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Column: Piedmont’s story has humble start
by Thornton Kennedy
Neighbor Newspapers Columnist
January 30, 2014 12:59 PM | 2961 views | 0 0 comments | 67 67 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thornton Kennedy
Thornton Kennedy
Piedmont Hospital’s humble beginnings can be traced to a Jewish immigrant from Austria-Hungary who specialized in gastrointestinal disease.

Dr. Ludwig Amster and his wife Fannie founded Amster Sanatorium in 1904 for the treatment of stomach and intestinal disorders in a grand, 15-room brick and stone home on Capitol Avenue in downtown Atlanta.

One year later, he partnered with Dr. Floyd McRae, an abdominal surgeon, changing the name to Piedmont Sanatorium with a bit of a broader scope — medical and surgical needs. The landmark home called the Swift House was located at 267 Capital Ave., which today is approximately the site of the former Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

Piedmont began with just eight rooms and three doctors — Dr. James Edgar Paullin was the third. As medicine transitioned from home remedies, healers and almshouses to more advanced practices, the sanatorium grew rapidly. It acquired all of the properties on its block and used the houses for nurses’ dormitories. In 1922, a five-story annex was added. In 1924, the name was changed to Piedmont Hospital.

In 1944, the first step in the hospital’s move to the suburbs was made when the board approved the purchase of 11 acres on the corner of Peachtree and Collier roads in Buckhead for $60,000, land Jack J. Spalding had purchased from the Collier family, the original owners. McRae’s wife was a Collier descendant. Spalding was the founding partner of the law firm King & Spalding and among Atlanta’s leading residents. He called his home Deerland.

The move was necessitated by progress. The hospital did not have air conditioning and had grown to its maximum capacity. The area around the hospital was deteriorating as well.

In 1954, ground was broken on a $5 million, 217-bed hospital on the Spalding property designed by John W. Vaught. The six-story facility had four wings, nine operating rooms, three delivery rooms and two emergency rooms. An aerial view of the hospital looked like a cross, perhaps influencing the recently retired logo: a light blue cross.

Meanwhile, the old hospital was still up and running. It was eventually purchased by the Atlanta Housing Authority as the city eyed the land for a new municipal stadium. In 1957, 15 ambulances moved the 64 patients 10 miles north to the new hospital. The patients and the staff had breakfast on Capitol Avenue and lunch on Peachtree Road.

The modern history of Piedmont is perhaps better known. The hospital has continued to grow. Today the Buckhead campus has 488 beds and is one of five hospitals operating under the Piedmont banner.

Practically every square inch of its Buckhead location has been used to offer more services to more patients to the point where someone like myself, who was born there, who worked there for a summer and whose children were born there still needs to stop and ask directions when inside.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention my grandmother, Gina Kennedy, who chaired the first two Piedmont Balls, the principal fundraiser for the hospital, which Town & Country magazine called “one of the most successful charity balls in the country” at the time.

Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and a former news editor of this paper. He can be reached at

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