north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) was the nation’s first state-supported, residential high school for students with talents and interests in those fields. The school was a favorite project of Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. during his first term in office. Since its establishment in 1980, similar schools have been started in Louisiana, Illinois, Texas, Indiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. A total of 550 eleventh and twelfth grade students from across North Carolina are enrolled each year. The cost to the state per student is about three times the cost for a typical high school student. The school has a staff of fifty-eight, thirty-seven percent of whom have doctorates. The school is an affiliate of the University of North Carolina. Complaints were voiced during the debate over the school’s creation that it would skim the best students from the state’s schools. In recent years the institution has sought to serve those schools with in-service training for teachers and by sponsoring research and development for the classroom.

     Several North Carolina cities sought the school. Durham offered the winning bid, that being the abandoned twenty-seven acre campus of Watts Hospital. Founded in 1895, the hospital, located initially at the corner of Main and Buchanan Streets, was a gift to the people of Durham from tobacco magnate George Washington Watts. The hospital was state of the art for its day, pioneering work in radiology, bacteriology, and nurses training. In 1909 Watts financed the present Spanish Mission style campus at a cost of a million dollars, with half of the money spent on buildings and half on an endowment. Watts Hospital provided care to all white citizens regardless of their ability to pay. (Lincoln Hospital was established in 1921 to serve the black population.) North Carolina Blue Cross and Blue Shield evolved out of a hospital care association established at Watts in 1929. By the 1960s Watts was overcrowded and aging. Both Watts and Lincoln closed upon the opening of Durham County General Hospital in 1976.

P. Preston Reynolds, Watts Hospital of Durham, North Carolina, 1895-1976: Keeping the Doors Open (1992)
Jean Bradley Anderson, Durham County: A History of Durham County (1990)
Durham Herald-Sun, September 2, 1992
New York Times, July 1, 1992
North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics website:
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north carolina highway historical marker program

Old Watts Hospital building, now on the campus of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources