In 1844, Rev. Horace Fletcher built a spacious house in Townshend, Vermont. The house remained in the Fletcher family, and in 1905, Harriet Fletcher invited Miss Mary Plumb (pictured), a teacher at Leland & Gray Seminary, to share her home. Miss Plumb inherited the house after Miss Fletcher’s death. When she retired, she rented the downstairs to the new doctor in town, Dr. Carlos Otis and his wife, Ruth. From that day in 1938, for several years, it served as both home and doctor’s office.
In 1949, Miss Plumb offered the house to Dr. Otis to fulfill his dream of opening a hospital. With the promise of a bequest from Dr. Otis’ friend and neighbor, Dr. Abel Grout, the hospital was named after his wife, Grace. Other friends made substantial donations and sparked fund drives, and the community jumped in to form the Grace Cottage Hospital Auxiliary.
Grace Cottage Hospital opened its doors on August 7, 1949. 830 people attended the Sunday afternoon opening and toured the hospital with nurses Bessie Leonard, Eunice Bills, Valerie Streeter, and Lillian Lyons, while cook Emma Castle showed off the new kitchen. Refreshments were served on the front lawn of the hospital. The first baby was delivered that night at 1:08 a.m. on August 8, 1949.
Within a year, Hattie Stratton’s house next door was added as specified in her will, and in 1978, Ruth Heins donated her house next door to the growing hospital campus.
Dr. Otis served as hospital administrator until 1990, and as chairman of the board until he died in 1994.
1844 – Fletcher House is built.
1905 – Mary Plumb, a teacher and later vice principal of Leland & Gray Seminary, moves into the Fletcher House.
1938 – Dr. Otis opens his practice in Townshend, in rooms he rents for his office and home in the Fletcher Homestead.
1949 – Grace Cottage Hospital opens its doors.
1950 – Grace Cottage Auxiliary inaugurates the annual Fair Day fundraiser.
1950 – Mrs. Hattie Stratton designates that her home, adjacent to Grace Cottage, be given to the hospital upon her death.
1953 – Grace Cottage opens Stratton Nursing Home, a nursing home attached to the hospital.
1974 – Grace Cottage Hospital’s all-volunteer ambulance service is inaugurated.
1978 – Mrs. Ruth Heins, who lived next door to Grace Cottage, wills her house to the Hospital.
1980 – Grace Cottage opens Heins Home as a licensed, residential care home.
1984 – Dr. Carlos Otis is named Vermont Physician of the Year.
1990 – The community responds to the “To Be Or Not To Be” campaign; $1,000,000 is raised to keep the hospital going.
1992 – Grace Cottage opens the Wolff Outpatient building to provide space for Occupational and Physical Therapy, as well as a variety of specialists who travel from elsewhere to see patients one day a week. This building later houses the entire expanding Outpatient Rehabilitation Department.
1994 – Grace Cottage Foundation was created to raise funds for the facility.
1995 – Grace Cottage Family Health receives federal certification as a Rural Health Clinic.
1996 – Grace Cottage opens Messenger Valley Pharmacy.
1998 – The 19-bed Grace Cottage Hospital moves up the hillside into a brand new, 18,750 sq.-ft. building behind the original Fletcher house, and Grace Cottage Family Health expands to use all the space in the Fletcher house.
1999 – Mollie Beattie Woodland Garden dedicated.
2000 – Grace Cottage applies for and is designated as the first Critical Access Hospital in the State of Vermont.
2000 – Garden of Grace dedicated.
2002 – The 18-bed Stratton Nursing Home closes. A team spearheaded by Grace Cottage forms a project development committee for senior housing in Townshend, which gives birth to Valley Cares (West River Valley Assisted Living).
2002 – Grace Cottage delivers its last baby and discontinues obstetrics practice. Between 1949 and 2002, approximately 2,500 babies were born at Grace Cottage.
2006 – New kitchen is completed for Grace Cottage Hospital and a new 57-space parking lot is completed.
2007 – Heins Home Residential Care closes and residents move up the street to Valley Cares (West River Valley Assisted Living). Valley Cares is a separate organization, not affiliated with Grace Cottage.
2009 – Community Wellness Room is added to the Heins Building. Thirty ServCorps volunteers from Hartford, CT, came to Townshend for two weeks in September to build the 1,000 square foot addition.
2011 – Diagnostic Imaging Suite is added to the hospital as well as a 40-slice CT scanner.
2012 – Messenger Valley Pharmacy is expanded and renovated, tripling the size of the original space. ServCorps volunteers from Hartford, CT, return to help build the new addition for the pharmacy.
2013 – Grace Cottage accepts the gift of the Dennison House from Dr. Carlos and Ruth Otis’s daughters.
2013 – Grace Cottage joins Vermont Blueprint for Health, starts Community Health Team, and achieves Patient Centered Medical Home status.
2014 – Grace Cottage begins hospitalist program.
2015 – Sheila B. Friedli Entrance and Catherine B. Stratton Reception Area creates new main entry point for the hospital.
2017 — Dr. Robert Backus “retires”! (But he is still very involved.)
2017 & 2018 — Grace Cottage Hospital named a Top 20 Critical Access Hospital in the U.S. by the National Rural Health Association for “Best Practices – Patient Satisfaction,” out of all 1,346 Critical Access Hospitals in the U.S.
2017 & 2018 — Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital voted “Best Place to Work” and “Best Physical Therapy” in the Brattleboro Reformer’s Readers Choice Award.
2019 — Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital voted “Best Hospital,” “Best ER,” “Best Place to Work,” “Best Pediatrician,” and “Best Physical Therapy” in the Brattleboro Reformers Readers Choice Award.
2020 — Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital voted “Best Hospital,” “Best ER,” “Best Place to Work,” “Best Doctor,” “Best Pediatrician,” “Best Pharmacy,” and “Best Physical Therapy” in the Brattleboro Reformers Readers Choice Award.
2022 — Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital is “best” again, with awards for “Best Hospital,” “Best ER,” “Best Place to Work,” “Best Doctor,” “Best Pharmacy,” and “Best Physical Therapy” in the Brattleboro Reformers Readers Choice Award.
2023 — Grace Cottage Family Health & Hospital wins a “Best Place to Work in Vermont 2023” award through the Vermont Business Magazine contest.