Focus on Fostoria - May0405

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Published on 05/04/05 in the Fostoria Focus

From Doc Leonard to Foster Memorial to Fostoria Community Hospital, it’s quite an operation

By LEONARD SKONECKI Focus Correspondent
- Click for picture -

How it looked in the ‘30s This is how Fostoria City Hospital looked when it opened its doors May 3, 1930. The hospital later went through five expansion projects (1939, 1960, 1976, 1996, 2002) and would later be renamed Fostoria Community Hospital. It was operated by the city until 1962.

Happy Birthday, Fostoria Community Hospital. It’s 75 years old this week.
But the hospital’s history begins long before 1930.

For instance, it was a doctor who named Fostoria. In 1853, Charles W. Foster donated land so the Methodist churches of Rome and Risdon could merge.

The unification of the churches led to the political merger of the villages. It was Dr. Abraham Metz who proposed that the new city be named “Fostoria” to honor the man whose generosity made the union possible.

In 1907, a Fostoria Hospital Association was formed. Fostoria was 53 years old and people realized a hospital was a must.

FHA proposed to build a hospital at the west end of College Avenue on the former site of the Fostoria Academy which burned down in 1904. However, the necessary funding was never raised.

Dr. William Leonard, however, wasn’t taking no for an answer. He built his own hospital.

Dr. Leonard was born in rural Seneca County in 1862. He died in 1946 at age 84. He and his wife Elizabeth were married 56 years.

Dr. Leonard’s practice was located at 314-316 S. Main St. He added a small addition to his office. His hospital had six beds, an operating room, purchased sterilization equipment, hired a nurse and arranged with local undertakers to provide ambulance service. In a pinch, Doc Leonard’s little hospital could house 10 patients.

In 1908, Dr. Leonard opened what he called “The Fostoria Hospital.”

Early report This 1913 annual report of The Fostoria Hospital details the care provided by Dr. William Leonard. Leonard built his own hospital at 314-316 S. Main St. in 1908, 22 years before the city would construct its own hospital.

Nine years later, in 1917, Annie Foster, daughter of Gov. Charles Foster and granddaughter of Charles W. Foster, the city’s namesake, passed away unexpectedly.

In her handwritten will, Annie left the City of Fostoria $100,000, as well as land, for two purposes. One was to build a library. The other was to build the “Foster Memorial Hospital” in memory of her father.
The land in question was essentially the current location of the Municipal Building. There was an immediate controversy.

Right off, there were folks who argued that the parcel simply wasn’t large enough to accommodate a hospital. On the other side were those who believed that if the city accepted the bequest, it had to follow the terms of Annie’s will.

Needless to say, no hospital was every built on Main Street between South and Tiffin Streets. So Doc Leonard’s place continued to serve as Fostoria’s hospital.

In 1919, the Chamber of Commerce took note of the fact that Fremont had not only built a new hospital, but was raising $125,000 for a maintenance fund. The Chamber investigated the possibility of using Fostoria’s “War Chest Fund” as seed money for a new hospital.

The War Chest Fund had been used to fund civic and charitable activities during World War I. Once again, nothing came of these discussions.

It was “once more into the breach” for the hospital in 1925. A hospital tax issued was placed on the November ballot. The Exchange Club solicited 150 endorsements.

The issued failed even though a majority, 54.47 percent, voted for it. Ohio law at the time said such issues needed a 55 percent percent majority to pass.

In November 1927, Fostoria voters found another tax issue on the ballot. This one was a no-doubter: 2,240 yea, 1,193 nay.

The $75,000 ballot issue established the new facility as a municipal hospital. It was operated as a city department and the hospital superintendent reported to the service director.

City Council chose Cemetery Hill as the hospital’s location. That land was originally owned by the Methodist Church and was Fostoria’s cemetery until Fountain Cemetery was purchased in 1856.
Fostoria City Hospital officially opened in May 1930. Mary Margerum was appointed superintendent at an annual salary of $2,000.

The rest of the staff of 12 included six nurses, an assistant superintendent, a bookkeeper, cook, maid and janitor. The hospital had 30 beds.

The Toledo News Bee called it “one of the finest small hospitals in northwestern Ohio ....”

Fostoria City Hospital opened May 3, 1930. The first patient was admitted that day. She was Guesta Ash. Dr. Nate Hatfield operated on her for an unspecified illness.

The first baby delivered at FCH was Mary Patricia Farley, but the baby was born with a heart lesion and died an hour later. The attending physician was Richard Sheppard, father of the infamous Dr. Sam Sheppard of Cleveland.

Current Fostorian Ann Jones might well have been FCH’s first successful delivery. She was born Ann Harrold July 22, 1930.

She said her parents, Duane and Wanda, told her she was the first baby born at the hospital. Twenty-nine babies were born at FCH in its first year. From 1930 to 1996, FCH delivered over 21,000 babies.
The hospital was expanded in 1939, 1960, 1976, 1996 and 2002. The hospital was operated by the city until 1962 when the newly incorporated Fostoria Hospital Association took over its operation.

FHA guided the hospital until April 2000 when the FHA board voted to approve the merger with ProMedica Health Systems.

The Focus wishes Fostoria Community Hospital a happy 75th birthday — and many happy returns.