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The Granby Hospital

A look at the life of a facinating man who served as Granby's "Doc" for over 25 years.

1917 was a difficult year for the good people of Salmon Brook; their beloved church and library had recently, the town’s only physician left to work in Washington and the hopes for another man to replace Dr. V. J. Irwin, were left wanting.

By 1920, with no prospects in sight, the Men’s Community League, realizing the importance of having a resident physician, appointed a search committee to seek the services of a professional man who would serve the needs of not only Granby and East Granby but the surrounding towns as well.

Their search brought to town Dr. Ernest R. Pendleton, an energetic and progressive young man who had ideas for superior health care including the idea of a community hospital with the use of new technology like the X-Ray machine and the electric bathtub! The Men’s Community League heartily agreed and assisted Dr. Pendleton with his plan to make over the private home located at 225 Salmon Brook St.

It seems that Mr. F. M. Colton, owner of the successful Granby Tobacco Company, made an arrangement to purchase the property from Korper family and in turn sold it to Dr. Pendleton for just $10! 

The community was very happy and filled with anticipation! The Granby Civic Club showed its interest by contributing bathrobes, screens and other materials. The Women’s Club of the South Congregational Church held a gala Harvest Supper each fall and donated the proceeds to the hospital facility. 

Because of the size and capacity of the house, there was little reconstruction to be done, and the hospital opened on Nov. 15, 1921. Upon opening, the hospital was comprised of the Pendletons’ home on the first floor, and upstairs were two wards, three private rooms, the nurses’ quarters, a consulting room and a dark room to develop X-Ray photographs.

That fall, the 2-cot hospital had its first patient. From that point on, the hospital grew quickly. It began with specialties in rheumatism, heart disease, diabetes and care of the elderly. When Dr. Pendleton realized the long distance his patients had to travel for dental work, he began to look for a dentist to hold office hours in the hospital.

By May of 1923, Dr. J. W. Shea from Simsbury set up on office on the second floor and began seeing patients on Friday and Saturday mornings.

In June of 1923, the Granby Hospital was ready for expansion. All the beds were occupied, and the hospital was completely full of patients. The doctor did much of the work himself, building the framework and laying the concrete flooring in the cellar which would be used for the laundry. Once completed, the new wing had 14 private rooms as well as a solarium on each floor. The total number of beds was now up to 26. A three car garage was also added with an upstairs that housed the nurses, an occupational therapist and a laboratory technician.

The hospital also grew better as it grew larger. The beds were adjustable so the patients could "sit up," the rooms were heated with steam for the patient’s comfort and he even added the new medical treatment know as the “electric bathtub." This new invention would pass a small current of electricity through a patient’s bathwater and although this did not harm the patient, doctors now know that this procedure had no real therapeutic value.

The hospital had gained a good reputation by 1923 when some residents of Granby boasted that few people died here and most spent only a short time. Patients came from all over New England, as well as New York and New Jersey. They heard about it and they came.

The hospital had soon acquired a long list of specialties by now including the care of arthritis, high blood pressure, physiotherapy, digestive disorders and mild nerve cases.

In the interest of improving the care of some of these patients, Dr. Pendleton made several more unique improvements, the first of these was a golf course. This nine-hole course was available for the exclusive use of the hospital patients. In addition he also added a croquet lawn,  tennis court, hiking and horseback riding trails as well as a swimming pond.

Soon the residents of Granby grew jealous of the patient’s access to so many luxuries, and so in 1927 Dr. Pendleton opened the golf course to the public. With such a wide variety of recreational features, the hospital soon got a reputation of being a sanitarium, where someone could spend time resting and relaxing and by 1926 the formal name was changed to Dr. Pendleton’s Sanitarium. Nerve patients would take advantage of the hospital’s extensive facilities, staying there for very long visits to recover. Patients seeking “rest cure” could stay for stretches of time unheard of at today’s hospitals, some even living there for up to six years.

Despite all his success and “apparent” prosperity, the town of Granby was shocked when "Doc" Pendleton announced he would be closing the Granby Hospital as of Nov. 1, 1928. It appears that the hospital’s collapse stemmed from the problem the doctor had in collecting fees from his patients. This seems likely since some patients lived in the hospital for extended periods of time and even when they were ready to be released had difficulty finding new homes. The last patient left on November 28.

His public golf course closed in 1943 as a result of the World War II gas rationing which stopped many visitors outside of Granby from traveling. His efforts to develop real estate were confronted with the Great Depression. Dr. Pendleton however stayed on and continued to practice medicine until 1946, when he suffered a heart attack. Even after his recovery, he remained the beloved country doctor who traveled from his home in Westfield to make daily visits to his Granby patients. 

Dr. Pendleton died on May 16, 1961 but continued to see patients up to the time of his death. He left a wonderful legacy which remains to this day. His golf course became what is today the Salmon Brook Park which continues to be enjoyed by almost every resident of the Town of Granby.

Check back next week for more about Dr. Pendleton's golf course and recreational community.

Resources for today's story include the research done by Brian Potetz.

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