Our community saved The Solarium at Historic Scottish Rite through perseverance and dedication. Now it is ours to use and enjoy, as well as continue to support. Help us honor the past by making a donation, make the most of the present, and work for the future. Be a part of this historic building and the community-based programs it houses as it moves into the next 80 years of its life.
Preserve your memory in Oakhurst by sponsoring a brick inscribed with your name or that of a loved one prominently set within the front patio of The Solarium, home of the Community Center of South Decatur. With a tax-deductible gift of $50, we will have a brick inscribed with 2 lines (up to 14 total characters on each line) of your choice. Click here for the Brick Inscription Form.
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The two-cottage Decatur facility gave indigent, crippled children a place to recover after having surgery at Piedmont Hospital and Wesley Memorial Hospital (now Emory University Hospital). It accommodated 18 patients – 20 in case of urgency.
Three years later, in 1918, a new 50 bed building was opened on West Hill Street with the facilities to become a full orthopedic surgical hospital for those who could not afford to pay for care, and featured a natural light surgical suite. The new hospital focused on treating Georgia children crippled by polio, and was the first hospital in the United States devoted to the orthopedic care of children. The Oakhurst hospital served as a model for 19 later Shriner’s Hospitals for Crippled Children around the nation.
Until the mid 1960s, the hospital accepted only children whose parents could not afford to pay for their care. During the early years, the Scottish Rite Masons were depended upon to cover the cost of the staff salaries and medical supplies.
Two young but accomplished architects were chosen for the design of the hospital buildings that opened in Decatur in 1918, Neel Reid and Hal Hentz. Until the 1930s, the medical profession had few drugs available to treat crippling childhood diseases so the original hospital design reflected the emphasis then given to providing young patients with plenty of sunshine and fresh air. The Georgian Revival style buildings all have a southern exposure, allowing for plenty of sunshine. The ward buildings on each side of the central administration building have generous windows, including clerestory windows above the main roof-line to provide additional interior light. And in the days before air conditioning was common, the buildings were sited to allow ventilation in warm weather.
The design also included light and air-filled areas for play and rest. Each ward had a glass enclosed sun or play room. Sliding glass doors fronted each ward and originally led to screened porches. Bedridden children could be wheeled onto these porches or even onto paved terraces in front, to rest or play in the open air. Then, the new medicines that became available to treat childhood diseases in the 1940s reduced the importance of the screened porches. Steel casement windows have enclosed these porches since that time.
Two other main buildings were added later. A service annex, built prior to World War II is a one-storied addition attached to the north side of the administration building. Then, a nurses residence building was built following World War II to the east of the hospital.
In 1966 the hospital began taking paying patients so that specialty pediatric care would also be available to those who could pay. Other surgical specialists joined the orthopedics on staff as new surgical clinics were added and in 1971, additional services were developed including a Pediatric Continuity Clinic plus neurology, allergy, and cardiology clinics. The Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital finally left Decatur in 1976, eventually merging with Egleston Children’s Hospital to form today’s Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Incorporated in 1979, the Community Center of South Decatur worked for many years to facilitate the redevelopment of the historic Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital. Now, two decades of work by community activists have come to fruition. The renovation is complete, with the YWCA of Greater Atlanta, two art galleries and Progressive Redevelopment Incorporated, which completed the renovation project, among the tenants.
The Community Center of South Decatur is now renting the beautiful East Wing of the historic building for wedding receptions and other social events. Known as ”The Solarium at Historic Scottish Rite”, this tastefully appointed space, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is one of our area’s most desirable event venues.