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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2019:03:07 13:03:22

STAFF PHOTO/COLLEEN MCALEER A shell of the old Sterling House which became the Kennard Hotel and later Tyler Memorial Hospital met its end at the hands of a wrecking excavator last Friday (March 8).

A 148-year-old landmark in the heart of Meshoppen bit the dust Friday as excavators leveled a building that had served as the first Tyler Memorial Hospital.

“I’m very sad about it,” Carol Gregory, the first baby born there on Jan. 2, 1948, said Sunday afternoon from her home less than a half mile away from the now pile of rubble. “I knew it wasn’t in very good shape, but I wish they had kept the repairs up over the years.”

The building was constructed in 1871 by the town’s leading merchant, Daniel T. Sterling, and his brother-in-law Otis Loomis, at a cost of $20,000, and was known for a decade as the Sterling House.

George Kennard, who had served a term as Wyoming County Sheriff, bought the building from Sterling’s heirs in 1883 and ran it as Kennard’s Hotel until his death in 1904.

A number of successors tried to keep it going as a hotel including James & Agnes Kelly, D.L. Laverty, Harry Houser, Thomas & Etha Moran, Dawson & Rebecca Howell, Francis & Anna Kester, and Elvira Conrad.

Conrad lost the property in a sheriff’s sale around 1940 to State Sen. Cyrus B. Tyler who paid $6,000 for it.

Local legend has it that the late Dr. Charles H. Kraft, father of current county commissioner Judy Kraft Mead, covered a 70-mile-wide territory tending patients and on one tiring evening in 1944 dropped the suggestion to Sen. Tyler that it might be a good thing to have a centrally located building to use for a maternity hospital, maybe even a general hospital.

Years later before his death in 1954, Tyler was quoted in the Tunkhannock Republican & New Age as telling Kraft at the time, “What about turning the hotel into a hospital?” Then, he added, “I would give the building.”

And, so, the idea of founding a hospital was born, and early steps included getting permission from the Pennsylvania State Welfare Department and fund raising.

Ground was broken in 1946 for a one-story cinderblock fire proof addition to include private and semi-private rooms for 20 beds, with the other 20 beds in the hotel.

The first patients were admitted in January of 1948.

In 1951, an elevator was installed at a cost of $12,000 paid for by the nine doctors then on staff (Dr. C.H. Kraft, Dr. Arthur Davenport, Dr. John Rinehimer Jr., Dr. Helen Beck, Dr. John McCorkle, Dr. William Llewellyn, Dr. Morgan Taylor, Dr. Walter Blasco and Dr. John Foote).

Rumors of building a newer hospital surfaced in the early 1960s, and were accelerated by a behind-the-scenes donation of $100,000 by Procter & Gamble, which had not yet solidified its plans to build a large manufacturing facility across the river from Mehoopany.

The new hospital opened in the fall of 1965, and the following year, a new generation of babies would eventually be touched by P&G’s first production line of disposable diapers known as Pampers.

Across its then 17-year history, the old Tyler Memorial Hospital - in the heart of Meshoppen Borough - had been responsible for seeing more than 5,000 babies brought into this world.

The last baby born at the old Tyler Hospital was John Trowbridge on Oct. 16, 1965. He now lives in Oak Ridge, Missouri.

John’s mother, Florence Trowbridge, now 81 and of Springville, said Sunday she remembered that last day for the old hospital well.

Her physician, Dr. Winfield Gibbs, had just returned from a vacation and after having told him about contractions one evening on the telephone, he advised her to come in the next morning.

“There to my pleasant surprise was a welcoming committee, and the delivery went well,” she said.

It was her third baby boy at the old hospital with Dr. Gibbs, and she had another one years later at the new Tyler. She also had her tonsils out at the old hospital as a kid as well.

“It’s heartbreaking to know that old building isn’t there anymore,” Trowbridge said, noting that “when you drove by it, it was a quiet reminder of all the good that had been done there. I hope people never forget that.”

Trowbridge also remembered her ambulance ride from the old hospital to the new one with nurse Agnes Dickson right there with her.

Now 91, Dickson lives in Tunkhannock Township and reflected that the old Tyler also had a special place in her heart.

When told on Monday that the old hospital building had been demolished, she shook her head and said, “Oh, no.”

Dickson started working there on her wedding night in 1952, and stayed on at the older facility for 13 years, then at the new Tyler for another nine years.

“It was a good place to be, and you got good, very good care,” a matter she could attest with three of her own babies also born there.

She also remembered 12-hour shifts at the older facility, noting “That was actually okay because everyone worked together. They were good times.”

Following the opening of the new hospital, and removal of all medical equipment, the old Tyler Hospital was sold in 1967 to Kenneth and Lilly Price who operated Ken-Mar Home Furnishings at the former hotel/hospital location.

After a new building was set for Ken-Mar, the Prices continued to use the Kennard building as a furniture warehouse.

In 2018, after Ken and Brooks Price announced they would be closing the Ken-Mar Furniture Store, the old Kennard building was sold to Bill Ruark under the name of WLR Family Partnership.

It was announced at the Meshoppen Borough Council meeting on Monday, March 4, that the leveled ground would likely be used for a truck and car wash.