Brewer Memorial Hospital

Brewer Memorial Hospital Here's a bit of history about the old Brewer Memorial Hospital located at Broad and Hunter Sts. in Woodbury.

The photograph shows the original hospital as it was in 1919 when Doctor William Brewer first opened its doors. Dr. Brewer bought the property in 1912 from James Matlock who built it in 1833 from oak timber cut from his property. The hospital began its operation as an obstetric and surgical hospital. It was, in all respects, a stately old home that made little change to the medicinal character it would serve.

On the first floor was a two-room suite occupied by a friend of Dr. Brewer and lifetime resident, Margaret Drake. She lived there well into the 1940s. There was a four-bedroom ward, staff dining room, a lab, and an X-Ray Room on the first floor. The second floor had an Operating Room, Delivery Room, Nursery, and patient rooms. On the third floor were two large rooms and a bath where the nurses could lodge if they desired. It was not unusual for nurses to live on the premises and have the hospital staff laundry their uniforms.

The hospital did not have an elevator for the first thirty plus years, so the local police would be called to help carry patients up or down the stairs!

Through the 1950s, each member of the hospital staff served in a variety of capacities. For example, the cook might also serve as the janitor, or a receptionist might assist the nursing staff. Duties were not as defined as they are in such jobs today, but it seemed to lend itself to a teamwork that is hard to find.

Dr. Brewer died on January 28,1940 at the age of seventy-four. The hospital was sold that year and Dr. Earle Wentzell MD became Chief Medical Director. Dr. Wentzell had a practice in Wenonah and was a graduate of Jefferson Medical College.

By 1945, a large modern addition had been added to accommodate the increase in patients. It did not come too soon, because baby boom was about to hit. Speaking of babies, in 1928 it cost $71.00 for delivery and an 11-day stay.

In 1960, the old house that served as the hospital for so many years was torn down when the new section was completed. The hospital had grown to a 76-bed facility and was in great competition with Underwood Hospital located a few blocks away. It survived another decade and was bought in 1971 by the Gloucester County Freeholders for an annex to the Court House.

When Dr. Brewer started the hospital it was during a time when the family physician met all of your medical needs. When house calls were an every day occurrence and HMOs did not exist. When your family physician not only treated your illnesses but performed surgery as well. I am sure there are many people in the area that remember visiting Brewer Memorial Hospital at one time or another. It served the area well for fifty-one years and when it closed its doors it closed a page of history.

For more South Jersey History, visit our History page.

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Author: V. Van Antwerp/Editor

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