Thursday, April 21, 2016

Danville Hospitals

Medical care has always been a focus for the citizens of Danville.  There have been at least ten hospitals plus two sanatoriums over the years.  Numerous hospital expansions have occurred, and additional hospitals were proposed several times.

Older hospitals began as homes for the sick who had no one to care for them.  The patients were often soldiers, transients, and the very poor.  People from the middle and upper classes were nursed in their own homes.  Even surgery was performed at home.  It has only been since the turn of the twentieth century that hospitals became centers of science and technology, and since the Second World War that care in the patient’s home has become unusual.

In The Beginning

The first record of a hospital in Danville was during the Civil War.  Thousands of sick and wounded Confederate soldiers and Union prisoners temporarily resided in Danville.  More than half of the soldiers who died passed from disease rather than from combat.  Nursing care was desperately needed.

According to the online Encyclopedia Virginia the hospital was initially located in a former tobacco warehouse, but was relocated to an empty hotel near the Richmond and Danville Railroad depot when Union prisoners of war began to arrive in November 1863.  An entire complex of hospital buildings was erected on a hill behind the hotel.  The sketch below from the Library of Congress, drawn by prisoner J. M. Thurston of Ohio, shows that complex, though seemingly in a valley in a more rural location.  This facility closed with the end of the War.

Image:  Library of Congress

Discussions of the continuing need for a hospital in Danville began among a group of ladies shortly after reconstruction.  The next hospital, called the “Home for the Sick,” came in 1884.  It was established by 28 society matrons who incorporated as the Ladies Benevolent Society.  The Home for the Sick was for those who had no one to care for them – particularly the young men on the tobacco market who were living in boarding houses.

This Home was located in a two story frame house on the alley behind Tazewell Street (now South Ridge Street).  It was rented from Capt. W. T. Clark and equipped with contributions of furniture from the ladies’ homes and mansions.  Interestingly, this same house briefly served as the capital of Virginia during April of 1865.  “The Home” was staffed by a live in couple, Mr. and Mrs. Burnett, assisted by a “colored” orderly named Silas.  The fee of $8.00 per week covered room, board, and nursing care. This Home for the Sick was the first precursor to today’s Danville Regional Medical Center.

"The Home"      Image:  Danville, A Pictorial History

The Danville Female Academy, built in 1854 at the corner of Jefferson and Loyal Streets, ceased operations and was vacant.  Captain Clark, who was Chairman of the Board, suggested to the Ladies Benevolent Association that they might be able to occupy this larger building.  With approval of the sale granted by Virginia’s General Assembly on March 1, 1886, the ladies began raising funds.  The Academy’s Trustees sold the property to the Ladies for $3,500 on February 26, 1887, promptly donating that same amount for conversion of the property to a hospital.

Danville Female Academy was the wing at right
Image: Postcard History Series
Danville’s Masons, called upon for their assistance, donated a room to be called the Roman Eagle Lodge room for poor members of the lodge or others in need.  The Lodge also subscribed for $120 per year in aid, payable in equal installments, to the new Home for the Sick.

In 1898, following the example of Florence Nightingale, the School of Professional Nursing opened at the Home, though the living facilities for the nurses were said to be very inadequate.  In 1911, the Ladies Benevolent Association corrected the housing situation for the nurses, erecting the building at right on Loyal Street – behind the General Hospital and connecting with its courtyard.

Nurses' House on Loyal Street
Image:  Danville, A Pictorial History

In 1903, when Danville went dry, the Anti-Saloon League proposed to provide alcohol at no charge for medical reasons.  A doctor's prescription would be required. The Home for the Sick was asked to be the dispensary for this medicine.  The manager of the Home declined, suggesting the use of drug stores would be more appropriate.  

The Ladies Benevolent Association continued to raise funds in the late 1890s and early 1900s.  With $20,000 in hand, new wings were completed in 1904.  It was at that time the name was changed to General Hospital.

John Edward Hughes, a bachelor, was the largest leaf tobacco dealer and exporter in the country with his company headquartered in Danville.  In 1912, Mr. Hughes was stricken with appendicitis, and underwent an operation at General Hospital.  As a result, he became interested in the work of the hospital, serving as a member of its board and, for a time, as its president.  He was also very generous to the hospital, including the gift of an elevator.  However, by 1918, he was in ill health with high blood pres-sure and hardening of the arteries.  Despite rest and the best medical care, Mr. Hughes became the victim of a stoke on January 13, 1921.  As a result, he was confined to General Hospital until his death on March 27, 1922 at the age of 51.

In 1923, when Mr. Hughes’ will was offered for probate, it included a gift of $250,000 which he hoped would enable the erection of “a new hospital suitable and adequate to the needs of this community.”  This gift was, in fact, adequate, resulting in the construction of a new hospital on South Main Street named Memorial Hospital in his honor (see below).

A new hospital was the smaller of Hughes’ gifts to the area.  He also bequeathed his farm on the Franklin Turnpike and $2,500,000 for the creation of an orphanage.  His orphanage opened in 1927, and is now the Hughes Center for young people with intellectual disabilities or Autism.

After the opening of the new Memorial Hospital, various uses for the old General Hospital buildings were discussed by the trustees.  One proposal was to use the facility as a YWCA with the nurse’s home converted to a dormitory for single girls and the basement made into a large swimming pool.  But this was not to be.  The oldest portion of the General Hospital building became the Fairfax Apartments with 10 units, and later the Madison Apartments with 18 efficiencies.  One wing of the building facing loyal street was removed in favor of stores including Danville’s first drive-in bank and a two-story Chevrolet dealership with a ramp to the repair shop above. While a fire at the Madison Apartments in 1996 ultimately led to demolition in 2011 (below left), the stores on Loyal Street remain to this day (below right).

Hilltop Sanatorium

In 1915, Dr. C. C. Hudson formed what became the Hilltop Sanatorium for tubercular patients near the Neapolis reservoir.  Hilltop began in a tent, then moved to a renovated pest house (a home for those with infectious diseases).  Its new building in the 2500 block of North Main Street opened in 1922.

Throughout the years, many fundraisers were held and gifts made to benefit Hilltop, including twelve blankets from Mrs. Harden Hairston made from the wool of her own sheep.  The Danville Garden Club raised funds beautify the premises.

The Hilltop property later became the original Roman Eagle Memorial Home.  That 1922 building, a portion of which is shown below, was completely replaced by Roman Eagle in 1962.
Hilltop Sanatorium
Image:  The Bee

Lawless Cancer Sanatorium

Robert Lee Lawless, originally from Patrick County, was for some time one of the Southern Railway’s best known engineers.  Later, he served with the City fire department as engineer of its steam fire truck.  During that time, he treated people with cancerous growths using a secret formula left to him by his father.

“Doc” Lawless, as he was often called, began advertising his treatment locally and throughout North Carolina as early as 1920.  He patented the formula, a “preparation for treatment of cancers, tumors, &c.,” in 1921.  That same year, he opened the Lawless’ Cancer Sanatorium at 1432 North Main Street (below) devoting all of his time to that effort.  The sanatorium closed upon his passing in late 1936 and is now an apartment building.

Image:  Postcard History Series

Colored Hospitals

Providence Hospital was founded on September 8, 1919, at 223 South Main Street at the corner with Paxton Street to serve what was then called the City’s “colored” population.  About a year later, a training school was established for black nurses, though this was short lived.  Miss Smith was the first superintendent, followed by Mrs. Pearson with the assistance of a graduate nurse.

In 1924, the Providence Hospital Association held a funding campaign, raising $10,221.68.  The purpose of this campaign was to pay off an indebtedness of $3,000 and to expand the hospital to 50 beds, though so many beds were rarely needed.  The Bee reported that the Danville Ku Klux Klan donated to this effort, receiving a letter of thanks from Providence President Rev. G. W. Goode.

Apparently, the Providence Hospital was not serving the black population very well, as City Council began studying the construction of a new colored hospital early in 1940.  This new facility with 35 beds (45 in an emergency) was constructed at 709 Betts Street in the Almagro neighborhood at a cost to the City of $45,000.  Named for negro practitioner Dr. A. L. Winslow, the new building (below) was formally dedicated on November 27, 1940, with a speech by the mayor and “the thanks of the colored people to the city for its generosity” by Danville colored lawyer J. C. Carter.

Winslow Hospital    Image: Danville, A Pictorial History
Providence Hospital closed its doors on the day that Winslow Hospital opened.  The City gave some thought to purchasing the Providence building as a center for its various clinics.  However, the residents of South Main Street objected because “the venereal disease clinic is held at night and is attended by a surprisingly large number of people.”  Ultimately, the Providence Hospital Building was converted to the Bell Apartments in 1942. The building was demolished in 1974, the lot becoming a parking area for the now-closed H. L. Brooks Funeral Home.

The new Winslow Hospital continued operation until 1971, when all patients were transferred to the expanded and integrated Memorial Hospital.  The Winslow Hospital building remains on Betts Street today, and has served as headquarters for the City Health Department, and more recently as the Ashwood Home for Adults, Wilson’s Home for Adults and Winslow Loving Care, Inc.

Edmunds / Danville / Community Hospital

Located in a large 2½ story frame residence at 212 West Main Street, this 20-bed hospital was, from its inception in 1919, owned by Dr. Thomas W. Edmunds, an eye, ear, and throat specialist.  When he moved to Reidsville in 1929, Edmunds Hospital was purchased by Memorial Hospital for $25,000 with patients transferred across West Main Street.

Edmunds Hospital     Image: Danville, A Pictorial History
In 1933, the building was purchased and refurbished by a private company and reopened as Danville Hospital (or perhaps Danville General Hospital), partly to relieve overcrowding at Memorial Hospital.  At that time, it was operated by Dr. Hawkins, and seems to have opened and closed several times.

In September 1934, ownership was transferred to a large group of citizens interested in creating a form of hospital insurance.  For just three cents a day, the 300 shareholders of the Community Hospital would receive their hospital care for one quarter of the usual cost.  In 1937, the Community Hospital purchased the adjacent dwelling, long used as a home for its nursing staff, and extensions were soon made to the main building to raise its capacity to 35 beds.

In 1938, the Community Hospital saw an opportunity to replace its aging building courtesy of the Public Works Administration (PWA).  Council agreed to lend the City’s name to the application for a $150,000 loan and grant request for a new facility.  The application was approved by the regional PWA office in Atlanta, but ultimately rejected in Washington.  Despite the City’s support and the promise to accept charity cases, the proposal was seen as a private effort.  This was but the first of several efforts to build a new second hospital in Danville.

By 1944, the “hospital insurance” arrangement begun in 1934 was proving too large a drain on Community’s finances.  In addition, there were a large number of charity cases.  Considering the maintenance needs of its aging and potentially unsafe building, the Community Hospital’s board voted for liquidation.  Editorials called for the creation of a City hospital for white people similar to the City-administered Winslow Hospital for colored people.  The Community Hospital closed its doors on September 30.

Because of a shortage of hospital beds, quick action by City Council resulted in a reopening on October 19, 1944.  In return for a gift of $4,000 in city funds to tide the hospital through the winter, there would be no free or reduced-cost hospitalization for shareholders as in the past.

A group of Danville doctors purchased  the Community Hospital in 1947 and began making plans to re-move the buildings, then capable of 45 beds, and replace them with a three story fireproof building.  This did not happen.  Community Hospital again ceased operation in February 1954 after Memorial Hospital completed an expansion.  Some say Community’s main building was about to be condemned.

By 1955, the Lutheran Church of the Ascension, then located at 295 West Main Street (now numbered 305 and for sale), acquired the site and razed the buildings for the construction of a new sanctuary.  However, this location was never used by the church, which built its new sanctuary further west and across the street at 314 West Main in 1972.  The Edmunds / Danville / Community Hospital property is now beneath Central Boulevard.

Memorial Hospital / Danville Regional Medical Center / SOVAH Health

Upon his death in 1922, John Edward Hughes, a wealth tobacconist and philanthropist, left $250,000 for the erection of “a new hospital suitable and adequate to the needs of this community.”

John Edward Hughes
Image: Hughes Memorial Foundation
The planning for a new hospital soon began, and the Fuller home at 142 South Main Street was purchased.  Alf Patterson was retained to move the 12-room home to the rear of the lot where it was later converted into nurses’ quarters.  The Fuller house can be seen at its new location (lower left) in the 1926 photo below.

During 1924, the hospital’s building committee suggested to the Ladies Benevolent Association that the new facility be called “Memorial Hospital” in honor of Mr. Hughes, and a new charter was issued in January 1925.  However, that decision was not well received in the community or by the local newspaper because Mr. Hughes name had been omitted.  For many years, the newspaper refused to call the new facility anything but “Hughes Memorial Hospital” in print.

By September 1924, plans for the new building were completed and approved by the building committee.  The contract for construction of the building was let to C. M. Webber of Danville in January 1925.  Additional contracts went to Blesdoe Furniture for flooring and to Westbrook Elevator in February.  The Bee noted the unusual size of the passenger elevators – large enough to admit wheeled stretchers.

In August 1925, the building committee purchased additional property that fronted West Main Street and abutted the hospital property at the rear.  The homes of T. T. Addams and E. E. F. Scales, each with a 50 foot frontage, sold for $15,000 and $11,000 respectively.  While used for a time as nursing homes, these houses were soon demolished.

Even before construction had been completed, consideration given to a merger with Edmunds Hospital (above).  A committee of doctors from the Danville Academy of Medicine discussed the matter with Dr. T. W. Edmunds, and suggested that consolidation would occur early in 1926.  Dr. Edmunds had no statement to make at that time, and continued operating his facility until his move to Reidsville in 1929.

The new building was set back about 90 feet from South Main Street, creating an imposing presence.  The Bee included an entire section on the new hospital on July 5, 1926.  After several days of public tours, Memorial Hospital opened on July 8, 1926, with the transfer of patients from the General Hospital.

Memorial Hospital in 1926     Image: Postcard History Series
In 1941, Memorial Hospital was enlarged by 50 beds to a total bed capacity of 170 with an addition to the rear (west) next to the old Fuller House.

Memorial Hospital 1941 Expansion
Image: Danville, A Pictorial History
By the fall of 1944, the need for more hospital beds had become acute.  Many of Danville’s doctors were serving overseas in the military, nearly eliminating the possibility that patients could be cared for in their own homes.  This brought more patients to the hospitals – many of whom could not afford hospital care.  Then Community Hospital announced its closing, primarily for financial reasons.  And there was little possibility of expansion because all available materials were also going to the war effort.  Community Hospital was reopened to fill the need for additional beds, and remained open until 1954 when the next Memorial Hospital expansion was completed

Despite calls for a second hospital during and after the war, the Memorial Hospital’s board thought it best to concentrate medical services in a single facility.  A 1946 study reported that the region’s hospital needs could be met by expansion of the South Main Street property for the foreseeable future.  As a result, the 1926 Memorial Hospital building was again extended to the north and south and a new east wing was completed in 1953, bringing the hospital nearly to the South Main Street sidewalk.  Capacity rose to 275 beds and 50 bassinets.  The Nurses Home on West Main Street, at far right in the photo below, was dedicated in 1961.

Memorial Hospital with Nurses Home
Image:  Danville, A Pictorial History
Memorial Hospital added a new Cobalt x-ray unit in 1966.  An Extended Care facility was added early in 1971 with a 92 bed capacity.  This addition freed many beds for acute care patients.

In July 1974, Memorial Hospital purchase the entire campus of nearby Stratford College.  While at least one aging dormitory was demolished, the hospital quickly moved its nursing education department to Stratford’s Simpson Hall.  By 1988, nursing education had returned to the hospital complex and plans were drawn to create a hospital subsidiary, Stratford House, as an independent living community.  The present Stratford House opened in 1990 with its assisted living facility opened in 1991.

Stratford House      Image P. Liepe
Memorial Hospital nearly doubled in size in 1975 with construction of its Memorial South addition.  The two-year construction project provided 80 private rooms along with new facilities for intensive care, coronary care, operating rooms, x-ray, pharmacy, and central supply services.  This addition is now largely hidden by later construction.

1975 Memorial South Addition
Image:  Danville, A Pictorial History
April 1993 finally brought an end to the hospital name controversy.  “Hughes” Memorial Hospital was renamed as Danville Regional Medical Center (DRMC).  This name changed also marked the start of another major expansion program, beginning with the completion of a new $3.2 million Center for Radiation Oncology in April 1994 (below).  The center’s 11-ton dual linear accelerator replaced the aging Cobalt therapy machine first installed in the main hospital building in 1966.

Center for Radiation Oncology      Image: P. Liepe
Further expansion plans were also announced in 1994.  A new 90,000 square foot, $28 million South Pavilion (later named for Landon R. Wyatt Jr.), encompassing today’s main entrance was completed 1997, followed by an upgrade of the hospital’s Emergency Room.

July 2005 brought the largest change since the hospital’s inception in 1884, 121 years later.  The Danville Regional Health System was sold to LifePoint Health for over $200 million.  These funds were used to create the Danville Regional Foundation.  There were stipulations to the sale, including two empty floors in the Wyatt Building were to be fitted into an additional 92 beds.  This was completed in 2007.  The Stratford House would be spun off as an independent organization, completed in 2008, and the Foundation House would become an arm of Danville-Pittsylvania Community Services.

While the building created from bequest of John Edward Hughes is in active use at DRMC, only small portions remains visible from South Main Street.  The most easily viewed section is directly above the Emergency Room entrance.

The north portion of the 1926 building is at center-left in this photo.  Two
1953 additions are also visible – the east wing at left and north wing at
right.  The emergency entrance was completed in 1998.      Image: P. Liepe
The Ladies Benevolent Association together with Mr. Hughes would certainly be surprised by a visit their Danville hospital today, shown below.

DRMC     Image: LifePoint Health
Update:  Under common ownership by LifePoint Health, Danville Regional Medical Center and Martinsville Memorial Hospital began operating as a single system in July 2017.  The two hospitals now share the common brand of SOVAH Health.

Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute

The Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute on Taylor Drive is a regional psychiatric hospital with 72 beds.  Accepting its first patients in 1977, SVMHI performs a comprehensive psychological assessment is completed on each patient upon admission to the facility.  Three phases of treatment are afforded – stabilization, intermediate care, and community reintegration.

Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute   Photo: P. Liepe

Proposed Hospitals

There have been many proposals for an additional hospital in Danville.  Though there has often been a shortage of hospital beds, a second hospital has always met with opposition from Memorial Hospital / DRMC on the basis that this would weaken rather than strengthen the quality of medical services that can only be provided by a large facility.

With the temporary closing of Community Hospital in 1944, there were many calls for a new second hospital.  A site in Ballou Park was proposed, where there was already a controversy over removing trees for a proposed 9-hole golf course.  Ultimately Council gave a section of the park near the river to the Dan River Hospital Association for construction of an 80 bed facility and requested federal funds for the preparation of plans.  This proposal did not move forward, and the land reverted to the City.

Yet another new hospital was again proposed in 1946 by a group of citizens possibly backed by a large civic organization.  The proposal was for 120 beds at a cost of approximately $1 million.  However, this was to be considered only if the board of Memorial Hospital decided against further expansion.

A group of north side women petitioned for a second hospital in 1966, which became an issue in the race to elect City Councilmen.  However, no action was taken.

In 1971, Extendicare, a Louisville-based firm proposed construction of a 200-bed full service hospital, off Piney Forest Road.  At that time, Extendicare operated 33 hospitals and 44 nursing homes.  Despite strong support from north side and Pittsylvania County residents, the proposal was ultimately dropped due to opposition from local doctors who believed that better care could be achieved through a single larger hospital.

A second “hospital” was again proposed for Danville in 2010.  Lynchburg-based Centra planned to create an out-patient surgical center, a freestanding emergency department, and a diagnostic imaging center.  Their request for a certificate of public need was denied by the State health commissioner, partly out of concern for the financial stability of DRMC.  Not to be dissuaded, Centra opened several clinics in Danville and, in April 2015, announced that it would build the Centra Danville Medical Center, consolidating all of its Danville facilities under one roof.  That Centra building, conceptualized below, is now under construction.

The Future

There is little doubt that medical care, including hospitals, will change as much in the coming years as they have in the recent past.  Some say that hospitals will become more integrated, providing all health care services from a central facility.  However, there is already a trend toward more outpatient services and fewer admissions.  As technology advances, it seems that more and more tests and procedures could be performed at local clinics or even in the home, leaving hospitals to treat only the most critically ill patients.  And genetic or regenerative medicine may eliminate many condition and diseases.


1861 - Temporary hospital created in former tobacco warehouse
1863 - Hospital moves to empty hotel near depot, complex built
1865 - War hospital closed
1884 - "Home for the Sick" opened on South Ridge Street
1887 - Home for the Sick moved to corner of Jefferson and Loyal
1898 - School of Professional Nursing opened at Home for the Sick
1903 - Home for the Sick enlarged
1904 - Home renamed "General Hospital"
1911 - Nurse's home for General Hospital constructed on Loyal Street
1915 - Hilltop Sanatorium for tuberculosis opens at Neapolis reservoir
1919 - Providence Hospital for Negroes opens on South Main Street
         - Dr. T. W. Edmunds opens Edmunds Hospital on West Main
1921 - Lawless Cancer Sanatorium opens on North Main Street
1922 - Hilltop constructs new building on North Main Street
         - John Edward Hughes bequeaths $250,000 for new hospital
1924 - Providence Hospital expands
1926 - Memorial Hospital opens on South Main Street
         - General Hospital closes, becomes Fairfax Apartments
1929 - Edmunds' hospital closes on his move to North Carolina
1933 - Danville (General) Hospital opens in Edmunds' building
1934 - Community Hospital opens in Edmunds' building
1936 - Lawless Cancer Sanatorium closes
1940 - City constructs Winslow Hospital for Negroes
         - Providence Hospital closes, later becomes Bell Apartments
1941 - Memorial Hospital enlarged by 50 beds
1944 - Community Hospital closes, reopens with city funding
1953 - Memorial Hospital expanded to 275 beds, 50 bassinets
1954 - Community Hospital closes for the last time
1961 - Memorial Hospital constructs new nurses' home
1966 - Cobalt therapy machine installed at Memorial Hospital
1971 - Winslow Hospital closes, later serves as nursing home
1975 - Memorial South addition constructed
1977 - Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute opens with 72 beds
1993 - Memorial Hospital renamed Danville Regional Medical Center
1994 - Center for Radiation Oncology added to DRMC
1997 - South Pavilion (now Wyatt Tower) added to DRMC
2005 - DRMC sold to LifePoint Hospitals


Choate, Margaret.  History of the Ladies Benevolent Society
Dame, George W.  Historical Sketch of the Roman Eagle Lodge 1820-1895.  J. T. Townes Printing Co.
Danville Commercial Appeal, various dates
Fountain, Clara G.  Danville, A Pictorial History. Donning Company, Virginia Beach
Fountain, Clara Garrett. Danville Virginia, Postcard History Series. Arcadia Publishing, 2000
Hagan, Jane Gary.  The Story of Danville. Stratford House New York, 1950
History of Hospitals and Training Schools in Danville, Danville Library Clippings.  c. 1933
Library of Congress online
Roller, LeAnne.  LifePoint Health
The Bee, various dates
The Register, various dates
Wall, Barbra Mann.  History of Hospitals.  University of Pennsylvania
Wayland, Lee.  If Streets Could Talk.  Lulu Publications, 2011
Wright, Catherine M.  Encyclopedia Virginia, “Danville During the Civil War”

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Senator's Daughter

G. Carter Glass was a Lynchburg newspaper man and politician.  He was elected to the Virginia Senate in 1899 at the age of 41, and was a delegate to the Virginia constitutional convention of 1901-02.  The 1902 Constitution implemented a poll tax, making voting difficult for poor people including many African-Americans.  When asked if this wasn’t discriminatory, Glass replied, “Discrimination! Why that is exactly what we propose. To remove every negro voter who can be gotten rid of, legally, without materially impairing the numerical strength of the white electorate.”

Glass went on the he U.S. House of Representatives in 1902.  In 1918, President Woodrow Wilson, another Virginia-born segregationist, appointed him Secretary of the Treasury.   At the 1920 Democratic National Convention, he was among the nominees for President.  That same year, he was appointed to an unexpired term in the U.S. Senate.  While he was offered the post of Secretary of the Treasury under Franklin Roosevelt, Glass continued in the Senate for 26 years until his death in 1946.

In 1923, during his time in the Senate, Glass built Montview Mansion in Lynchburg.  Montview was purchased by Liberty University in 1977 and served as the executive offices for Dr. Jerry Falwell. The mansion has been restored and is available for tours.

Carter Glass had two sons and two daughters with his first wife, Aurelia Caldwell. After her passing, he married again in 1940 at the age of 82 to Mary Scott, she being 54.

The senator’s older daughter, Mary Archer Glass, was born in 1895.  She attended Gunston Hall, then the premier Washington school for young ladies.  In October 1919, it was announced that Mary would marry John Guerrant Boatwright, a returning WW I serviceman and resident of Danville.

John Guerrant Boatwright was the second son of Herbert Lee Boatwright and his wife Mary Elizabeth Vaughan.  He was named for his grandfather, a physician and Confederate surgeon.  John remained close to his parents – after John and Mary were married, they lived with his parents at 904 Main Street.  Their oldest son, Robert McDearman Boatwright, was born in his father's home in 1920.

In 1922, John and Mary built a home on a small lot on Chestnut Place subdivided from his parent’s property.  Their two younger children were born on Chestnut Place –Nancy Carter Boatwright in 1928, and Elizabeth Boatwright in 1929.  Senator and Mrs. Glass visited there often.

In 1930, John and Mary began restoration of Dan’s Hill, a Federal-style antebellum mansion above the river west of the city.  Dan’s Hill is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

John followed his father in the tobacco business, ultimately rising to the presidency of Dibrell Brothers.  Mary contributed to her father’s Lynchburg newspaper business.  Both were active in Danville community affairs including the founding of the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History in 1973.  The Boatwright Gallery there is named for their family.

John and Mary rest together at Danville’s Green Hill Cemetery.

John Guerrant Boatwright was not the only member of his family to marry a politician's daughter.  His youngest brother, Herbert Lee Boatwright, Jr., married The Governors Daughter.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Governor's Daughter

John Garland Pollard was the 51st governor of Virginia, serving from 1930 to 1934.  Among his many accomplishments, he established the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

At the time he took office, his wife, Grace Phillips Pollard, was an invalid.  As a result, his daughter Suzanne Virginia Pollard, age 23, became the acting first lady of Virginia, accompanying her father for important events and serving as hostess at the governor’s mansion in Richmond.  A graduate of the National Cathedral School in Washington, DC, Suzanne was an accomplished actress and, according to press reports, a sought-after beauty.

The hopes of many bachelors were dashed when on October 1, 1930, Suzanne’s engagement to Herbert Lee Boatwright, Jr., was announced.  Lee Boatwright was then a Washington lawyer, having graduated from Princeton in 1927 and then attending the University of Virginia Law School.  Lee Jr. was raised at 904 Main Street in Danville, the son of Herbert Lee Boatwright and Mary Elizabeth Vaughan.  Lee Sr., along with R. L. Dibrell and A. B. Carrington, was a driving force in the success of the Dibrell Brothers tobacco firm.

Danville society was agog when Suzanne spent several days with the Danville Boatwrights in mid-October.  The wedding ceremony for Lee and Suzanne took place in the governor’s mansion on January 3, 1931, with only family in attendance.  However, the mansion reception that followed was attended by the social elite from around the state and the nation.

Following a honeymoon in Cuba, Lee and Suzanne again visited with his parents in Danville in late January.  The groom’s mother held an elaborate tea in her daughter-in-law’s honor at her home on Main Street.  By February 1, Lee was back at work in Washington while Suzanne commuted between Washington and Richmond so that she could continue to assist her father.

Suzanne gave birth to their first son, Herbert Lee Boatwright, III, on February 13, 1933.  Governor Pollard was planning a trip to Washington the following Tuesday for a meeting with President Herbert Hoover.  When he heard the news about his new grandson he remarked, “I shall see the sitting president and the future president of the United States on the same day.”  A second son, John Garland Pollard Boatwright, was born there on April 18, 1936.

During World War II, Lee served as an air combat intelligence officer, USNR, in the Pacific.  In 1945, he decided not to return to the practice of law, and he and his family moved to Belle Isle Farm on the Rappahannock River in Lancaster County, Virginia.  There, Lee and Suzanne restored the plantation’s mansion house and Lee engaged in cattle raising and oyster farming.  A third son, Beverley Vaughan Boatwright, was born there on December 22, 1947.

Herbert Lee Boatwright, Jr., passed in 1974 followed by the governor’s daughter, Suzanne Virginia Pollard, in 1977.  The mansion house remains in private hands while the majority of Belle Island Farm is now a state park.

Herbert Lee Boatwright, Jr., was not the only member of his family to marry a politician's daughter.  His older brother, John Guerrant Boatwright, married The Senator's Daughter.

The Bee
Princeton Alumni Weekly
Richmond Times Dispatch