Riverside Sanitarium

NASHVILLE, TN — On September 29, 2018 at 3 pm the Riverside Historical Society will formally unveil placement of a historical marker for the Riverside Sanitarium, the first black

Womack H. Rucker Jr.

Seventh-day Adventist medical facility, founded in 1901. The marker will be placed at Riverside Chapel Seventh-day Adventist Church, 800 Youngs Lane, Nashville.

The first Black Seventh-day Adventist medical facility was founded in Nashville in 1901 as the Riverside Sanitarium. 

Under the direction of Nellie H. Druillard, the Riverside Sanitarium expanded to a hospital in 1927 — thanks to the determination, direction and considerable resources of Nellie H. Druillard, (1844-1937) who served as a missionary in

Nellie Druillard

South Africa with her husband at the turn of the century, holding a number of important positions in what was then an Adventist frontier. A couple of years later, Nellie H. Druillard financed and co-founded the Madison School with nephews P.T. Magan and E.A. Sutherland.   

Constructed in 1963, the Pagoda of Medicine was a Mid-Century Modern building associated with Nashville’s African-American history. Located on the former Riverside Adventist Hospital campus, the building was originally owned by Dr. Carl Ashley Dent (1914-1995), an African-American physician and missionary for the African-American Seventh-Day Adventist Church, founded in Nashville in 1883. A native of Georgia, in 1938 Dr. Dent became the first African-American offered a medical internship at Los Angeles County General Hospital. In 1940, Dr. Dent was hired as medical director of Nashville’s Riverside Sanitarium, founded in 1927 as a segregated hospital for Nashville’s African-American residents. Riverside focused on alternative therapies and became a mecca for African-American physicians, nurses, and patients from around the country.

Located on a high, rocky plateau on Youngs Lane, at the bend of the Cumberland River and near the American Baptist Seminary, proved to be a fortunate choice and was the site for Riverside Sanitarium and Hospital until it closed in 1983— from five frame cottages, Riverside expanded to a hospital in 1927 with a 50-bed brick structure, to a modern four-story facility with 85 beds in June 1948, to a three- story, 290-bed acute care hospital built in 1976. Riverside was a major employer and center of activities in the North Nashville community.

It was also home to the School of Practical Nursing, Riverside Sanitarium and the hospital offered a one-year program that brought students from many sections of the United States who were eager to certify as bedside nurses and doctors’ assistants. 

Adventist Health System closed the Riverside Hospital in 1983. It was sold to First Hospital in 1988. First Hospital operated a behavioral health hospital until 1999, when it had a licensed bed count of 132. 

Alumni of the school as well as former practitioners, staff, and employees of the hospital and, in many cases, the relatives of individuals, such as Dr. Carl A. Dent, Dr. Dorothy L. Brown, and Dr. William E. Coopwood, will be in attendance for the ceremony.

The public is invited to along with representatives from our community’s long-standing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) – Meharry, Fisk, TSU and American Baptist College.

In a brief program prior to the marker’s unveiling, Womack H. Rucker Jr., FACHE, the last administrator and president to serve Riverside Hospital, will be the keynote speaker. The Metropolitan Historical Commission for Nashville and Davidson County will erect the historical marker, and a reception will follow the ceremony.

In 1964, William E. Coopwood, MD, wrote, “The sick who come to Riverside Hospital can be assured of considerate, interested care and the utilization of the most modern methods in the diagnosis and treatment of ills,” and for more than eighty years, Riverside Sanitarium and Hospital served the African American community with compassion and professionalism.