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Mrs. George Prime

Articles: Sarasota History

Author: Ann Shank, former Sarasota County Historian
Source: Sarasota County Historical Resources
Photo Credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources
Credit: Sarasota County Historical Resources

Sarasota History - Mrs. George Prime photo

Kate Prime, as was typical for her generation, was publicly known by her husband’s name, but she made a name for herself in the role she played to bring a community hospital to Sarasota. In the 1910s Dr. Joseph Halton had a small private hospital that could serve 21 patients. By the early 1920s, however, it became apparent that the growing community, with a ballooning winter population, needed a more adequate medical facility.

For several years the Woman’s Club had talked of the need for a hospital and begun to raise funds for land. By 1922 the Sarasota County Welfare Association, formed as a coalition of various organizations concerned with charitable community activities, took on the responsibility for building a hospital and the following year the Woman’s Club turned over their $1,135.25 hospital fund to the Association.  

Early in 1924 the need for a hospital became critical, and Kate Prime, President of the Welfare Association and member of the Woman’s Club, hosted a series of public meetings at her home to launch the building program. It was decided to raise the funds by public subscription because it would take too long for the county to issue bonds for it. Jean Smith headed the hospital finance committee and George Thacker chaired the building committee. Dr. A.O. Morton and Louis Combs donated four lots on Hawthorne Street, which were outside the Sarasota City limits. Martin Studios provided the architectural services.

During the winter of 1924-1925, the number of patients needing hospital care grew so large that a 5-room bungalow on Tenth (now Fourth) Street was converted into an emergency hospital.  During the 11 months that it operated, it served 232 patients. Work on the new hospital began that summer, at a time when many members of the Welfare Association were out of town. Much to her consternation, Kate Prime discovered upon returning to Sarasota in August that the building was going up on the wrong lots. Acquisition of the correct property necessitated purchase of more land than was needed, so the extra acreage was sold, with the income going to the Welfare Association.

On November 2, 1925 the new hospital (pictured) officially opened. The local contracting firm, Logan and Curran, had overseen construction of the $44,600 building, which was designed to be the first of three sections. The Sarasota Herald described the new structure as denoting “stability and permanence,” with heavy columns across the front. The hundreds of visitors on opening day toured the facilities, met Gertrude, a doll that Jean Smith presented as a mascot for the hospital, and reportedly enjoyed the refreshments provided by the members of the Welfare Association.  An elevator, heating system, and Frigidaire were the only pieces of equipment not yet installed.

Kate Prime continued her leadership with the hospital by serving on the Board of Directors, several years as chair, with Jean Smith, George Thacker, A. O. Morton and Ruth Wilhelm.  Wilhelm had staffed the emergency hospital and became superintendent of the new hospital.  Within two years, a $175,000 bond issue provided the funds for an addition to the hospital, which brought the capacity to 60 beds by the end of 1927.