Old Davis Hospital nearing end of its days?

From 1925 to 1986, the site of the Old Davis Hospital was a pioneering regional medical center with an impressive list of medical firsts.

Then, after being closed for five years, the building was used in 1991 as the setting for a B-grade horror flick, "The Boneyard," featuring actress Phyllis Diller.

Today, the two-story brick building on West End Avenue in Statesville is an abandoned shell, punctuated by broken windows and graffiti. For years, city officials have been searching for a way to demolish the structure, technically now owned by the Statesville Housing Authority, without imposing a significant burden on taxpayers.

At the City Council's Dec. 6 meeting, the city might have finally found a way. The council gave Planning Director David Currier the green light to apply for a $1million federal Economic Development Initiative grant. Currier said he believes the city could use the money to tear down the eyesore.

"The EDI grant does not require a local match but does require an environmental assessment, which would be paid from grant funds," he said. "The application due date is Dec. 31, which will be difficult to meet, but staff would like to be able to try."

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's guidelines, EDI grants can be used for such projects as "property acquisition; rehabilitation of publicly owned property; housing rehabilitation; economic development activities; acquisition, construction, reconstruction or installation of public facilities; and other site improvements."

If the application is successful and the building is demolished, it would mark an inglorious end to a medical center opened by Dr. James Davis in 1925.

It was one of the first hospitals in North Carolina to use a radiographoscope to view X-ray films, operate an around-the-clock emergency room and install air conditioning in its operating rooms.

More recent years at the Old Davis Hospital have been less kind. Besides hosting the horror movie, the building is rumored to be haunted.

According to, "The hospital is haunted by numerous ghosts. People who are brave enough and sneaky enough to go in will feel the presence of former patients following them through the halls. A baby crying is heard near the pediatrics ward, and there is an overbearing feeling of dread throughout the ... building."

Regardless of whether any of that is true, city officials and the building's neighbors want to see the structure leveled as soon as possible.

"About all I can find out around here is that it's a popular place for people to say is haunted, that there's a lot of asbestos in it and that the city would like to get it torn down," city spokeswoman Nancy Davis said.