Hickory’s Emergency Infantile Paralysis Hospital/Hickory Music Factory
In 1944, a serious polio outbreak rapidly overtook Catawba County. Hospitals were full, but there was an immediate need for space. Thus, in 54 hours this "miracle" hospital was constructed in June of 1944 on the grounds of a former summer camp. The hospital operated for nine months, closing its doors in March of 1945, and during this period 663 people were evaluated, 528 were diagnosed with polio, and 454 were admitted and treated at the hospital. In 2012, the Hickory Music Factory (HMF) was established at the site of the former hospital facility. The HMF provides opportunities for the community to learn music and to express themselves creatively.
Backstory and Context
In the summer of 1944, the bustling city of Hickory was overtaken by a massive outbreak of the polio virus. The closest neighboring city hospitals were already at max capacity, so the situation in Hickory called for a miraculous solution. This “miracle” came in the form of the Hickory Emergency Infantile Paralysis Hospital. This emergency structure was built in just 54 hours by the local citizens in order to treat and nurse their children and loved ones back from the brink of death.
The initial decision to construct a hospital was made on Wednesday, May 31st at noon, and the first patients were admitted 54 hours later on Saturday, June 3rd. The March of Dimes provided doctors and contributed more than $500,000 for the hospital. The original setup centered around a stone structure of an existing summer camp to which army tents were added while additional structures were built. The completed project included thirteen wards and housed hundreds of patients off and on throughout it’s active period, offering heat treatments, massage, and hydrotherapy for the conventional splinting and immobilization.. Ultimately, 663 people were evaluated, 528 were diagnosed with polio, and 454 were admitted and treated at the hospital.Though the facility closed on March 5, 1945, just a mere nine months later, it boasted one of the country’s lowest ever polio mortality rates at a total of only twelve individuals.
In 2012, the Hickory Music Factory (HMF) was established at the site of the former hospital facility. The HMF provides opportunities for the community to learn music and to express themselves creatively.
The "Miracle of Hickory": The 1944 Polio Hospital, Hickory Museum of Art. April 7th 2015. Accessed December 11th 2019. http://hickoryart.org/new-blog/2015/4/7/the-miracle-of-hickory-the-1944-polio-hospital.
Polio Outbreak and the “Miracle of Hickory”, NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Accessed December 11th 2019. https://www.ncdcr.gov/blog/2016/06/01/polio-outbreak-and-the-miracle-of-hickory.
Zuber, Richard L. Miracle of Hickory, NCPedia. Invalid date. Accessed December 11th 2019. https://www.ncpedia.org/history/miracle-of-hickory.