ASHEBORO — Workers with McRae Roofing were seen last week taking down the solarium that’s been atop Randolph Health since 1947.
The structure is likely to wind up in South Carolina.
According to PJ Richards, marketing and public relations officer with Randolph Health, the roof of that section of building was in serious need of repairs and moving the solarium was the only way to get the job done.
The solarium, which is a metal frame with special glass panes to allow in ultraviolet rays from the sun, had to be dismantled and the parts were to be removed from the roof with a crane.
Richards said “we let the city and county know” that the solarium would be removed. But, she said, nobody has shown interest in taking over the iconic structure.
However, Tim Allen of McRae Roofing said he owns property at Society Hill, SC, and a neighbor of his down there plans to reassemble the parts for his own use. Allen said the man owns “an old home, a nice place. There’s a lot of work to do (in the reassembly),” such as creating a base for the solarium, sand blasting and other repairs.
The good news from Allen is that, while the solarium will no longer be in Asheboro, at the same time, “it won’t be scrapped.”
Solarium opening makes front page news
The solarium’s opening was featured in a couple of newspapers in March 1947. The Greensboro Daily News reported on March 9 that “the first convalescent patient to use the new facility” was “a man who had half his stomach removed a week ago.”
The article said the solarium was a memorial to the late N. McLaurin Cranford, an Asheboro industrialist and one of the founders of what was then called Randolph Hospital. He had served as secretary and treasurer of the board of directors.
Charles G. Bossong, founder of Bossong Hosiery, was credited with the idea for the solarium. It was said that three years before, he was convalescing at the hospital and felt that getting outside into the sunshine would be helpful to patients. He submitted his idea to D.B. McCrary, who was president of the hospital.
With approval of the board, Bossong was joined by his brother, J.C. Bossong, and Dr. George Joyner in underwriting the expense of the construction. The cost was estimated at $15,000.
The March 20, 1947, edition of The Courier-Tribune said the solarium “enables convalescing patients to enjoy the beneficial rays of the sun even during extreme winter weather. This facility is available in very few hospitals and puts the local hospital in the front rank with the best in the nation.”
The article gives the dimensions as approximately 25 feet by 30 feet, “completely enclosed with a special vita glass which admits the ultraviolet rays of the sun. Heat is provided by concealed radiators thermostatically controlled. The room is beautifully furnished in wicker with colorful seat covers. A combination radio and record player has been installed and a telephone is available. …
“Large doors open onto a promenade sun deck where patients may enjoy the out-of-doors on warm days.” There was also an elevator to the solarium.
The Courier-Tribune article went on to say that the structure was designed by Eric G. Flanagan of Henderson, who had been involved with the architecture of the hospital buildings. Materials were made by Lord & Burnham Company of Irvington, NY. Clyde Wood, a local contractor, oversaw the construction.
Charles G. Bossong’s son, Charles J. Bossong, said in an interview that he was probably 10 or 12 years old when the solarium opened. “I went up a few times but never used it,” he said. “I remember going up when it first opened with my parents. I’ve been up several times to visit (patients), but it’s been 20 or 30 years.”
Bossong said there were flowers that people were watering inside the structure and there was a door to the outside where patients could walk around.”
There were reports that the solarium had more recently been used for private events but Richards said it has been unused for several years.
Contractor left big footprint in town
Asheboro resident Nancy Klepacki said Clyde Wood, who oversaw the construction of the solarium, was her maternal grandfather.
She said he was involved in the building of a number of Asheboro landmarks. She said he was hired by local leaders such as C.C. Cranford to install the grey slate for the Church of the Good Shepherd and did work on the dam on City Lake #1, including repairs to the pumping station.
In a message, Klepacki said, “I’m going on Mom’s information, but he was hired to do work of various types at Lake #2 (McCrary) and Lake #3 (Bunch). He built the Hedrick Arcade Building, Cox-Lewis Hardware and the first portion of the Cetwick Mill and the 1937-38 additions to Cranford Chair Co. on South Church Street, including what is now known as “The Table.” He built the Ross home on Worth Street (now Brightside Gallery) in 1917-1918.
“In 1945, he partnered with our dad, Henry ‘Hank’ Klepacki and a few of their local projects were Guy B. Teachey School, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Asheboro Country Club, the dam and waterworks station on Lake Reece.
“Local architects Jack Croft and J. Hyatt Hammond hired them to build the Randolph County Public Library and Hammond’s personal residence in Greystone.
“The overhead walkway connecting the Asheboro Senior Citizens Center to the new Mill residential complex was also built by Grandad.
“When the Solarium was built (and I will have to look at Mom’s notes) between 1940-46, special ‘new’ ultraviolet glass was installed to line the atrium, at great expense, and even the installation had special requirements. As originally planned, it was to be a beautiful, airy indoor garden, accessible 24/7 for patients and their families to take a break and enjoy some peace and quiet.
“It was the custom for new mothers and their husbands to be treated to a beautifully prepared steak dinner by candle light, served in the Solarium, on fine linen with beautiful china (I seem to remember Noritake) and crystal.
“Together, (Clyde Wood and Hank Klepacki) built over a dozen of Asheboro’s finest 1950s-60s homes on Dave’s Mountain for local doctors, attorneys and prominent businessmen.
“The Solarium was popular up until the ’70s. It fell into decline, but every few years, an effort would be made to spruce it up. The Randolph Hospital Board of Directors held meetings and conferences there in the ’80s and ’90s.
“Father Mike (my brother) and I are happy to know it hasn’t been forgotten and ‘Pop’ would be tickled pink.”