By 1927, just five years after the opening of the first Shriners Hospitals for Children®, there were 14 Shriners Hospitals for Children operating across the United States all working to fulfill the mission of that first hospital: To provide expert orthopaedic care to children under 18, free of charge.
Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville (South Carolina) was one of those 14 hospitals. How a Shriners Hospital came to be constructed in Greenville, South Carolina, is a unique story in itself. Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville is the only hospital in the Shrine system that was not built by the Shrine.
The Imperial Board of Trustees, governing body for all Shriners Hospitals for Children, did not plan to put a hospital in South Carolina. They planned to place the hospitals so that each section of the country could be served. The nearby Scottish Rite Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, treated children from several adjacent states, and, therefore, they thought the Atlanta hospital would continue to serve the needs.
However, because of the large number of applications for admissions to the Scottish Rite Hospital from children in South Carolina, a Shriner from Atlanta, Forest Adair, felt a similar hospital in South Carolina was necessary.
Mr. Adair tried to interest various people in the project, and gave several presentations before Hejaz Shrine Temple, located in Greenville. A local Greenville businessman, W. W. Burgiss, along with J. B. Duke, and B.E. Geer, all involved with the Burgiss Charities, agreed with the need for such a facility, and stepped forward to pledge $350,000 to build and equip a hospital in Greenville.
Because of that promise, plans to build hospitals in Richmond and Pittsburgh were abandoned.
Although Burgiss Charities were short by about $35,000 of their pledge of $350,000, Hejaz Temple came to the rescue of the project. Hejaz Temple borrowed $35,000, and loaned the money to the Burgiss Charities for the completion of the Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville.
The Imperial Board of Trustees supported Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville entirely for the first few years, and gifts from the Duke Endowment were applied to the $35,000 debt until the amount was paid.
The location chosen to build the original Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville was on Pleasantburg Drive. Today, the site of the first hospital seems to be in the heart of the thriving Greenville business community, but when the hospital opened its doors for the first time on September 1, 1927, the hospital was surrounded by country roads and trees.
The hospital is governed by representatives from eighteen temples, all from the six states in the southeast that Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville serves: South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama.
The original Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville saw many renovations and changes over the years, but finally in the late 1980’s, it became apparent that the existing facility could not hold the growth it was experiencing.
A location near the medical campus of Greenville Memorial Hospital was chosen, and in1989, the new and present Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville was dedicated. Originally a 60 bed hospital, Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville experienced renovations in the late 1990’s and is currently a 50 bed hospital.
The lobby of Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville is vastly different from the original hospital. The life-size animal sculptures and a bubbling fountain are more like an upscale hotel and are designed to put patients and families at ease.
Patients are treated to a child-friendly environment which encourages the presence of families. Instead of staying for months at a time, children who are coming to the Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville for surgery rarely stay more than 2 to 3 days.
Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville, and the entire Shriners Hospitals for Children system, have not only kept abreast of the leading medical technologies available, but have become pioneers in their fields, and are recognized world-wide for their expertise in spinal cord injury, burn, cleft lip and palate, and orthopaedic care.
But, some things do not change. In 1927, when the original Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville opened its doors, it chose to be regarded as a “doorway of hope and encouragement.” That same commitment to children is exhibited today by the hospital’s dedication to its three-fold mission of treatment, education, and research.
Today Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville remains open to all children who can be helped by the services provided there, regardless of race, creed, or financial background of the parents. No relationship to a Shriner is required. It is a testament to the success of Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville to note that since opening its doors in 1927, nearly 55,000 children have been helped.
Tours of Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville are highly encouraged.