Norton Memorial Infirmary



Opening in 1886, the John N. Norton Memorial Infirmary opened its doors and began accepting its first patients. It was the brainchild of a group of young ladies and members of the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. By 1881, the women had raised enough funds to establish a permanent organization in which to transfer the funds. On May 1, 1881, a group of prominent citizens endorsed the idea of opening a new infirmary. On June 20, 1881, the Infirmary was incorporated as a non-profit organization and was named in memory of Reverend John N. Norton, D.D., Associate Rector of Christ Church. In 1885, the founders of the Infirmary established a School of Nursing and, according to records, the National League of Nursing Education showed it to be the second school of nursing in the South and the eighth west of the Alleghenies. In 1903, the Infirmary expanded its School of Nursing curriculum from two to three years.

Norton Memorial Infirmary. (From the Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, 27 January 1924)

Throughout the early and mid-20th century, Norton Memorial Infirmary provided a school for Medical Technologists, X-Ray Technicians, Psychiatric Aides, and a program in post-graduate psychiatry nursing that was affiliated with Vanderbilt University. In 1946, federal and state funds, particularly through the Hill-Burton Act, permitted the Board of Trustees to construct a new wing, the East Building, which opened in 1949. In addition to medical, obstetrical, and surgical departments, the Infirmary added a department for nervous and mental patients that went on to become Norton Psychiatric Clinic affiliated with the University of Louisville School of Medicine. The hospital only accepted voluntary patients to the Norton Psychiatric Clinic and the average length of stay at that time was approximately five weeks.

Wing for Psychiatry and Psychosomatic Medicine. (From the Kentucky Medical Journal)

In the 1960s, the Children’s Free Hospital joined Norton Memorial Infirmary along with (and later) the Kosair Crippled Children’s Hospital. Educational changes resulted in Norton downgrading its School of Nursing program, only offering diplomas instead of degrees. Though there have been a number of changes at the hospital, Norton Healthcare System still operates today with nearly two thousand licensed beds.

Contributed by Shawn Logan |

⁘ Works Cited ⁘

  1. The Lexington Leader, 9 December 1949
  2. The Lexington Leader, 12 December 1952
  1. The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), 27 January 1924, p. 34.
  2. The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), 6 February 1955, p. 128.

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