Stories of Service: The Founding of Norton Children’s Hospital

Series will explore the history of Norton Children’s Hospital on display at Frazier History Museum

Did you know that Norton Children’s Hospital was the site of the nation’s second infant heart transplant … or that the hospital was founded on the heels of the deadliest tornado in the city’s history? You can learn about the hospital’s 125-year history by visiting “Hope and Healing: Celebrating 125 Years of Norton Children’s Hospital” at Frazier History Museum.

The 4,200-square-foot exhibit explores how the hospital has served the community in good times and in bad, all the while shaping the evolution and innovation of care for children and families. We’ll explore the history on display at the Frazier in a series called “Stories of Service.”

The city’s worst tornado
Hope and Healing: Celebrating 125 Years of Norton Children’s Hospital

Interested in more history facts in a hands-on exhibit experience? “Hope and Healing: Celebrating 125 Years of Norton Children’s Hospital” is at Frazier History Museum through Feb. 4, 2018.

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On March 27, 1890, a tornado tore through Louisville, killing 75 and injuring more than 200. Many of the injured were children attending a dance class at Falls City Hall.

At that time, the city was not equipped to care for sick and injured children. Luckily, just months before the disaster, Mary Lafon had set the wheels in motion to create a children’s hospital. Lafon was one of 60 volunteers who would, for the next two months, spearhead the city’s relief and reconstruction effort while forging ahead with the creation of the hospital.

On Oct. 9, 1890, only seven months after the tornado struck, the country’s 10th children’s hospital was incorporated. The founders named it Children’s Free Hospital.

Not just a sewing circle

History remembers Lafon and the early founders of the Children’s Hospital as a simple sewing circle. In reality, the women who ran the hospital were known as the Hospital Circle — a powerful volunteer force from Warren Memorial Presbyterian Church. As volunteer facility administrators and public relations staff, members of the circle recruited and managed the hospital’s 99 percent volunteer workforce. They also happened to meet once a month to sew linens for the hospital.

About the Frazier History Museum

The Frazier History Museum is located at 829 W. Main St. on Louisville’s downtown “Museum Row.” The Frazier is where the world meets Kentucky, bringing history to life for visitors through exhibits, artifacts and live performances every day. The Frazier is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call (502) 753-5663 or visit