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It’s a Girl! First baby born at Elizabeth Hatton Memorial Hospital on July 4, 1919

The 4th of July is a big deal in Grand Haven today. We’ve got fireworks. We have crowds. We block off the streets and make a big deal of the holiday. But back on July 4, 1919, there was another reason to celebrate.

Death and disease could be pretty frightening back in 1919, especially if you lived in a small town with limited access to medical care. The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 alone killed more than 50 million people worldwide. There was no vaccination available, and no antibiotics to treat the secondary infections that came along with this dangers disease. No community was exempt, including Grand Haven.

After his beloved wife, Elizabeth, died of this influenza, William Hatton decided he was going to do something proactive to help protect his hometown from future medical catastrophes. He purchased and then donated the former Loutit residence at 114 S. Fifth Street to give Grand Haven its first hospital. Local leaders and residents dedicated the Elizabeth Hatton Memorial Hospital on June 15, 1919.

As luck would have it, the entire country was celebrating on the day the first baby was born at the new Hatton Hospital! Proud parents Clarence and Barbara Vyn gratefully named their infant daughter after the benefactress of the hospital. Little Elizabeth Hatton Vyn entered the world on July 4, 1919 at her namesake hospital. She received a beautiful silver cup to commemorate the day.

This hospital did exactly what its founder hoped it would. Throughout the 20 years that Hatton Hospital served Grand Haven, more than 7,700 patients received local care. Little Elizabeth had plenty of playmates, too, as more than 1,400 children were born at the hospital alone! (That’s in addition to all those born at home or in maternity houses, which were in vogue at the time.)

Sadly, the Hatton Hospital building was torn down in July 1963. But the family remained strong supporters, involved not only with Hatton Hospital but also with the new Grand Haven Municipal Hospital when it was built in 1939.

An article in the June 16, 1919 Grand Haven Tribune reminds us of what we should celebrate during this 100th year of local care.

“The new hospital is now ready for the public. Today the first operation was performed there, and several more are scheduled for the present week. Thus the gift made in the memory of a woman, who suffered illness many months, herself, is dedicated to the bringing of comfort and care into the lives of the people of her home town.

“The great number of visitors and the deep expressions of appreciation, is evidence that the people of the city have accepted the gift with full hearts and the desire to see that it serves its wonderful mission.”

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