north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

      Writing in 1896, James Sprunt proclaimed the benefits of sea breezes on sick infants and children, noting that for several years physicians had recommended to local mothers a trip aboard the daily steamer from Wilmington to Southport to take advantage of the air’s curative powers. The same impulse led Wilmington physician J. Buren Sidbury (1886-1967) in 1920 to open Babies Hospital on the sound just across from Wrightsville Beach overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway. In his appeals for contributions, Sidbury, said to be only the second doctor in the state to specialize in pediatrics, cited the success of other similar seaside resort hospitals in Virginia Beach and Atlantic Beach (New Jersey). Until Duke Hospital opened in 1930, Dr. Sidbury’s hospital was the only pediatric care facility in North Carolina.

      In its fifty-eight-year history Babies Hospital never received public funds. The original cottage housing the facility burned in 1927 (with no loss of life or injuries) to be replaced the following year by a fireproof building directly across the road. The new building featured twenty-two rooms, a spacious ward, and a roof garden with high walls for sunning. Through 1939 the hospital operated only during the summer months. From 1942 to 1967 Babies Hospital conducted a nurses training program to which senior student nurses from hospitals throughout the state were sent for three months of pediatric training. Pediatric supervisors throughout North and South Carolina were trained there. Although the hospital served primarily the eastern Carolinas, it was not unusual for patients to be referred from other East Coast states.

      In 1954 the third floor was expanded. The following year a nurses dormitory was built and in 1962 a pediatric research center was completed (since used by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for marine biomedical research). Patient usage of Babies Hospital peaked in 1967. In 1978 the board of directors closed the hospital since the need for a specialized facility had by then diminished. Progress in the treatment of children’s diseases had replaced the efficacious sea breezes. Over the objections of preservationists the 1928 building was demolished in 2003.

Lockers B. Mason, “Babies Hospital, 1920-1978,” North Carolina Medical Journal (January 1984), 53-57 (with Addenda I and II)
The Lonely Road: A History of the Physicks and Physicians of the Lower Cape Fear, 1735-1976 (1976?)
Lewis Philip Hall, Land of the Golden River, 1525 to 1970 (1975)
Robert Martin Faler, Wilmington Yesteryear (1984)
James Sprunt, Tales and Traditions of the Lower Cape Fear (1896)
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north carolina highway historical marker program

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