Decades before Gwinnett Medical Center’s Duluth campus opened, there was Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital.
Established in 1944, the hospital was the first major hospital to serve the Duluth area — or Gwinnett County for that matter. Although it was eventually merged into the Gwinnett Medical system, it continues to serve the area — albeit now referred to as Gwinnett Medical’s Glancy Campus.
“Joan Glancy is an important element in the history of Duluth,” Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris said. “Having a hospital in a small town was unusual and the citizens of Duluth knew we were lucky.”
This month marks the 75th anniversary of Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital’s founding.
The occasion was recently recognized by Duluth leaders with a proclamation presented by Harris during a recent celebration at Gwinnett Medical Center’s Duluth campus.
The proclamation declared July 2 as “Gwinnett Medical Center Day” in Duluth.
In the proclamation, Harris said Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital grew alongside the city where it was located and eventually led to the evolution of Gwinnett Medical Center-Duluth.
The hospital was embraced for generations of Duluth residents as a key part of their community.
Bringing health care to Duluth
Duluth residents came together to establish what would become Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital after the death of a young boy named Olin Hull from kidney disease in the early 1940s.
The wife of the owner of a dairy farm where Hull’s father worked wrote her parents, General and Mrs. A.R. Glancy, who lived in Detroit, and told them about what the community was doing.
The Glancys had lost another daughter, Joan, years earlier to pneumonia when she was 4 and felt inspired to contribute some money to the cause.
They contributed $500, which matched the $450 that Duluth residents had raised. The couple also pledged to donate money to the clinic every year on Joan’s birthday.
The initial version of a health care facility named for the Glancys’ daughter was a small clinic in a three-room cottage. The community soon realized there was a need for a larger facility and Gen. Glancy made a deal with the community where he would pay for a hospital’s construction if the community provided the land to put it on.
“The people of Duluth were thrilled,” longtime Duluth resident Kathryn Willis said in a 2013 video that Gwinnett Medical Center produced to honor the history of Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital.
Hence Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital opened in July 1944. It was the first hospital in Gwinnett County.
“(It) was the biggest day that had ever been in Duluth because that was the dedication of Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital,” Willis said in the video history of the hospital.
“The baby that was born first in the new hospital, the parents were smart and they named her Glancy. Her name was Glancy Jones and Gen. Glancy completely paid for her education and all her clothes and for everything all the way through college and, actually, she became a nurse, which was very fitting.”
An annual tradition for the hospital, while Gen. Glancy was alive at least, was Joan Glancy Day, which was held every July. Every baby that had ever been born at the hospital was invited to come back and join in the festivities on that day, according to Willis.
A partnership to improve health care and a factory for ‘Goodness Knows What’The book, “Images of America: Duluth,” offers a brief chronicle of the story of the work that city residents put into meeting their end of the bargain. It says residents raised $4,000 to not only buy 23 acres of land for the hospital to be built on, but to drill a well to support the medical facility.
Meanwhile, Gen. Glancy decided to build a factory to produce funds that could be used to support the hospital. In the video Gwinnett Medical Center produced to highlight the hospital’s history, Willis said Glancy gave the factory a peculiar name — the GKW Factory.
The GKW stood for “Goodness Knows What” because Glancy had not quite figured out what the factory would produce when he decided it would built.
Glancy announced his plans to build the factory to Duluth residents at a meeting in the local school house.
“He built a $500,000 factory to keep up the hospital, which cost only $120,000 originally,” Willis said.
Over time, the factory produced buffing clothes and nylon seat covers for cars, and later men’s shirts and jackets.
A different time in DuluthWillis explained in the Gwinnett Medical video that Duluth in the 1930s and 1940s was much more rural than it is today.
For example, Buford Highway was the city’s only paved road. Willis also said there were 608 people living in Duluth in 1930, and that population grew to only 626 people in 1940.
“Duluth was still in the throes of the Depression when the story of Joan Glancy started, as was most of the south,” Willis said in the video.
Mason ‘carried’ the hospitalWillis said a big part of what made Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital a success was Dr. Miles Mason, who was the hospital’s first main doctor.
“He carried that hospital and he delivered more babies than anybody I’ve ever heard of,” Willis said.
Notoriety comes to Joan GlancyAt one point, the Saturday Evening Post did a story on the hospital — although Willis said the title of the article, “Miracle in the Backwoods,” irked residents because they didn’t think of Duluth as being the “backwoods.”
A dramatization of the hospital’s founding was then performed as part of the “Dupont’s Cavalcade of America” TV show.
All the while, it remained a central place in the Duluth community.
Harris said the hospital’s yard was the predecessor of the Duluth Town Green, serving as a gathering spot where residents would gather for major social events.
“I remember having Easter Egg Hunts there as a child and one year we had a hula hoop contest on the beautiful green lawn outside the hospital,” the mayor said. “For those of us that have lived in Duluth for many years, we still consider that part of Duluth to be one of the prettiest areas in Duluth.”
Glancy grows and merges into a larger health care systemJoan Glancy underwent a $400,000 expansion in 1957, according to Willis.
Another addition followed in 1972 which expanded the hospital to accommodate 99 beds.
But times were changing and a new Gwinnett Hospital System was formed in the 1950s, which produced Button Gwinnett Hospital and Buford General Hospital.
Twenty-one years after Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital opened, it was absorbed into the Gwinnett Hospital System, which was the precursor to the Gwinnett Medical System.
Initially, Joan Glancy went on as it always had, but the 1980s brought construction of Gwinnett Medical Center’s Lawrenceville campus and that brought some consternation from Duluth residents because what the new hospital would mean for Joan Glancy.
The unit of Joan Glancy that handled births was going to be moving to Lawrenceville.
“Well you can imagine how the people of Duluth took that,” Willis said in Gwinnett Medical’s Joan Glancy video. “They were not happy at all that this important category would be moved to Lawrenceville.
“In fact, they had banners made that (were hung) over all the roads that said ‘Save Joan Glancy.’”
Although babies would from the mid-1980’s onward would be born in Lawrenceville, the Glancy campus continued to serve as Gwinnett Medical’s main Duluth branch for years.
The hospital system then built a new Duluth campus on Pleasant Hill Road in 2006. After that, the Glancy campus was renovated but it continues to fill a need in the Gwinnett Medical system.
“Duluth is such an important part of our history and our present-day service offerings,” said GMC’s chief operating officer and executive vice president Thomas Shepherd, who began his career with Gwinnett Health System in the lab at Joan Glancy Memorial Hospital.
“We are committed to ensuring the well-being of our patients and associates at all of our facilities, and we believe the mayor’s gesture is validation that we are achieving that goal.”
These days, the building houses the:
♦ Center for Surgical Weight Management
♦ Community Education Center
♦ Diabetes & Nutrition Education Center–Duluth
♦ Glancy Rehabilitation Center
♦ Gwinnett SportsRehab-Duluth
♦ Kiwi Room
♦ Mango Room
♦ Papaya Room
Welcome to the discussion.
Please log in, or sign up for a new, free account to read or post comments.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.