Community support helped forge South Shore hospital
As the South Shore of Lake Tahoe grew in the 1950s, it became apparent that a local hospital was needed to serve the community.
Plans for a South Lake Tahoe hospital were drawn up and approved in 1960, but to qualify for matching state and federal grants to construct the million-dollar hospital, the South Shore had to raise more than $422,000. That goal launched a four-month fundraising drive in November 1960. Among the community donors to the hospital was the Fleischman Foundation, which donated $103,000.
The site of the hospital was on part of a cattle ranch owned by the late William “Bill” Barton, who was born to a California pioneer family on a ranch near Folsom. His family had used the South Shore ranch as summer grazing land before South Lake Tahoe became the urban community it is today. Barton’s daughters, Alva Barton and Faye Ledbetter, donated the land for the hospital, which was named Barton Memorial Hospital.
The hospital had 38 beds when it opened its doors on Nov. 26, 1963, three years after the initial fundraising drive. But community fundraising didn’t stop, and the hospital continued to expand in the subsequent decades, adding new wings and modern medical equipment.
The Barton Memorial Hospital Auxiliary formed in 1961, with volunteers raising funds and assisting hospital staff. Today, the auxiliary raises funds for the hospital through its Attic thrift store on Lodi Avenue. The Barton Memorial Hospital Foundation formed in the 1990s to organize fundraising events throughout the year to benefit the hospital. But donations to the hospital have not been limited to South Shore residents.
In 1973, Elvis Presley performed in Stateline to sold-out crowds at the Sahara Tahoe casino. During the concerts, Presley and his manager, Col. Tom Parker, donated souvenirs, including photo books, posters and other novelty items, to the Barton Auxiliary, whose members sold the items at a booth in the hotel. Presley also held a special Mother’s Day concert at 3 a.m. on May 13, 1973, in memory of his mother, Gladys, and donated his check to Barton Memorial Hospital.
In a June 8, 1973, letter to the editor, auxiliary member Valerie Dayton reported: “His $12,000 donation from his special Mother’s Day show, plus the $13,369 from his 100 percent donation of Elvis Presley souvenirs for our hospital fund, will enable the Barton Hospital to open its new wing in the near future, we are confident.”
The hospital continued to expand into the 1990s, when ground was broken for a 60,000-square-foot building to house the current areas for patient care, surgery, emergency and medical imaging.
Today, Barton Memorial Hospital serves visitors and residents of the South Shore 24 hours a day, reporting 22,000 emergency-room visits per year ranging from traffic accidents to skiing injuries. A 180-member medical staff serves at least 75 in-patient beds, and the hospital features modern medical equipment, such as a 64-slice CT scan imaging machine.
With ongoing donations, fundraisers and community support, Barton continues to update its facilities and health services throughout the South Shore as it embraces the 21st century. It has come a long way since the days of Bill Barton’s summer cattle ranch.