Contributed by Travis Souther
During the first half of the 20th century, private hospitals were all the rage. There were several such hospitals in Wilmington and the surrounding area: Bulluck Hospital in downtown, Babies' Hospital near Wrightsville Beach, and Harper's Sanitarium. Dr. Charles T. Harper (1872-1915), son of the famous Captain John Thomas Harper, grew up in the Port City, residing at 1 Church Street in his youth. Harper graduated from Davidson College in pre-med and with his medical degree from the University of Maryland in 1894. By 1900, Harper and his wife Jessie Glenora Zimmerman had returned to Wilmington. In 1905, Harper built his own home at 5 Church Street, just up the street from where he grew up. Today the historic home is known as the Harper-Newbold House.
Built in 1910, Harper's Sanitarium was located on the northeast corner of Front and Castle Streets in downtown Wilmington where Dr. Harper treated patients who were suffering from illnesses and sicknesses that were non-contagious. In 1912, Dr. Harper oversaw the construction of a third story, which was built by architect Joseph F. Leitner. The third floor included a kitchen, dining room, patient rooms, and even an operating room. At the height of its operation, no pun intended, 40 patients could be housed in the building. Dr. Harper died in 1915 at his sanitarium as a result of complications from an appendectomy. After his death, the International Journal of Surgery stated that, “Dr. Harper was a lovable and strong man, and was always willing to bear the infirmities of the weak and lowly. His genial personality and bright disposition endeared him to all who had the pleasure of his acquaintance . . . Among the profession he was universally popular” (International Journal of Surgery, v. 28, 1915). Dr. Charles T. and Jessie Harper are both buried in Oakdale Cemetery.
After Dr. Harper's death, the building was never used as a hospital again. From 1910 until 1963, Southside Drug Company occupied the ground floor. Today the site of the Harper Sanitarium at 101 Castle Street is occupied by a residential dwelling. These views show the building in the mid-1950s and during its demolition in 1970.