Penn Highlands Huntingdon to Raze Former Nursing Residence and Create a Nurses’ Recognition Space

Practically everyone has heard the statement, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The saying holds true for old buildings. While they may appear stately and sound on the exterior, their interiors may be structurally unstable posing a threat to public safety. The former Nurses’ Home on the campus of Penn Highlands Huntingdon is one such building. The Nurses’ Home, which connects to a nursing and rehabilitation center, will be razed as part of the hospital’s continual enhancements. A plaque will be placed on the site to recognize the important role that the Nurses’ Home played in the J.C. Blair history.

The abatement will begin to occur on May 6, 2024 with demolition slated for May 20, 2024.

Nurse Home

“Our greatest concern is public safety,” said Rhonda Halstead, Penn Highlands Healthcare Regional Market President for the Central Region. “A portion of the land may be repurposed for future growth and development to meet the changing healthcare needs of the community.”

In 1912, Kate Fisher Blair, founder of the hospital, which was known as J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital in honor of her late husband, John Chalmers Blair, offered to erect a residence for student nurses. At that time, the hospital and the Nurses’ Training School were only open for one year. The Nurses’ Home opened in 1916 with 30 small private rooms to house nurses attending the hospital’s Nurses’ Training School. The rooms were utilitarian in design with sparse furnishings. Nurses living in the residence were required to keep their room neat and clean in anticipation of an inspection that could occur at any time. Board, lodging, laundry and medical care were provided free of charge.

In an early recruitment brochure for the three-year Nursing Program at the hospital, prospective nurses were informed that “Nursing shares with the practice of medicine in being the noblest profession in the world. The J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital offers a thoroughly equipped nursing school. All living expenses are paid in one of the most delightful nurses’ homes in Pennsylvania.”

“I wholeheartedly support a tribute to the nurses who helped build the foundation of this hospital,” said Maria Pettinger, MD, Radiologist at Penn Highlands Huntingdon for more than 22 years who also serves on the hospital’s board of directors. “Like the many women and men who followed them, the nurses who studied at the Nurses Training School and lived at the J.C. Blair Nurses’ Home provided exceptional care to the Huntingdon community and their contributions to health care in this region deserve to be recognized.”

Margaret Skrivseth, Executive Director of the Huntingdon County Historical Society, shares Dr. Pettinger’s enthusiasm. “A community’s heritage is central to its identity and is ever changing,” she remarked, “I applaud Penn Highlands Healthcare for recognizing the significance of the Nurses’ Home while exercising caution for community safety.”

Twenty years ago when the building was still safe and in use, physician offices were located in the building but have since relocated due to the instability of the structure, its failure to pass current fire and building codes and the need for technological upgrades.