highlight is the increase in scholarly activity, teaching activity, and social activity that makes a university a university.

I’ll include more measures of change in future posts.

Gary Hauk