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DURHAM, N. C.
(l)iike ])hoto by Spnrks)
Baker House in
Space problems loom large on the
local as well as the international scene.
With Duke Medical Center growiu!?
as rapidly as the cost of buildin", the
need to make the most of every nook
of the existing facility is felt every
This spring Baker House again
bends with the needs of the Medical
Center and ceases to be primarily a
residence for house staff ])ersonnel
when about fifty rooms will be con
verted to much needed office space for
the Medical School faculty. Within
the month no one will be able to call
Baker House “home.” Roughly half
of the space in the building will be
occupied by ofifices with the remaining
half used for call rooms and lounge
facilities for house staff officers on
duty at night.
While this may move many senti
mentalists to grieve over the fact that
things aren’t the same anymore, a
closer look at the history of this build
ing shows it to be a remarkably adaj)t-
able edifice. Built back in 1!)81, it
was known only as the Nurses’ Home
for almost 12 years. The opening of
the Nurses’ Home at the end of the
Nursing School’s first year of exist-
en;e was a welcome relief for the
students who had previously been
housed and fed on the East cam])us.
Back in those years Baker House
was separated from the main hospital
by about 200 feet of woods. At this
time the building was a residence
only—the nurses had classes and ate
in the hospital. During the first
twenty years few changes took place
except for the renaming of the build
ing in 1943 in honor of Miss Bessie
Baker, the first dean of the Duke
School of Nursing.
Although Miss Baker held her post
as dean for only eight years (when
she resigned due to illness), it is ai>-
parcnt from talking to any of the
original members of the hospital stafi'
that this woman left a lasting im])rint
on both the hospital and iiursing
school. As former Dean Wilburt C.
Davison says, “Miss Baker was a dy
namic |)ersonality, a forceful char
acter and compelling leader with a
sense of Inimor who left a lasting im
print.” Miss Baker was lured to
Duke in its opening year by Dr.
Davison (with the help, he says, of a
southern, spring day in March) from
her job in Minnesota. She came here
with an enviable reputation among
medical educators across the country
for her work in the midwest and as
head of Johns Hoj)kins Ilosintal’s
World War I Field Hospital.
Her Irish background was easily
recognizable in her ability to work
hard, her temper and her sense of
humor. She was a member of the old
school who believed whole-heartedly
in the role of nurse as one trained in
the art of service to the jnitient and
the doctor. To make sure that ]>a-
tients were being well taken care of.
Miss Baker made daily rounds on
every ])atieut in the hos])ital. In
spite of this constant striving for ])ro-
fessional excellence, friends like to
recall her inability to learn to di'ive a
car. She kept trying, but accn-
(Continued on j)age 7)
(I)ukc plioto by Sparks)
This portrait of Miss Bessie Baker, painted
by Mary Tillery, was presented to the Uni
versity by the Alumnae of the School of
Nursing on June 4, 1939. It hangs in the
lobby of Hanes House.