Founders Hall (Watauga Hospital)
Originally the Watauga County Hospital, Founders Hall today serves as an administrative support building on the Appalachian State University campus. Formally opened in 1938, the building suffered delays in construction but served as the hospital for Watauga and Ashe Counties as well as Johnson, Tennessee. The hospital was constantly fighting an uphill battle for bed space, with the ultimate solution to the problem being found in 1967 when the on campus infirmary was remodeled and medical services were moved elsewhere.
Backstory and Context
It was B.B. Doughtery, the president of Appalachian State Teachers College who spearheaded the initiative to bring a medical facility to Boone in the 1930s. He saw the need for a facility that served both the community and the school. Although a medical facility had been established by Dr. R. K. Bingham, the town quickly outgrew the facility and found itself in need of more space to take proper medical care of the growing population. While Watauga Hospital was incorporated in in 1931, it took years to appropriate funding, most of which was contributed by state funding in 1933 as well donations by church organizations and the Duke Foundation.
The construction of the facility found itself greatly delayed by fluxes in the New Deal funding. When it was all said and done the hospital took five years and the effort of fifty men to build and was formally opened on April of 1938. The first superintendent of the hospital was Miss Edna Heizerling from Statesville, NC. Heizerling had come from two former superintendent positions at a Baptist hospital as well was the Mooresville hospital with a collective six years of tenure. The first director of the hospital was Dr. J. B. Hagaman and his son was one of the first doctors to practice medicine in the facility.
The building, which was three stories tall was considered an open hospital, meaning that any doctor could bring his/her patients in for treatment and facility utilization. It was in 1967 when the community hospital was sold to the state and became the formal property of now Appalachian State University. Growing pains had plagued much of the town, with a local newspaper stating that the hospital never went below an 80% bed occupancy rate.Eventually the infirmary was retired from its original purpose in 1967. The building space was converted to offices and renamed to its present designation of Founders Hall, striking memory of B.B. Doughtery, the original advocate for the building, as well as an advocate for the college and its original purpose of producing teachers for the so called “lost provinces”. Medical services for on campus students were moved to an adjacent building known as Hagaman Hall, named in honor of the first director of the facility.