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Cannon Street Hospital Dedication

In November 1896 Dr. Alonzo Clifton McClennan and six other African-American health-care professionals met to discuss the need for a hospital and nurses' training school for African Americans in the city of Charleston. In July 1897, the state of South Carolina approved the charter for the Hospital and Training School for Nurses. Later that year it opened its doors at 135 Cannon Street in a three-story brick building which had been bought for $4,500. The ³CannonStreet Hospital, as it was also known, provided desperately needed health care for Charleston¹s African-American citizens with twenty-four beds, nurses¹ dormitories, an operating room, dining hall, reception room, and office. No patient or physician was denied admission because of race; some white doctors sent white patients to Cannon Street and treated them there.

Alonzo Clifton McClennan was born in Columbia, S.C. in 1855. After graduating from Howard University¹s schools of medicine and pharmacy, McClennan moved to Charleston in 1884 and established the first black drug store, called the People¹s Pharmacy on King Street. He helped found the Hospital and Training School for Nurses and served as its  medical director, surgeon in charge, and instructor in surgical nursing until his death in 1912.

Dr. McClennan edited the Hospital Herald‹A Monthly Journal devoted to Hospital Work, Nurse Training and Domestic and Public Hygiene. Inaddition to writing about health-related matters, Dr. McClennan used theHospital Herald to promote fundraising events such as community fairs,teas, and, in later years, radio-thons, a telethon, and a womanless wedding, featuring physicians. In one issue he wrote: Every penny you give will do something toward the relief of suffering and toward training some deserving colored woman in an honorable and useful profession. Dr. McClennan is seen at right on the cover, standing over the patient.

Anna DeCosta Banks was born on September 2, 1869, in Charleston. She was educated in the Charleston Public Schools and graduated from Virginia¹s Hampton Institute Dixie Hospital of Nursing. Banks was among its first graduates and, in 1895, served as head nurse at this hospital training school. Returning to Charleston, she followed her dream to the Hospital and Training School for Nurses. After her tenure as head nurse, she subsequently rose to become superintendent of nurses, serving in that capacity for thirty-two years. Banks once said, I have found that when a person is sick or in need, it does not make any difference to them who you are or what. If you have come to help them, all are gladly received. When she died in 1930, the Ladies Benevolent Society paid her this tribute: All ages, classes, races, called her blessed.

³The colored people have long felt the need of a hospital where their sick can be properly cared for. Many of them have simply died for want of attention. The work has only been going on for one year and within that time we have paid $1,000 on the building, the whole cost being $4,000.

The building has two wards, two private rooms, dormitory for the nurses, dining room and kitchen and reading room. We can accommodate fifteen patients at a time, wrote Anna DeCosta Banks in Southern Workman, published by the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute, where Banks received her nursing education.

Dr. Thomas Carr McFall was born in Charleston in 1908 and attended the Avery Normal Institute. After receiving his M.D. from the University of Michigan School of Medicine, McFall returned to Charleston in 1938 and established a private practice in obstetrics and gynecology. After serving in the United States Medical Corps in World War II, McFall returned to his Charleston practice. In 1949 he was appointed to the South Carolina State Hospital Advisory Council to the State Board of Health, the first African American to serve in that capacity. He served as the last medical director of the McClellan-Banks Memorial Hospital.

Under the leadership of Dr. McFall, the hospital sought funds to renovate or replace the badly deteriorated building on Cannon Street. In addition to soliciting the city¹s black community for financial support, McFall appealed to the Charleston County Council for $88,000 for the construction of a new hospital. In 1956 the money was approved and construction began on the newly renamed McClennan-Banks Memorial Hospital at 25 Courtney Drive on the west side of Charleston. The 31-bed facility served as a full-service hospital, continuing the mission and policies of the Cannon Street Hospital until December 31, 1976, when integrated hospital facilities rendered it unnecessary. In 2004, the building on Courtenay Drive was demolished. On its site today stands the Ashley River Tower Hospital. 

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