Wentworth-Douglass Hospital was conceived as a 30-bed hospital on March 15, 1904 when the Dover City Council accepted $100,000 in trust of a legacy from the late Arioch Wentworth for a hospital to be called the Wentworth.
The hospital opened on August 30, 1906. The Wentworth Hospital consisted of three cottage-type buildings connected by corridors - the Men's Ward, Women's Ward, and Nurse's Home and administrative building. It was located at the northern base of Garrison Hill in Dover. All that remains today of the original buildings is a stone wall along Central Avenue.
Grace Haskell, RN, was the hospital’s first superintendent, a post she held for 30 years. It was very rare for a woman to hold such a position at the time. Most doctors and board members were male. The hospital also had a nursing school from 1906 until 1952, when colleges began offering professional nursing programs.
It was Haskell’s persistence in 1925 that convinced the city of Dover to fund new laboratory equipment, improved X-ray equipment and a new patient record system, allowing the hospital to be designated a Class A Hospital by the American Hospital Association.
In 1954, the hospital changed its name to Wentworth City of Dover Hospital.
In the 1950s, a donation from the estate of Louise B. Douglass was used to replace the hospital’s male and female pavilions, as well as Haskell’s home, which was the original administrative building. Mrs. Douglass was the wife of Francis S. Douglass, a respected Dover citizen and former executive at the American Woolen Company’s Dover plant. Under the terms of Mrs. Douglass’s will, a trust of approximately half a million dollars was designated for a new hospital. The balance of the funds for the $800,000 construction project came from the Hill-Burton federal loan program.
In 1961 the hospital changed its name to what it is today, Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, in honor of the Douglass’s donations. The Douglass Memorial wing opened on July 30, 1961, bringing the total capacity to “90 beds and 24 bassinets.”
In the 1960s, there were two more additions - the Dunaway Pavilion and the Anna E. Dunaway wing, funded by the S. Judson Dunaway Foundation, the same foundation that contributed to Dover’s indoor pool at Henry Law Park. S. Judson Dunaway was an Ogunquit philanthropist and Dover industrialist.
In 1982, Wentworth-Douglass Hospital became the first Seacoast hospital to be designated as a trauma center and that same year the hospital separated from the city and incorporated as a non-profit community hospital.
The hospital’s largest addition, the four-story Garrison Wing – named in honor of Dover “the Garrison City” - opened in January 2013.
In 2016 Wentworth-Douglass celebrated its 110th anniversary.
That same year the hospital was awarded the MagnetÒ designation, the nation’s highest honor for excellence in nursing. On January 1, 2017, the hospital became a subsidiary of Massachusetts General Hospital and is now a member of the Mass General Brigham system.
(Historical data from “A Place of Healing: A History of Wentworth-Douglass Hospital,” by Noreen A. Biehl).
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