Oaklawn Hospital

Oaklawn Hospital
Oaklawn Hospital

After his encounter with the Moss ghost and being exposed to the wintry elements, Lewis Barnavelt spends the night in New Zebedee’s Oaklawn Hospital [The Figure in the Shadows; 131]. The hospital was an enormous mansion that had once been owned by an old lady [144]. There he is visited by Dr. Humphries, the Barnavelt family doctor; he had a “voice like a bass viol, and he cracked jokes a lot to put people at their ease. And he always carried a black leather bag full of rattling square pill bottles” [144-5].

Inspiration

The original Oaklawn Hospital building in Marshall had been a private residence, the first brick house in the county. Built in 1837 along Mansion Street by town founder Sidney Ketchum, it was from this mansion that the street took its name [Marshall; 229].

The “Mansion House” at 215 East Mansion was used a dormitory for the Young Ladies Institute until it was purchased by Charles P. Dibble in 1859 and remodeled in 1861 in the Italian villa style. It was Dibble who named the property Oaklawn because of the white oaks that adorned the grounds. Ownership passed to Dibble’s son and then the Ella E. M. Brown Charitable Circle – named for the wife of Charles E. Brown. The Brown family had owned a house at the northwest corner of Prospect and High Streets (northeast of the Mansion House) that had been bequeathed for use as a hospital. While noble in thought, in subsequent years the house proved unworthy for use as a hospital and attention was turned to finding a location that could fulfill the wishes of the Brown family. The Dibble family donated the Mansion House and their property for just such use and the former house was again remodeled into a twelve-bed hospital.

"When opened in 1925, Oaklawn [was] not even 5,000 square feet, with the third floor accommodating operating, emergency and maternity rooms, a baby's bath and a nursery. The building was furnished with draperies, sheets and pillowcases made by area churches."

Donors to the hospital grounds included the Kellogg Foundation and Miss Gertrude Smith, who willed the eastern portion of the ground in 1932. A decade later the hospital had become overcrowded and a new 47-bed hospital was constructed, the first of several new buildings at the current Oaklawn site. Construction began in March 1952, and was dedicated in September of that year. The complex again expanded in 1962 to 69 beds. In 1975 Oaklawn celebrated 50 years of service with the opening of the original 12,000-square-foot Wright Medical Building. The complex continues to expand into the 21 Century as Marshall's largest employer with a team of nearly 800 people.

New Zebedee’s Dr. Humphries was inspired by Dr. Archie E. Humphrey, M.D. His practice was originally housed at 102 East Michigan Avenue in 1934, but moved, in 1940, to 122 North Madison, in the block south of the hospital. In 1958 his son, Dr. Herbert Humphrey, joined the practice; Herbert retired in 1992 [Marshall; 116; 225].


  • Marshall; Richard Carver [1993]
  • Nineteenth Century Homes of Marshall; Mabel Cooper Skjelver [1971]