Historical Perspectives

 
Home
Historical Perspective
Old Ghosts
Graduates in Touch
 

 

Original SCH Building

Stuart Circle Hospital was built by a consortium of doctors in 1913. It was a "modern" 6 story building with a beautiful open roof garden on the 6th floor, as well as a solarium where patients could be brought to get the sun.

The roof garden is pictured on the left, and the solarium on the right.

In 1919, this building was extended South along Lombardy toward West Avenue. Each floor had a "sun parlor" which were the rooms with 3 windows above the main door to the building. An early picture of one of the sun parlors is shown below.

Originally these were not patient rooms, but due to the need for more patient space, they were converted to 4-bed rooms in 1940. The 6th floor roof garden and solarium were converted in 1943 to 6 private patient rooms and a 7 crib pediatric ward. The North end of this floor was the utility and med room used by the nurses. (This author worked for a short time on 6th floor after graduation and well remembers the spectacular view of Monument Avenue from the windows of this workroom.)

In 1954, a major addition to the East side of the building was begun. This consisted mostly of private rooms, with a few semiprivate, and each had its own bathroom. Many of the rooms in the old part of the hospital did not have their own bathrooms and some of these were upgraded. Along with this construction was some major renovation to the existing hospital with the establishment of the OB department at the South end of the 4th floor. In 1964, the East addition was expanded to add more private and semiprivate rooms. This addition was known as the "new wing" and was the last addition until the final renovation was begun in 1977.

On the 5th floor, the two big picture windows on the North end (closest to Franklin St.) were where the original operating rooms were located. When the final renovations were done, these moved to the basement. But many former students and staff will remember standing in one of the old operating rooms, looking out at Monument Avenue while participating in surgery. The view was spectacular in the spring and fall, particularly.

Picture of Operating Room with windows in the background.
 

Upon entering the front entrance under the canopy, one would see a waiting room to the left, the arched business office window to the right, and the front elevator straight ahead. The hallway to the left led to laboratory facilities. To the right were offices, admitting department, the Nursing School Office and office of the Director of Nurses, and then the Pathology & Radiology departments. A second elevator was on the left, with a stairway on the right. One could go down the back hall of the "new wing" to exit the hospital into the alley between it and the nurses' home. On the right of this hallway was the medical staff library, and on the left, a treatment room for minor emergencies. The halls had arched doorways, and the stairs were marble. The back stairway had cast ironwork bannister supports with polished wood for the handrails. This stairway was open on the first floor, but enclosed with windowed doors on the upper floors.

On the left is an old picture of the lobby with marble information desk on the left, elevator and marble stairs, and arched entries to hallways to the left and right.

On the right is a picture of the back hall looking toward the lobby at the end of the hall. The back stairway with its ironwork bannister is prominent.

The second floor was devoted to men; medical, surgical and urological patients. In 1970, it consisted of 42 beds, with 4 of those beds in its "Sun Parlor." The nurses' station was at the intersection of the main hall with the hall of the "new wing" on the side next to the back elevator, as were the nurses' stations on 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors. The third floor was a mixture of men and women, medical and surgical patients, and also had a 42 bed capacity. In 1970, a portion of it became a Coronary Critical Care Unit. The 4th floor was the OB/GYN floor, although GYN patients could be admitted on 3rd or 5th floors as well. The labor and delivery room, nursery and formula rooms took up a great deal of the South end of this floor. There were approximately 22 patient beds on this floor.

Fifth floor was an all women's floor for any women patients and its size was reduced by the presence of the Operating Rooms and Recovery room at its North end. Its capacity was approximately 32 patients.Unlike the lower floors, it did not have a "Sun Parlor" since that space was taken up by Central Supply. Sixth floor consisted of the 6 private adult female rooms and the 7 bed children's ward. One could go through the door at the end of this unit into the main hospital kitchen. At the far end of the kitchen was a door that led into a hallway with access to the back elevator, the intern's quarters, and dining rooms for graduate nurses and students. Only supervisors and instructors were allowed to eat for free in the nurses' dining room. Other graduates brought their own food or walked to one of the neighborhood eating establishments.

The OB department closed some time during the 1970's and when the 1977 renovations were done, all patient areas were changed considerably from what they were prior to that time. Many new services were added and some old ones eliminated. There were no longer Stuart Circle students in the hospital, but the hospital affilliated with one of the local junior colleges and so nursing education continued until the hospital began to close down its services.

[Information on SCH history and many of the pictures were obtained from the final nursing school yearbook published by graduates of the school.] Information regarding the present incarnation of the old hospital building, now called "One Monument Avenue" can be found on the One Monument Ave. web site

The Nursing School was established in 1913 and existed for 62 years, until its final graduation ceremony in 1975. The nursing school program took three full years. Students had a 4 week vacation the first year, 3 weeks the second year and 2 weeks the third. They became progressively more valuable to the hospital the longer they were there. They had one weekend off per month and no holidays. They began working on the floors a month after they started, for 2 hours on weekdays either morning or afternoon, and 4 hours per day on weekends. Total work and class hours were supposed to equal 40. Prior to the class of 1970, a lot of classes worked 40 hours in the hospital in addition to classes.

There were no male students in the school. The first minority student was admitted in the class of 1971. During the program's existance of 62 years, 1063 students graduated. Students were at first accepted for a period of probation and were called "Probationers." This term was later changed to "Preclinical."

An early class of SCH students. Note the bibs and aprons, long cuffs on sleeves, and high round collars!
 

During probation, in the early years, students wore blue uniforms, white aprons, black hose and shoes. After probation, they wore a checked uniform with white bib, apron, collar and cuffs. The uniform was always long-sleeved. In 1932, students began wearing the all - white cotton uniform with its high collar, long sleeves and buttons down the left front that was worn until the school closed. The only indication that the nurse was a student was the small patch with the name of the school on the left sleeve. The same uniform was worn during pre-clinical and after capping. Each student received a plastic name tag which was worn in a specified place between the buttons on the left front of her uniform. The uniform had 2 pockets, in which she kept her scissors, red and black pens, notebooks, and any other essential personal items. A nurse was never ready for duty without her pens and scissors. Many of the students attached baby beads with their names to their scissors. In order to keep the 1970 class from swiping baby beads from the Labor room, their class sponsor bought beads for each member of this class! Many students, when they went through OB, also attached a plastic umbilical cord clamp to their scissors.

Early students in the school lived in rooms on the 5th floor of the hospital. They went on duty the day after arriving. They "learned by doing" and had minimal classes. As time went on, more time was devoted to classes and the time on the floors of the hospital was reduced, consisting of a total of 40 hours of work and classes per week when the school closed. In 1931, the new nurses' home, Laurel Hill House, was opened, and the students moved from their rooms on the 5th floor of the hospital, the "Annex" at 1217 W. Franklin and other rooms at 402 and 408 Lombardy into this new facility.

In the first year students learned basic nursing, and practiced on patients in the hospital. They attended science classes at VCU. During the summer of the first year there were minimal classes, so they began working full 40 hour weeks. This is when they really learned what it was all about. Often there were 2 first year students alone on a floor with up to 42 patients. If the students were lucky, there was an older student or if luckier still, a graduate. If there was someone more senior than the first year students, that person was in charge, and answered phones, transcribed orders off charts when the doctors wrote them, and filled in with any other tasks. One student was assigned to give medications, and one was assigned to perform treatments. The treatment nurse took vital signs on all patients, and did many things done by physical therapists, respiratory therapists and others today. She would take care of any dressing changes, IVs or blood administration, or anything else that did not involve giving oral meds or shots. This could include eye drops or ointments, skin ointments, inhalation treatments, etc.,etc.

After the first semester was completed, those who received acceptable grades received their nursing caps, the first step along the long road to being a real nurse. Simple squares of white muslin, hemmed, starched, and folded , these caps were yearned after by every student coming to Stuart Circle. In those days, they were a symbol of the profession. They were how nurses were distinguished from all other hospital personnel. Those caps alone set nurses apart, and identified them as the ones who could make patients feel better. No nursing school in Richmond was more respected than Stuart Circle, and to wear that cap was an accomplishment and a privilege.

When the school began, the cap was folded loosely so as to cover as much hair as possible. Its cuff flared out as it followed the contour of the nurse's head. Nurses wore their hair in a bun on the top of their heads ("The Style").Gradually, as fashions changed, Stuart Circle nurses began folding the caps into a more square shape in back, and from the front it looked somewhat like a box. Over the years, however, many nurses flared the cuff of the cap out more into "wings" while still folding it more square in back. Some of the old-timers disapproved of the winged look, but the younger graduates and students favored it. In the capping pictures below, the caps are folded in the older, squared manner. However, this author immediately starched her cap and refolded it into the "winged" style.

In the second year, students had a 3 month rotation in OB, which consisted of Labor and Delivery, the Newborn Nursery, and the OB floor. Labor & Delivery was at the South end of 4th floor. When assigned there on the evening shift, students were pulled to work on the floor admitting patients and doing preps and enemas for patients having surgery or induction of labor the next day. Then they were allowed to go back to L&D and take down the setup that was always kept ready, and re-set it up. Then all the items from the contaminated setup had to be wrapped for resteriliztion. Usually about 10:30, when the student could just about see light at the end of her shift, a patient would come in having labor pains. Oops, there goes another night's sleep, because students were on call and were expected to come assist with all deliveries. Pictured below is a nurse setting up for a delivery

.

The month in the nursery was another challenge. Students worked almost exclusively evenings or nights, and baths had to be given during the evening shift. Babies had to be taken out to their mothers, who attempted to feed them in the alotted half hour. Then they were collected, and the student finished feeding them in the nursery. This was done twice on the evening shift. Only breast feeding babies were taken out on the night shift. If there was a sick baby or if there were evening or night deliveries, the nursery student could really be kept hopping. A room full of crying babies can be daunting to the strongest of nurses.

During second year, students also had a unit of surgical nursing, which consisted of a month in the operating room, and a couple of weeks in the recovery room. The old Operating Room area at the North end of 5th floor probably still echos with calls of "Send for the next one!" and "Go scrub and set up a General!" Unlike modern schools, at Stuart Circle, the students actually scrubbed in surgery. Once the time in O.R. and Recovery was finished the rest of the 3 months was spent on any of the floors, since there was no specific surgery floor. The remaining half of the year was devoted to classes on Medical-Surgical nursing.

Throughout the program, students could be assigned to work night duty at any time. This meant working alone on most floors. It meant endless rounds, "totalling" intake and output on charts, writing 24-hour nurses' notes, filling out lots of lab slips, and getting preoperative patients up in the morning for baths and enemas as well as collecting early morning voided specimens. It meant giving a full report on all the patients to the day staff of RNs and the Head Nurse, as well as other students. It meant coming off duty at 7:30 am, tired and cranky, and probably still having to go to class that morning. It meant trying to sleep in a dorm in the middle of the day. Students put signs on their doors proclaiming that the inhabitant was on "Night Duty," in the hope that classmates would be quieter around that area. After having worked one month of night duty herself, every student was sensitive to those signs!

Third year was more of the same, but they also spent 3 months on a Pediatric afilliation. The 1970 class went to Roanoke for this, but other classes went to other hospitals. In addition, they had a 3 month Psychiatric nursing rotation. The 1970 class did this at Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg. Again, other classes went to different facilities during the history of the school. Senior students had "Senior Seminars" in which each student picked a topic and taught a class on it herself.

At the end of the program was a very beautiful graduation ceremony in which all the graduating seniors dressed in their white graduation uniforms and caps, and carried a bouquet of red roses. The ceremony took place in the First English Lutheran Church across the street from Stuart Circle. An honor guard of new freshman students lined the aisle as the graduates marched in. Instructors and off duty students attended in uniform. Each graduate received her diploma and her school pin, and then the class said the Nightingale Pledge. The ceremony was an inspiration to the new students coming in, and a fitting culmination of all the sweat, toil and tears each student put into the program.

Laurel Hill House, named after the home of Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, opened its doors in December, 1931. It is a Georgian style brick building facing on West Avenue. It is built in a U shape around an inner courtyard. On the outside of the building on the 2nd and 3rd floors were single rooms. Each had its own sink and a small closet. The rooms each had a single bed, a desk, chair, floor lamp, and dresser. Students could add furniture if there was sufficient space.

Pictures of the standard single student bedroom on the left and partial view of the author's bedroom after moving in.

The inner rooms in each of the wings, with windows on the courtyards, were double rooms, each of which had 2 closets and a sink. They held the same furniture with the addition of another bed and dresser. Roommates had to be willing to share!

A new student would enter the Laurel Hill House with parents behind her and suitcases in hand. Upon entering the vestibule of LHH, she would see the grandfather clock, which would chime the hour of curfew relentlessly for the next 3 years. To the right, through the entry, was the living room of the dorm, with its wonderful fireplace and arched windows. Just past the fireplace were 2 doors that opened into "date parlors" which were rooms that gave students some measure of privacy to talk to their dates. These rooms, having witnessed many dramas during their time as date parlors, were later used for offices.

Laurel Hill House living room to the right. Notice the beautiful fireplace. The 2 doors to the right of the fireplace lead to "Date Parlors," of which one is pictured to the right. The third door leads to the area where the formal dining room and housemothers rooms were located.

Beyond the date parlors was a dining room used for major events at the dorm. The area behind the dining room was off limits to students, and was used by the housemothers. While standing in the living room and looking toward its rear, one could see a door to the right that was the office for the housemother. Here, she had access via a "phone" system to each student's room. If a student had a visitor, she would buzz the student's room. The student would then run to the phone in the hall and she would tell her what she needed to know. She also buzzed students when they had phone calls.

Walking further into the building took one to a hallway. On the right was a door to the front stairs and on the left was a library. Further along on the right was a small lounge for students with vending machines and a table and chairs for reading the newspapers. Next was the phone and mail room.

Here there were 2 phone booths where students picked up their calls. When the student lifted the phone the hospital operator would answer, and the student asked her to transfer the call. The dorm wasn't air-conditioned, and while sitting in one of those booths to talk, one could get very hot! In this room also were mailboxes and a buletin board with notices to students and the month's floor assignments.

The upper two floors held rooms for students, single rooms on the outside, and double rooms on the inside facing into the courtyard. During its life as a nurses' home, the building had no elevator. On the inner side between the two stairwells, there were 3 rooms each on those 2 floors. The front-most room was a utility room for ironing, etc. On the second floor, this room held the dorm's only washer and dryer and a refrigerator. The dorm wasn't wired for many heavy duty appliances, and even had they been available, the students could not have used individual refrigerators, microwaves, and toaster ovens. There was a student kitchen in the basement, but it was seldom used because the basement was so "spooky" at night. In the middle were the tub and shower rooms.

After 1975, the LHH dorm was turned into office space, and former housemothers were employed as hostesses. The living room was the reception area. The building remained much as it had been as a dorm, and visiting alumnae could walk around and reminisce during the Homecoming celebrations that were held every 5 years for many years. Now this building has become condominiums, which are quite large and luxurious.

Information about the present LHH can be found on the web site for Monroe Properties

The Annex, another property owned by SCH, became home to many new graduates who worked at SCH after graduation. This was located on West Franklin St., just before one got to Stuart Circle, traveling East. Originally, it was purchased to house students until Laurel Hill House opened. After this it became a home for graduates of the school. Apparently, at some point, a student got into some kind of trouble while visiting there, and it was made off limits to students.

This house had a nice front balcony that faced Franklin St. Windows from the living room were full length and opened out onto this balcony. There was a nice room to the right of the front door as one entered that had windows on three sides. In 1970-71 this was used as a dining room. The house's real dining room had been turned into a bedroom for two. Upstairs were 3 more bedrooms, 2 of which were connected by a small bath with shower. In the hallway was another bath with tub. A small room over the front door was used by some for a utility/ironing room, but in 1970-71, was the bedroom for this author. It was a very small room which barely accomodated a bed and dresser, but it did have a closet. With it used as a bedroom, the house held 9 graduates.

Some former students from each class would stay in this house for a year, and then move on so the next class could take over. In 1970-71, the hospital charged each graduate $20 to live there, which included all utilities. Even then, it was a bargain! It was easy for a new graduate to get her feet on the ground financially before needing to rent an apartment if she lived there for a year. This building was the scene of many parties and late night life for many years. When the last addition was made to the hospital, the Annex was torn down to make room. Wonder if the hole in the wall made by the 1970 class was ever fixed before it was torn down. That old building would have had some stories to tell, too!

 
Home - Historical Perspectives - Old Ghosts - Graduates In Touch
 

 

©Copyright, Linda Morrell, All Rights Reserved, 2003