Today, if you are injured or need urgent medical care, the state-of-the-art Westerly Hospital is the only emergency room in town, however, this was not always the case. For nearly four decades, a second hospital operated in Westerly before closing its doors in August 1963.  This facility, the Margaret Edward Anderson Hospital, was located on Westerly-Watch Hill Road and was managed by a well-known and highly-respected physician by the name of Doctor John Gordon Anderson.
The Man Behind the Hospital: Dr. John Gordon Anderson
While the story of the Margaret Edward Anderson Hospital is a fascinating one, the man who was the driving force behind it is just as important. In 1873, Dr. Anderson’s father, John C. Anderson, left his home in Aberdeen, Scotland to make a new life for himself in the United States.  Eventually, John settled in Westerly where he worked as a stonecutter.  Around 1888, he married an immigrant from Kincaidshire, Scotland named Margaret Edward. 
John and Margaret Anderson would become the parents to three boys, the second of whom was born in Westerly on December 29, 1892, and given the name John Gordon Anderson.  The family remained in Westerly where the boys were all born and raised. In 1913, John G. Anderson graduated from Westerly High School.  After his graduation, John went on to attend the University of Rhode Island (then known as Rhode Island State College) where he studied Applied Science.  Anderson’s interest in medicine was apparent during his studies in Kingston, as the 1917 yearbook gives his nickname as “Doctor” and notes that he delivered a prize speaking essay on immunization. 
The career path of John G. Anderson took a turn after his studies at URI when he enlisted in the military and served in the Army Medical Corps.  After completing his military service, Anderson would go on to attend Harvard Medical School, where he graduated at the top of his class.  John’s superb performance at Harvard opened him up to several high profile opportunities.
First, he served as an intern at both Boston City Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital in 1922.  That same year, Dr. Anderson was awarded a three-year appointment at the Mayo Clinic and he also later served on the staff of the New York City Hospital.  Eventually, Dr. Anderson would be named the first Chief of Staff at the Westerly Hospital, when it opened in 1925.  Despite all of these accomplishments, it was Dr. Anderson’s work at another local hospital that would form the largest part of his legacy.
The Margaret Edward Anderson Hospital
In 1925, at the conclusion of his stint at the Mayo Clinic, Dr. Anderson returned to his hometown where he established a hospital in his home at 23 Cross Street.  This hospital would be Anderson’s primary focus until Christmas Day 1927 when he began a more ambitious project. It was then that he opened the Margaret Edward Anderson Hospital, named in honor of his mother, at the former Tristam Babcock Homestead.  The grounds were located on the banks of the Pawcatuck River on Watch Hill Road. 
At the time of its opening, the hospital had five private rooms and one room with three beds, additional rooms brought the total capacity to twenty beds.  The hospital was staffed by five nurses, including the superintendent of nurses, Mary I. Patton, who would become Dr. Anderson’s wife. 
The hospital’s third floor was devoted to obstetrical cases with a dedicated delivery room.  During his medical career, Dr. Anderson became well known for his diagnostic abilities and he was recognized throughout New England for his medical knowledge and surgical skills.  He would also publish articles including in the American Journal of Surgery. 
Of the 132 deaths recorded in Westerly during 1928, the hospital’s first full year of operation, 15 were recorded at the Margaret Edward Anderson Hospital.  These numbers would decrease over the history of the hospital, with only 11 recorded in 1932 and five in 1946.  These numbers may have been the product of several factors including advancing medical technology, decreased patient totals, or a decrease in the number of life-threatening cases taken on by the hospital. Unfortunately, the birth records for Westerly during the hospital’s operation are not available, and therefore, it cannot be ascertained exactly how many children were born there each year.
Dr. Anderson was not the only highly decorated doctor employed by the hospital, Dr. John D. Camp, who worked as a radiologist at the hospital, was awarded the 1949 gold medal from the Radiological Society of North America for his contributions to the field. 
The Margaret Edward Anderson Hospital closed in August 1963 for unknown reasons.  It is notable, however, that the hospital closed just as the Westerly Hospital opened a new wing, and it is quite possible that the Anderson Hospital was no longer necessary. The legacy of Dr. Anderson’s Hospital has lasted more than half a century after the facility closed its doors for the last time. On March 9, 1968, the hospital building and the land it was built upon were sold to Dr. Anderson’s son, Marshall. 
Dr. John Gordon Anderson died in Westerly on February 13, 1982, however, the legacy of his hospital lives on.  While the exact number of births at the hospital is not known, it is a near certainty that many of those born at the Margaret Edward Anderson Hospital are still living today.