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What was the Bulluck Hospital?

Si Cantwell

The Bulluck Hospital operated at 221 N. Front St., Wilmington [Map this], from the early 1920s to the 1950s. You can still read the hospital’s name above the three-story building, used for offices and residences today.

The early 20th century saw a boom in private hospitals, according to Janet Seapker, a local historian who has researched Wilmington’s medical heritage. That’s when the Babies Hospital near Wrightsville Beach was established, although the much larger James Walker Hospital had been open since 1901.

The Bulluck Hospital was founded by Dr. Ernest Southerland Bulluck in the early 1920s and saw more than 500 patients in its first year of operation. Dr. Ralph H. Davis was co-owner and operator of the hospital.

It hired its first woman doctor, Dr. Annie T. Smith of Durham, in November 1923. In 1924, it became the first hospital in Wilmington to “meet all requirements of the American College of Surgeons,” Seapker said.

It was considered a modern, well-equipped hospital, according to “The Lonely Road: A History of the Physicks and Physicians of the Lower Cape Fear, 1735-1976” by Diane Cashman.

Dr. Bulluck died in 1944 and the clinic closed for a while before being reopened by a team of doctors.

In 1948, the Wilmington Star wrote that the 25-bed Bulluck Hospital had admitted 916 patients the year before. It said the clinic specialized in surgery and offered medical, X-ray, laboratory and dietary service.

At that time it was owned by Drs. W.C. Mebane, H.R. Coleman, E.P. Walker and R.T. Sinclair, a radiologist and internal medical specialist who won a StarNews Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.

The small hospital closed when Mebane, Sinclair and Sam Pace began organizing what would become Cape Fear Memorial Hospital in the 1950s.

User-contributed question by:
Nancy Gulliver

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4 Responses to “ What was the Bulluck Hospital?”

  1. On June 4, 2010 at 11:21 am Eddie Smigth wrote:

    I will turn 60 this year and I remember stories of the Bulluck Hospital and the doctors who formed Cape Fear Memorial Hospital. To be truthful, all three of the doctors and one not mentioned, Dr. Yates was a part of my growing up. I remember the Bulluck building as it was a land mark in downtown Wilmington. The long and the short was Cape Fear Memorial was a grand alternative to the old James Walker Memorial Hospital which was so bug and rat infested and very little air conditioning in the hospital. Depending on insurance, income determined where you were placed in the hospital. These doctors did a wonderful deed for Wilmington till the new hospital was built and I might add not soon enough. I haven’t been to Wilmington in many years but I plan a trip very soon to my old roots. I was sad to see the Babies Hospital was closed and now the building was destroyed. We call this progress and I often wonder if we wil progress ourselves out of this world.

  2. On June 4, 2010 at 4:51 pm Si Cantwell wrote:

    Thanks for sharing that. I’m glad the Bulluck Hospital building is still part of the downtown landscape.

  3. On February 25, 2016 at 10:53 pm John C. Birmingham, Jr. wrote:

    This is an interesting article on the old Bulluck Hospital on Front Street in Wilmington. I was born there in 1937. My mother’s maiden name was Southerland (Duplin County), and I suspect that she was related to the hospital’s founder, Dr. Ernest Southerland Bulluck. I remember Drs. Mebane and Sinclair. Dr. Mebane and his family lived in Winter Park. The children were Roxanne and Carter. Dr. Sinclair’s sister Maie Sinclair married my father’s first cousin Melton Smith Birmingham of Charlotte.

  4. On August 7, 2016 at 11:38 pm Emily johnston wrote:

    II too, think it’s a wonderful thing that the old Bulluck Hospital remains a part of the historical Wilmington landscape. I was born in Wilmington and Dr Ernest Southerland Bulluck was my great grand father on my mothers side. I dream of one day heading back to reside in Wilmington or Wrightsville and purchase or lease an office in the building for my practice.

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