Now And Then – South Lake Memorial Hospital

    In 1941 a Clinic was built near Center Lake, which later became South Lake Memorial Hospital

    by Chuck Seaver

    The vision of South Lake Memorial Hospital was an idea born by fifteen young women in 1939. The women met to organize the Clermont Welfare League in 1938 with the original intent of establishing a first aid station to facilitate the work of county nurses. At first, the group planned a small clinic where indigent cases could be treated in desperate instances or in the case of accident injuries. However, in 1939 the Welfare League decided to build a Clinic Building on the lot which is presently utilized as a parking area for the Living Hope Church of Clermont and the Clermont Brewing Company on West Desoto Street.

    In May of 1941, construction began for the brand-new clinic at an estimated cost of $14,414. The structure was a one-floor concrete block building of 28,000 square feet. On completion of the clinic, the Welfare League continued to sponsor the operations of the clinic. By August 1942 the first surgical operation had been performed and there had been 17 clinical patients.

    The first expansion of the original clinic was begun in 1953 with a fund drive by area residents. The goal was to raise $80,000.00 for the expansion that was completed in October of 1955. In 1966 the hospital assumed the responsibility of operating an ambulance service for the South Lake County area. Prior to the ambulance service, local funeral homes and private citizens often transported sick or injured individuals to the hospital. It was common to see a black hearse with an emergency red light on top acting as an ambulance during those times.

    In the spring of 1972, a three-story addition was completed, making the bed capacity 68. A modern emergency receiving area was added with several triage rooms, full-service, 24-hour ambulance dispatch, and phone operator capabilities. The drive-up area had a covered receiving area for convenient ambulance services to the emergency room. The steep stairway from the parking area on 7th Street to the emergency room entrance remains in place today. Many of the original oak trees planted remain in place today as well.

    In 1990, South Lake Hospital officials purchased 40 acres of land belonging to the Gibb Family of Clermont. The present location of Orlando Health-South Lake Hospital is located at 1900 Don Wickham Drive. The new South Lake Hospital unveiled its campus in 2000 and has experienced steady growth since that time.

    Currently, the hospital offers complete emergency room services with a large receiving and triage area, including a convenient helicopter landing pad for quick transport to Orlando Regional Medical Center should those needs arise. A campus that continues to grow with the latest addition of a seven-story patient tower slated for completion later this year, offers services ranging from a women’s health unit, complete with ob-gyn services to state-of-the-art cardiology services that have become an iconic part of the South Lake Community.






    Eighty-five years after the idea was born during a meeting of the Welfare League, one can only wonder if those fifteen ladies ever imagined that their plan would result in today’s health and emergency services facility that has grown into a shining spotlight on a hill that once was covered by Florida citrus groves.   

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