CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – It’s Wednesday and that means it’s time to explore the history that surrounds the Lowcountry! This week, we turn our attention to a Charleston hospital built in the 19th century.

“From smallpox epidemics to the Civil War to the world’s first successful valve surgery, history both small and dramatic has taken place within the walls of Roper St. Francis Healthcare.”

Roper Saint Francis Healthcare

“Roper Hospital” originated in 1845 when philanthropist and former mayor of Charleston, Colonel Thomas Roper, bequest $30,000 to the Medical Society of South Carolina to build a hospital.

According to the South Carolina Encyclopedia, Roper wanted a hospital that would treat anyone who was sick or injured: “…all such sick, maimed and diseased paupers as need surgical or medical aid…without regard to complexion, religion or nation.”

The hospital received additional funding from the City of Charleston and the state of South Carolina before admitting its first patients on the corner of Queen and Mazyck Street on February 12th, 1856. During this time, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid fever and smallpox was said to have be ravaging the city.

“During the Civil War, Roper Hospital unofficially became a Confederate hospital over the protests of its trustees, who demanded that the hospital remain open to treat lunatics and the sick poor. In February 1865 the federal government seized the Roper building for its own use, occupying it until November 11, 1865.”

South Carolina Encyclopedia

Information from the South Carolina Encyclopedia and Roper Saint Francis Healthcare (RSFH) provides a timeline of the healthcare system:

  • On August 31, 1886, an earthquake followed by several aftershocks destroyed the original Roper Hospital.
  • The building was eventually repaired in 1891, but inadequate finances prevented its operation.
  • Work on another hospital on the corner of Barre and Calhoun streets was completed in February 1906.
  • The Medical Society assumed full ownership in 1932.
  • A third Roper Hospital was constructed on Calhoun Street and opened on April 15, 1946.In July 1989, the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy transferred the sponsorship of St. Francis Xavier Hospital to the Sisters of Bon Secours.
  • In 1996, Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital made the move from the peninsula to West Ashley when it created the beautiful and architecturally iconic hospital we enjoy today.
  • In December of 1997, the Medical Society of South Carolina voted to merge Roper and Bon Secours St. Francis Hospitals.
  • On November 1, 2010 the newest addition to the Roper St. Francis Hospitals opened in Mount Pleasant.

Today, Roper St. Francis Healthcare is a partnership of the Medical Society of South Carolina and Bon Secours Mercy Health. RSFH has over 100 facilities stretched throughout seven counties.