Imagining the past: the Ecusta medical center, ahead of its time | Archive

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The Ecusta paper mill was once a major employer for the region, with over 2,000 employees working on its 225-acre site. It’s hard to believe that one of the few remnants of this once sprawling site is the medical center building, which is being transformed into the new home of Ecusta Brewing.

Built in 1951, the 8,800 square foot building was more than brick and mortar – it was a revolutionary approach to health and wellness for industrial workers. Harry Straus, the company’s founder, had a vision for the medical center when he brought in his personal friend, Dr. Mac Roy Gasque, as medical director of the planned facility. When Straus approached Gasque, he expressed an intention to collaborate to create “the best industrial medicine department in the world”.

Gasque participated in all stages of the planning and implementation of the initiative. Over the years, Gasque also remained with Ecusta during its transition to Olin and eventually became the company’s president before his retirement. Ahead of its time, the facility focused on preventative medicine, but it also provided medical and surgical care, counselling, and routine examinations to employees.

The facility was meant to supplement, not replace, regular employee doctors. The concept was so revolutionary that Gasque even won awards and the establishment’s initiatives were the subject of articles in prestigious medical journals.

When the factory changed hands and then closed in 2003, the medical center was the only building left. It is now taking on a second life as a community center and part of the thriving tourism industry that now supports the local economy.

Photographs and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina Room, Transylvania County Library. This article was written by local history librarian Laura Sperry Gardner. For more information, comments, or suggestions, contact NC Room staff at [email protected] or (828) 884-1820.

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