The Scottish Rite
Convalescent Hospital for Crippled
Children was founded in 1915 through
the dedication of Mrs. Bertie Wardlow
and Dr. Michael Hoke. The two-cottage
Decatur facility gave indigent, crippled
children a place to recover after having
surgery at Piedmont Hospital and Wesley
Memorial Hospital (now Emory University
Hospital). It accommodated 18 patients
(20 in case of urgency).
years later, in 1918, a new 50 bed building was
opened on West Hill Street with the facilities
to become a full orthopedic surgical hospital for
those who could not afford to pay for care, and
featured a natural light surgical suite. The new
hospital focused on treating Georgia children crippled
by polio, and was the first hospital in the United
States devoted to the orthopedic care of children.
The Oakhurst hospital served as a model for 19
later Shriner’s Hospitals for Crippled Children
around the nation.
Until the mid 1960s, the hospital accepted only children whose parents could
not afford to pay for their care. During the early years, the Scottish Rite Masons
were depended upon to cover the cost of the staff salaries and medical supplies.
Two young but accomplished architects were chosen for the design of the hospital
buildings that opened in Decatur in 1918, Neel Reid and Hal Hentz. Until the
1930s, the medical profession had few drugs available to treat crippling childhood
diseases so the original hospital design reflected the emphasis then given to
providing young patients with plenty of sunshine and fresh air. The Georgian
Revival style buildings all have a southern exposure, allowing for plenty of
sunshine. The ward buildings on each side of the central administration building
have generous windows, including clerestory windows above the main roof-line
to provide additional interior light. And in the days before air conditioning
was common, the buildings were sited to allow ventilation in warm weather.
The design also included light and air-filled areas for play and rest. Each ward
had a glass enclosed sun or play room. Sliding glass doors fronted each ward
and originally led to screened porches. Bedridden children could be wheeled onto
these porches or even onto paved terraces in front, to rest or play in the open
air. Then, the new medicines that became available to treat childhood diseases
in the 1940s reduced the importance of the screened porches. Steel casement windows
have enclosed these porches since that time.
other main buildings were added later. A service
annex, built prior to World War II is a one-storied
addition attached to the north side of the administration
building. Then, a nurses residence building was
built following World War II to the east of the
In 1966 the hospital began taking paying patients so that specialty pediatric
care would also be available to those who could pay. Other surgical specialists
joined the orthopedics on staff as new surgical clinics were added and in 1971,
additional services were developed including a Pediatric Continuity Clinic plus
neurology, allergy, and cardiology clinics. The Scottish Rite Children’s
Hospital finally left Decatur in 1976, eventually merging with Egleston Children’s
Hospital to form today’s Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Incorporated in 1979, the Community Center of South Decatur worked for many years
to facilitate the redevelopment of the historic Scottish Rite Children's Hospital.
Now, two decades of work by community activists have come to fruition. The renovation
is complete, with the YWCA of Greater Atlanta, two art galleries and Progressive
Redevelopment Incorporated, which completed the renovation project, among the
The Community Center of South Decatur is now renting the beautiful East Wing
of the historic building for wedding receptions and other social events. Known
as ''The Solarium at Historic Scottish Rite”, this tastefully appointed
space, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of
our area's most desirable event venues.