Paoli Hospital was born on July 24, 1913 as the Homeopathic Hospital of West Chester in the renovated Hoopes Warrington Mansion also known as “the Hoopes Home” on the southwest corner of Walnut and Biddle Streets. Purchased for $12,500, when renovated it had seven rooms, including a children’s ward and could house 35 patients. The very first patient was treated for an injured finger, which unfortunately had to be amputated. In reviewing the hospital the newspaper noted that the hospital was, “splendidly located” with perfectly sanitary features (a code phrase for plumbing) and “being light and cheerful with good ventilation”.
Mary C. Davies was the first Superintendent (comparable to a nursing supervisor) of the Homeopathic Hospital of West Chester. In 1913 her salary was offered at $50/month until July 1, the date when the hospital starting taking patients, after which she received $65 plus room, board and laundry. The local newspaper notes that she was, “unusually capable” and that all the nurses were, “well trained and doing good work.”
The American College of Surgeons granted Homeopathic Hospital of West Chester, now Paoli Hospital, full accreditation in 1924. There were 27 beds in the hospital with 17 duty nurses. The cost per patient per day was $4.34, and after much debate it was decided that the rates needed to be raised as 38 percent of the patients were non-paying.
Well-baby clinics for babies born in the hospital were started in early 1932. They were reported as, "being popular and well attended" by April of that year. The clinic had twenty babies all under three months of age who were weighed, and given a general examination, while the mothers were advised about care and feeding. One of the nursing school's graduates, Miss Helena Mauger, was reportedly "gone to Chicago where she was taking a four month special obstetrical course at the Laying-In Hospital of Chicago."
In 1944, the Hospital Board announced that the hospital would be renamed the Memorial Hospital of Chester County. They made this decision because the hospital had not been limited to homeopathic practices for many years, following a national trend to honor the men and women who had served in the country’s wars.
In 1959, the Hospital’s new wing, named after the late Dr. Charles Kerwin, one of the first Board certified surgeons at the hospital, was opened at a cost of $198,432.96. It included, along with bedrooms, an x-ray, laboratory facility and built-in television outlets. TV rental services came later.
A lively ground breaking ceremony for the newly renamed Paoli Memorial Hospital was held on July 16, 1966. The actress, Shirley Jones, presided over the fund raising drawing for a Ford station wagon donated by Matthews Ford. The car was won by Peggy McAdoo of the Berwyn Paoli Auxiliary. Newspaper articles stated: "Among the many facilities of the new Paoli Memorial Hospital are intensive and cardiac care units, central supply service, central air conditioning, extensive carpeting. The most modern hospital equipment, Electronic Nursing Stations, large parking space, Coffee and Gift Shops and Cafeteria, 104 beds, ample land area. "The former West Chester Memorial Hospital became Paoli Memorial with the move on September 21, 1968. Kathryn Sweeny, RN, was mostly responsible for the organization of the move including the remaining 18 patients in ambulances and 31 pints of blood. The hospital’s narcotics were securely conveyed by a West Chester police car, while The Salvation Army provided the most important items—coffee and doughnuts. Over the first weekend, 28 patients were treated in the new Emergency Room and the first baby, a boy, was born on the day after the move. A story is told that one of the first patients was a little girl unfamiliar with the new intercom system and answered a nurse who was talking to her through it, with the response, "yes, God?"
In 1968, the new Paoli Memorial Hospital had an emergency room with eight chairs in the waiting room, a small examining room, and a cubbyhole for the doctor with a shelf for a desk. A smaller adjacent room had a cot where the on-call doctor slept. Dr. Joe Williamson covered during the day and doctors from Valley Forge Military Academy covered at night. However, by the mid- 1990’s when Marjorie H. Panitt wrote The History of Paoli Memorial Hospital (1999), the PMH Emergency Center saw 20,000 patients per year representing, 50 percent of hospital admissions.
The Auxiliary resale shop opened on October 15, 1973 in a building constructed on the hospital property with a $45,000 gift from Joseph E. Palmer, board member and builder. Hence, the name, The Palm Tree.