Watts Hospital

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Watts Hospital
2008-07-04 NCSSM Watts.jpg
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Location Broad St. and Club Blvd., Durham, North Carolina
Coordinates 36°1′7.094″N78°55′12.352″W / 36.01863722°N 78.92009778°W / 36.01863722; -78.92009778 Coordinates: 36°1′7.094″N78°55′12.352″W / 36.01863722°N 78.92009778°W / 36.01863722; -78.92009778
Area 27 acres (11 ha)
Built 1908-1909
Architectural style Mission/Spanish Revival [1]
NRHP reference # 80002824 [1]
Added to NRHP April 2, 1980 [1]

Watts Hospital, located in Durham, North Carolina was the city's first hospital, operating between 1895 and 1976.

Durham, North Carolina City in North Carolina, United States

Durham is a city in and the county seat of Durham County in the U.S. state of North Carolina. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the city's population to be 251,893 as of July 1, 2014, making it the 4th-most populous city in North Carolina, and the 78th-most populous city in the United States. Durham is the core of the four-county Durham-Chapel Hill Metropolitan Area, which has a population of 542,710 as of U.S. Census 2014 Population Estimates. The US Office of Management and Budget also includes Durham as a part of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Combined Statistical Area, which has a population of 2,037,430 as of U.S. Census 2014 Population Estimates.

North Carolina State of the United States of America

North Carolina is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west, Virginia to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. North Carolina is the 28th-most extensive and the 9th-most populous of the U.S. states. The state is divided into 100 counties. The capital is Raleigh, which along with Durham and Chapel Hill is home to the largest research park in the United States. The most populous municipality is Charlotte, which is the second-largest banking center in the United States after New York City.


The hospital opened in 1895, funded entirely by George W. Watts, as a private, 22-bed, modern hospital dedicated to the care of Durham's white citizens and offered free care to those unable to pay. [2] The hospital became public in 1953 and closed 1976, when Durham County General Hospital opened. The grounds and buildings of the hospital's 1909 campus were converted to become the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, which began classes in 1980.

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics

North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) is a two-year, public residential high school located in Durham, North Carolina, US, that focuses on the intensive study of science, mathematics and technology. The prestigious school accepts rising juniors from across North Carolina and enrolls them through senior year. Though NCSSM is a public school, enrollment is limited, and applicants undergo a highly competitive review process prior to admission. NCSSM is a founding member of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology (NCSSSMST) and a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina system.


Watts was established in 1895, on land donated by George Watts with an endowment of $50,000, provided solely by Watts. [3] The land fronted on West Main Street with Guess Road (later renamed Buchanan Blvd.) to the west and Watts Street to the east. By 1909, the 22-bed hospital was insufficient for the explosive growth of Durham, and new, larger facility was built on 25 acres (10.1 ha) at the intersection of Club Boulevard and Broad Street, where the hospital remained until it closed in 1976. [4] Watts donated another $500,000 for the new hospital site, designed by Boston architect Bertand E. Taylor in the Spanish Mission style. The hospital was enlarged in 1926 with the Valinda Beale Watts Pavilion, designed by the local architectural firm of Atwood and Nash. [3] [5] It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. [1]

Boston Capital city of Massachusetts, United States

Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 685,094 in 2017, making it also the most populous city in New England. Boston is the seat of Suffolk County as well, although the county government was disbanded on July 1, 1999. The city is the economic and cultural anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area known as Greater Boston, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) home to a census-estimated 4.8 million people in 2016 and ranking as the tenth-largest such area in the country. As a combined statistical area (CSA), this wider commuting region is home to some 8.2 million people, making it the sixth-largest in the United States.

Architect person trained to plan and design buildings, and oversee their construction

An architect is a person who plans, designs and reviews the construction of buildings. To practice architecture means to provide services in connection with the design of buildings and the space within the site surrounding the buildings that have human occupancy or use as their principal purpose. Etymologically, architect derives from the Latin architectus, which derives from the Greek, i.e., chief builder.

National Register of Historic Places federal list of historic sites in the United States

The National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is the United States federal government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance. A property listed in the National Register, or located within a National Register Historic District, may qualify for tax incentives derived from the total value of expenses incurred preserving the property.

In 1950, Brenda Joy (née Barksdale) Jones was born at Watts. Jones has gone on to fame as president of several prominent organizations in North Carolina, including Hemrocallis Club. She pushed legislation to make Watts a historic site or a school in the 1970s.

By the early 1960s, Watts had begun admitting black patients on a limited basis, constrained by its limited size. A 1966 referendum to fund a new, larger and integrated Watts Hospital was defeated by Durham voters, opposed by both whites and blacks, who feared that the new hospital would cater to whites, while blacks would be treated in the outmoded 1909 facility. [6]

A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is invited to vote on a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new law. In some countries, it is synonymous with a plebiscite or a vote on a ballot question.

A second referendum, in 1968, which more clearly delineated that Watts and Lincoln hospitals would become extended care facilities when the new Durham County General Hospital opened its doors in 1976. The referendum passed, though Watts was ultimately closed in favor of an enlarged Lincoln Community Health Center. [6]

In September 1980, the first class of high school students moved into the deserted Watts Hospital buildings as the campus began a new life as the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM), a boarding school for academically talented students from all over North Carolina. The old Spanish Mission style buildings were restored, while new, architecturally harmonious buildings were added. In one of the Durham's best examples of adaptive reuse, old Watts Hospital now thrives as NCSSM and serves to anchor the Watts-Hillandale Historic District which was designated a National Historic Neighborhood District in 1998. [7]

Adaptive reuse refers to the process of reusing an existing building for a purpose other than which it was originally built or designed for. Adaptive reuse is an effective strategy for optimizing the operational and commercial performance of built assets. Adaptive reuse of buildings can be an attractive alternative to new construction in terms of sustainability and a circular economy. Not every old building can qualify for adaptive reuse. Architects, developers, builders and entrepreneurs who wish to become involved in rejuvenating and reconstructing a building must first make sure that the finished product will serve the need of the market, that it will be completely useful for its new purpose, and that it will be competitively priced.


Duke University

By 1922, Watts Hospital's quality of care and its philanthropic mission to provide healthcare to the working poor was so well-regarded that James B. Duke and North Carolina Governor Cameron Morrison proposed the creation of the state's first four-year medical college, Duke University, to educate students in conjunction with clinical services provided at Watts Hospital. [8]

Watts School of Nursing

In addition to founding the clinical hospital, George Watts also established the Watts Hospital Training School for Nurses at the hospital, in 1895. Renamed the Watts School of Nursing (Watts SON) in 1976, the school's first graduate, Ethel Clay, received her nursing degree in 1897. [9]

Now part of the Duke University Health System, Watts SON has been housed at Durham Regional Hospital since 1976.

Watts School of Nursing is now located on Croasdaile Drive in Durham, NC.

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Charles DeWitt Watts American surgeon and activist

Charles DeWitt Watts was an African American surgeon and activist for the poor. Watts was the first surgeon of African American ancestry in North Carolina. Earning his medical degree in 1943 from Howard University College, he was the first African American board certified surgeon to serve in North Carolina. After surgical training at Freedman's Hospital in Washington, D.C. in 1949, he moved to Durham, North Carolina in 1950 and established a clinic to provide access to medical services for the poor. Breaking the social customs of racial obstacles, he advocated for certification of African American medical students. He also became a member of many professional colleges including the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine and the American College of Surgeons. He served as chief of surgery at Durham's Lincoln Hospital and was later one of the key figures in converting it to the Lincoln Community Health Center, a low-priced clinic for the poor.

Mary Lee Mills was an American nurse. Born into a family of eleven children, she attended the Lincoln Hospital School of Nursing and graduated in a nursing degree and became a registered nurse. After working as a midwife, she joined the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) in 1946 and served as their chief nursing officer of Liberia, working to hold some of their first campaigns in public health education. Mills later worked in Lebanon and established the country's first nursing school, and helped to combat treatable diseases. She was later assigned to South Vietnam, Cambodia and Chad to provide medical education.

Carol Fowler Durham is an American Clinical Professor of Nursing and Doctor of Education who is known as a leader in the fields of Healthcare Quality and Safety, nursing education, interprofessional education, and medical simulation.


  1. 1 2 3 4 National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service.
  2. "Homelessness in Durham, Durham County, North Carolina - History". University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health. 2001. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
  3. 1 2 "2008 Home Tour". Preservation Durham. 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
  4. "WATTS/MCPHERSON HOSPITALS/ 'THE CHANCELLORY'". Endangered Durham. 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
  5. Janet Silber and Patricia S. Dickinson (November 1979). "Watts Hospital" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
  6. 1 2 Anderson, Jean Bradley (1990). "The Old Order Changeth". Durham County: A History of Durham County, North Carolina. Duke. p. 421. ISBN   0-8223-1056-2 . Retrieved 2008-06-13.
  7. "Historic District". Watts-Hospital Hillandale Neighborhood Association. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
  8. "DSpace@DukeMed - Item 2193/283 - Watts Hospital". Duke University Medical Center Archives. 2005-11-10. Retrieved 2008-06-13.
  9. "History of the Watts School of Nursing". Duke University Health System. Retrieved 2008-06-13.