Celebrating History in Coatesville

Posted May 22, 2023

Success Story

What was once a bustling hospital providing the local Coatesville community with "quality healthcare for all despite the inability to pay," now stands as an active community center offering neighborhood revitalization, resources, referrals and housing for low-income families, and shelter for homeless men.

The W.C. Atkinson Memorial Community Service Center celebrated its 35th anniversary, in addition to a street dedication to honor the legacy and contributions of Dr. Whittier C. Atkinson on what would have been his 130th birthday — April 23.

As the first Black physician in Chester County, Atkinson was considered a true trailblazer of his time. He graduated Howard University in 1924, began his Coatesville practice in 1927, and founded the Clement Atkinson Memorial Hospital just nine years later in 1936, after facing discrimination from many of his colleagues. Atkinson was also the first Black president of the Chester County Medical Society; and was named PA Practitioner of the year in 1960.

A historic marker erected in 2007 by the PA Historical & Museum Commission sits outside the historic building, which is located on the 800 block of East Chestnut Street. It reads: "Whittier C. Atkinson — 1893-1991: Founded Clement Atkinson Memorial Hospital here, 1936, offering quality health care to all despite inability to pay. First African American president of Chester County Medical Society; Pa. Practitioner of the year, 1960. A 1924 graduate of Howard University, he began his Coatesville practice in 1927."

As part of the ceremony and street dedication, the City of Coatesville called out names of those who were born at the hospital, including many who are still alive today. CCPC's Heritage Preservation Coordinator, Laura DeMatteo, was fortunate enough to attend noting that it was a "very moving" ceremony.

It's stories like this that help us to preserve the historic resources and landscapes that define our cultural heritage. By doing so, we're able to inspire the future through tangible connections to our shared past — as stated in the Appreciate goal in Landscapes3.

Learn more about the City of Coatesville.