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Our History

old photo of original hospital building

In the beginning

It was beautiful, rolling countryside here in Loudoun County, rural in every regard, to which P. Howell Lightfoot returned in 1911 after many years in the West working in hospital management. Soon his stories about small hospitals being built around the country fell on interested ears. For several years two prominent local physicians, Dr. William C. Orr and Dr. John A. Gibson, had felt Leesburg needed a hospital desperately. Babies were delivered at home and minor surgical procedures were performed either in patients’ homes or in doctors’ offices under unsatisfactory conditions. Patients in need of major surgery were transported to a Washington hospital on a cot in the baggage car of the local railroad, suffering great discomfort and danger.

It was in Horace Littlejohn’s drug store that the plan took share. And while Dr. Orr, Dr. Gibson and pharmacist Littlejohn worked out the details, Mr. Lightfoot toured the county, explaining the need for a hospital. A group of 11 dedicated citizens banded together, and on June 5, 1912, Leesburg Hospital opened in a rented house and hastily admitted its first patient, fittingly, a jockey thrown from his horse in a race.


Philanthropy runs through it

With $100 in the bank and pledges for $2,000 the officers and directors of the new hospital rented the Market Street building from Captain Garrett for $30.

Dr. William Clayton Orr was a graduate of Virginia Medical College. He came to Hillsboro “with his horse and buggy and $40” and later moved to Leesburg. A favorite story tells he used to lure the town’s night watchman into riding out on house calls with him “just to the edge of town” and the man would find himself on the way to Oatlands or some equally distant point. Dr. Orr’s name and service continued on through his son, Dr. Robert Orr, who practiced medicine for many years in Leesburg.

Dr. John A. Gibson, a graduate of the University of Maryland, was also a very civic-minded man. Dr. Gibson liked to call himself “the country doctor,” and he lived up to his name. Once during a terrible snowstorm he hired a horse and sleigh and went out to make calls. He came back that evening riding the horse. Even the sleigh couldn’t get through.

Mr. Horace Littlejohn was a respected pharmacist in Leesburg for 61 years. For decades, in the front of his drug store on King Street young people met and made dates. But it was in the back room where influential discussions took place, as the gentlemen, the town’s leaders, sat around and played a card game called “Set-Back." Mr. Littlejohn served as treasurer of the hospital for 37 years without compensation.


The Ladies Board

The officers, board members and organizers of the hospital realized that with little equipment and less money, the hospital would need quality volunteer supervision of housekeeping and a dependable source of ongoing fundraising. So they turned to the women of the community. Thus, on June 25, 1912, The Ladies Board of Managers met for the first time.

They invited 40 members representing the churches of Leesburg and each of the surrounding towns and villages to ensure widespread support. Electing Mrs. William Corcoran Eustis as president and Miss Alice Davis as vice president, the ladies immediately held a Donation Day. They invited community residents to come inspect their new hospital and to “bring with them some donation – no matter how small or how large,” including “money, furniture, pictures, sheets, towels, pillowcases, a pound of tea, groceries, eggs, vegetables, china, etc., anything which might contribute to the hospital equipment and to the well-being and comfort of the patients.”

For many years the volunteers of The Ladies Board assumed responsibility for overseeing the housekeeping, supplying china, glassware and silver for the dining room and maintaining equipment and supplies for the kitchen, rooms and wards.

At the beginning of the century, Mrs. William Corcoran Eustis established the Lena Morton Memorial Nurse Service, the first rural visiting nurse service in Virginia. She maintained the program until her death in 1964. A charter member of the Board of Directors, Mrs. Eustis, the owner of the Oatlands Estate, demonstrated an unflagging interest in the hospital for over 50 years. Through her memorials to her husband and sister, Mrs. Eustis provided hospital care for many who otherwise would have added to the hospital’s financial burdens.

When the doctors decided that a hospital was needed, Dr. Gibson called on Miss Alice Davis, a clergyman’s daughter. “Unless you women will go along, we’ll not attempt it," he said. Miss Davis, a charter member of the Board of Directors, helped galvanize the women. In addition to helping nurse the first patient, she again helped with the nursing during the 1918-19 influenza outbreak. Although she was not professionally trained, she continued to care for many charity cases throughout her lifetime as part of her dedicated hospital work.

Limited space caused overcrowding resulting in turning patients away. Soon, the Board of Directors was hard at work looking for a solution, and in 1914 they began to plan for the construction of a new hospital.


The community steps up again

The Ladies Board and the building committee held a series of bazaars, suppers, fairs and other activities to raise funds, and in 1916 thirteen acres was purchased from the Harrison family for $3,600. Construction on the new hospital on Cornwall Street began in March 1917 and it opened in April 1918 boasting 26 beds, six private rooms, four wards, an operating room, a chemical laboratory and an X-ray machine.


And again . . . .

Quarters for the off-duty nurses were on the third floor of the hospital building. It is reported that a former patient became convinced after his stay on the second floor that patients needed to be relieved of the noise above them and that the nurses needed more comfortable quarters. The patient then started a drive to raise the necessary funds for the home in which there would be comfortable quarters, necessary facilities and a dining area.

The Nurses’ Home was built in 1926 at a cost of $12,000.

By the early 1940s, the hospital built for 1918’s population was seriously overcrowded. After the war ended in 1945, the Board launched immediately into expansion mode – again.

Until this time, the hospital had remained fiercely independent of government funding. However, with the new federal Hill-Burton Act offering to help fund the building and expansion of the community hospital, an application was filed in January 1947. Finally, in late 1948, federal funding for one-third the cost was granted, along with $61,221 from the Commonwealth of Virginia – conditional upon construction beginning within 30 days. The hospital was $115,000 short of the lowest bid of $397,126 to build the new facility.


The community to the rescue

Mr. Paul Mellon came to the rescue with a gift of $50,000 and an anonymous source agreed to underwrite the balance until the funds could be raised.

And in 1960 The Arthur Godfrey wing and new east wing open, expanding the hospital to 85 beds.

In 1970, it was announced that a new hospital would be built on the northwest side of the Cornwall Street campus and in 1974 the new three-story, $6.6 million hospital was ready. The long term care unit opened with 85 beds in 1974 and in 1981 the 100-bed long term care center opened.

Since 1912 Loudoun County has continued to experience an ever-growing population and since its inception Loudoun Hospital has expanded to keep pace. The needs of the community in the 1990s prompted a significant gift of land that enabled the hospital to plan a state-of-the-art hospital to serve the ever-increasing numbers of patients. In 1997, a mood of excitement tinged with reluctance accompanied the move from the beloved Cornwall Street site to the new Lansdowne Campus.

The move to Lansdowne brought private rooms, a new Birthing Inn and Women’s Center, expanded surgical services and diagnostic services.

In 2005 Loudoun Hospital Center merged with Inova Health System. This new partnership brought much needed financial stability to support continued growth and expansion of facilities and services throughout the County – ensuring access to quality care close to home.

With the merger came a name change to Inova Loudoun Hospital but our core values remained unchanged. Support through the merger enabled Inova Loudoun Hospital to continue the tradition of neighbor taking care of neighbor. A promise that is now stronger than ever.

Since the merger, Inova Loudoun Hospital has established a coronary intervention program, da Vinci robotic-assisted surgery program, breast surgery program , outpatient specialty rehabilitation, cancer care center, outpatient surgery center, a new west wing and urgent care programs throughout the county. The merger also brought the opening of a dedicated pediatric care unit and the pediatric emergency department.

In 1912, our predecessors, Dr. Orr, Dr. Gibson, Horace Littlejohn and P. Howell Lightfoot dreamed of a hospital for their beloved Loudoun County. Their dream came true because the community came together to raise the funds to make it happen. As a not- for-profit hospital, significant advancement at Inova Loudoun Hospital over the last 100 years has been possible because of the support of donors. Donors who, over the last 100 years of caring, have protected and expanded the original mission that began so long ago in Horace Littlejohn’s drugstore.

In 2011 we come full circle with the "The Cornwall Cares" campaign. It seems fitting that 100 years after the first hospital opened, we are again moving forward to ensure the best care possible is available in the most appropriate setting. It also seems fitting that the community’s partnership will again make it happen. In order to continue keeping that promise the Cornwall Campus is once again our focus. The plan is to build a new state-of-the-art emergency department, a new outpatient laboratory and expand diagnostic imaging. The inpatient behavioral health program will be relocated to a newly renovated wing. Moreover, the buildings will be modernized to provide easier access to all services. These expansions and improvements will enable us to better serve the next generation of patients.