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Old Bainbridge Hospital featured on ornament

Each year since 1991, the Bainbridge Downtown Development Authority has chosen an historic building as subject of the annual Bainbridge Christmas ornament.

Selection is made from the vast inventory of pen and ink drawings done by Bainbridge’s own Mary Barber Cox.

The 2009 ornament displays a rendition of the Old Bainbridge Hospital on a bright blue background.

The Old Bainbridge Hospital once stood at the corner of Evans and West streets. The building has long since been demolished, and the new construction became home to the post office. It is now the site of Tuten Chiropractic.

Cox recalls that in the years before the present Memorial Hospital opened for business in 1960, there were three hospitals serving Bainbridge and its surrounding area. Each hospital was built and maintained by a doctor, or group of doctors, who then practiced solely at their own facility.

Cox has been busy for several weeks pre-signing ornaments in her home. Those will be sold by select downtown merchants. She said she can’t sign one without remembering her visit to the old Bainbridge Hospital to visit Liv Warren’s mother, Frankie Willis, after she had given birth to Liv.

A brief history of the hospitals is chronicled in the Decatur County Sesquicentennial program book published in 1973. It gives the following account of the history of local hospitals.

“While vast areas in Southwest Georgia, Northwest Florida, and Southeast Alabama were totally without hospital care and service a little more than 50 years ago, Decatur County became the center for such services.

“The first private hospital to be erected was the old Bainbridge Hospital, which was built in 1916 by the late Dr. A.E.B. Alford, a surgeon who came to Bainbridge from Greensboro, N.C., and first set up his hospital in a home on Shotwell Street.

“The next private hospital to follow in close sequence was the Riverside, built by the late Dr. J.D. Chason and his brother Dr. Gordon Chason. That hospital opened its doors to the first patient shortly before the Armistice in 1918. Drs. R.F. Wheat, W.L. Wilkinson and Pierce Tucker also practiced at the Riverside.

“In 1950 Dr. J.H. Griffin, a prominent black physician and surgeon, opened the Griffin Hospital and Clinic on North Broad Street.”

The drawings

Bainbridge folks are very familiar with Cox’s drawings, as they are displayed in many businesses around town.

She began doing the drawings of historic buildings in the 1970s when her husband, Walter, was the mayor of Bainbridge. She turned them into Christmas cards and people were so pleased to receive them that she continued the practice after he was elected to the state legislature.

Many of the drawings have been done from photos when available. In the case of demolished buildings, she seeks someone who has seen and recalled the building if it is no longer standing.

The annual Christmas Holiday Open House will be Sunday, Nov. 22, from 1 to 5 p.m. Mary Cox will be seated in Willis Park as she has been every year, all but one, since the tradition began. She will personally sign ornaments for those wishing to purchase at that time. For those who cannot come on Sunday she offers an additional convenience of personalized signing in her home.

Downtown merchants offering the new ornaments are: Alison Wonderland, Angel Hair Salon, Bean Around the World, Elizabeth’s, Freckles and Frills, Isabee’s, Jacobik Antique Gallery, Jakes, Kres Jewelers, L.T.L. Flowers and Gifts, Polka Dots and More, Sharon House Antiques, SITE Modern Gallery, Southern Artists Coop and Special Occasions.

Main Street Director Dit Albritton said new ornaments or replacements and missing ones can be purchased for $8 each at the Main Street Office, 107 S. Broad St. Complete sets of 19 are also available for a cost of $152.