Historic Pittsboro: The Mathiesen Clinic

by Francis DiNardo

Pittsboro residents and visitors can choose from several excellent facilities to seek medical treatment. There are doctor’s offices, an Urgent Care facility, the nearby UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill and Siler City, or you can walk into the Mathiesen Clinic in downtown Pittsboro.

Oh wait…that’s wrong…the Mathiesen Clinic closed in 1974.

Dr. K.M. Mathiesen

That’s a shame because from the time it was built in 1948 until the clinic closed, a wide variety of medical care was available to the people of Pittsboro and Chatham County. 

The bulding, located at 45 West Street next door to The Pittsboro Roadhouse and General Store, was built by Dr. K. M. Mathiesen. Mathiesen arrived in Pittsboro in 1939 after completing medical school at Duke University and an internship at Watts Hospital in Durham. Before building his clinic, Dr. Mathiesen treated patients at what was his home at 315 Hillsboro Street—next to the historic Wade Barber home. 

In addition to being a well-loved community doctor, Mathiesen established the 7th Day Adventist Church in Pittsboro and was once Mayor of Pittsboro. One anecdote includes Mayor Mathiesen occasionally sweeping the streets of Pittsboro with a straw broom. I have to talk to Mayor Cindy Perry about that!

Dr. Mathiesen and his staff administered stitches, vaccinations, poison ivy treatment and more. The Mathiesen Clinic had a maternity ward where many current Pittsboro residents were born. Appendectomies to tonsillectomies were performed in the surgical unit. And there was a morgue, naturally. I found myself wondering what that room might be used for today. 

The elevator in the Mathiesen Clinic was the first one in Pittsboro.

Several years ago, my friend Mariah Wheeler proprietor of The Joyful Jewel, opened her shop in the clinic building. She told me that people would occasionally stop in to tell her stories about how they’d either been born there, treated there, or had a loved one pass away there. “People even told me that the place was supposedly haunted, but I never saw any ghosts,” she said. I love Mariah but I’m not sure I believe her about not seeing the ghosts.

Another interesting historical note about the clinic was that it contained the first indoor elevator in Pittsboro, making it the first elevator many Pittsboro residents rode in. The Mathiesen Clinic was quite modern in its day.

Dr. Mathiesen, whose wife suffered from asthma, was most well known for the asthma treatment he provided at his clinic. Mathiesen developed an asthma treatment medication after spending time in Texas with a doctor who had perfected a formula for treating asthma patients. Many people were interested in the formula, including drug company researchers and government regulators, because it was said to contain a small amount of arsenic. It’s said that Duncan Renaldo, the actor who played The Cisco Kid on TV, once brought his asthmatic son to Pittsboro to be treated by Dr. Mathiesen.

Charles Thomas, a Pittsboro native and an active volunteer at the Chatham County Historical Association, recalls that his mother worked at the clinic for 20 years along with nurses Aunt Junior Alston and JoAnna Leach. Leach, also well known for running a Pittsboro boarding house for men, is still living at the age of 102 and recently attended a wedding at the handicapped accessible Courthouse.

The Mathiesen Clinic left the building when building code violations developed over time. The building has seen a variety of tenants over the years including the Chatham County Democratic Party, the Chatham Arts Council, a jewelry repair business, a bail bondsman, and a children’s dressmaker. It is now called The Professional Building, is partially occupied by The Rusty Rooster antique shop. It is owned by the Marlowe family of Myrtle Beach SC. Recent water damage to the basement caused by a frozen water pipe has limited access to the interior. This prevented me from taking photos but I was pleased to have been given photos of the elevator and Dr. Mathiesen by the Chatham County Historical Association.

Thanks to Charles Thomas, Kay Judge, Mariah Wheeler and the Chatham County Historical Association for pictures and oral histories.

 

Do you have stories about the Mathiesen Clinic? Were you born there? Do you know someone who was treated there? We’d appreciate hearing your stories! Please post them in the comments section below.

2018-04-26T13:55:49-04:00March 15th, 2018|

59 Comments

  1. Sharron Womble March 15, 2018 at 8:52 pm - Reply

    My husband was born there in 1958, he also had his tonsils removed there. His mom never went to the doctor until she was in labor with him. She ran a restaurant in Deep River and said she didn’t have time to go. His name is William Watson Womble, Jr. (Billy)

    • Main Street Pittsboro March 16, 2018 at 12:15 pm - Reply

      Hi Sharron. Thank you for sharing your husband’s and your mother-in-law’s stories with us. Do either of them recall Dr. Mathiesen or the nurses who worked there?

      • Kevin Stone June 6, 2019 at 11:12 pm - Reply

        After the Historic Courthouse caught fire a few years ago the probation offices were temporarily located there… I worked 3pm to midnight full time then and was in and out a lot late and it was very spooky at times… It really reminded me of the original Nightmare on Elm Street movie with all the lights off coming in there about midnight to end your shift… But I never saw any ghosts

  2. Mariah Wheeler March 15, 2018 at 9:14 pm - Reply

    Oh yes! The window to the left of the big one in the front, was the window of my studio inside the Joyful Jewel when I first started the shoppe. My part was just a room, what used to the the front waiting room, about 300 square feet that included my studio as well as the beginnings of the Joyful Jewel. We moved from the Mathieson Clinic building in 2010 to our current 2,000 square foot gallery on Hillsboro St. Although I was more ambitious than what could be done in that small space, I remember it fondly. I loved being in the same building as Molly Matlock and the Chatham Arts Council (where I met Lesley Landis too). I loved hearing of the history of the building, waiting for a ghost to turn the light back on, and hearing of local folks who had been born there. The elevator was only big enough for one small bed, and one thin person — apparently the beds used to be a lot smaller — as were a lot of people! I often sat outside beside the waterfall that I had painted on the sidewalk (by Deborah Dorland), waiting for customers. One day, horrified, I watched the court house burn down, having to wait late into the night to get my car out because of the fire hoses.

    • Main Street Pittsboro March 16, 2018 at 12:22 pm - Reply

      We remember entering your tiny space in the Mathiesen Clinic building via the magical waterfall sidewalk, Mariah. It’s still barely visible.

  3. Kathy Stack March 15, 2018 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    My mom worked there! (Betty Cothran)
    My brother was also admitted and treated for a copperhead bite when he was 9 years old.

    • Main Street Pittsboro March 16, 2018 at 12:26 pm - Reply

      What kind of work did your mother do in the clinic, Kathy? Did your brother recover from the snake bite? Your family must have a lot of stories of the Mathiesen Clinic. We’d love to hear them!

  4. Mitzi Poe Scarlett March 15, 2018 at 11:58 pm - Reply

    Was born there in 1959!! By Dr Mathiesen! After he and his wife moved to Bryson City TN we would go visit him!!!

    • Main Street Pittsboro March 16, 2018 at 12:27 pm - Reply

      Congrats Mitzi. You’re a Mathiesen baby! Do you know why the Matheisens’s chose Bryson City to move to? Did Dr. Matheisen open another clinic there?

      • Mitzi Scerlett July 27, 2018 at 10:47 pm - Reply

        No I am not sure why hevchose Bryson City but yes he did work after he went there, he had a clinic. My mom had asthma and he treated her. Instill remember the suckers we used to get with a rake or shovel at the end. My mom got her fingers cauhtervin the beaters of a mixer once and Dr M got them right out..

  5. Karen March 16, 2018 at 1:15 am - Reply

    I wish the owners would make needed repairs and restorations to this building. I have been in that elevator many times just because it was unique.

    • Main Street Pittsboro March 16, 2018 at 12:31 pm - Reply

      In our time in the building, we occasionally liked riding in the elevator, too. You had to close a heavy, hinged door then slide the retractable cage closed. The elevator made a heck of a noise and was rather slow but it did the job. What brought you to the building, Karen?

  6. John Shaner March 16, 2018 at 11:48 am - Reply

    I was born there in October of 1968…..

    • Main Street Pittsboro March 16, 2018 at 12:33 pm - Reply

      Another Mathiesen baby! Congrats. Did you go back for treatments of any kind?

  7. Wanda Crawley March 16, 2018 at 5:27 pm - Reply

    My grandmother was one of Dr Mathiesens asthma patients. Helped her through many asthma attacks.
    I also remember the Cisco Kid bringing his son to Dr Mathiesen for asthma. I think I was in the 3rd grade. The Cisco Kid came to the school and talked to us kids in the auditorium of the OLD Pittsboro school and let us ask questions.

    • Main Street Pittsboro March 18, 2018 at 6:29 pm - Reply

      It’s great to hear that your grandmother received help for her asthma at Mathiesen’s Clinic. Do you know any more about Dr. Mathiesen’s treatment? So the Cisco Kid story is true! Do you recall the questions that were asked of him? Did you learn anything interesting from the Cisco Kid’s visit?

      • Wanda Crawley March 20, 2018 at 4:24 pm - Reply

        I remover Granny having a nebulizer that she had to put medication in and breathe it in to get relief from her asthma attacks.
        Yes, the Cisco Kid story is true. Questions that were asked were about his horse, his gun, where he was from and many others. Of course, I don’t remember his answers. He was friendly to all the students. I think his son was about our age at that time. Seems like I remember him handing out pictures of himself with his horse.

        • Kathy Landstedt March 20, 2018 at 9:39 pm - Reply

          I hate auto corrects. My grandmother Alma Brown Glosson worked for Dr. Matheson as a nurse

    • Kathy Landstedt March 20, 2018 at 9:35 pm - Reply

      My grandmother, Alma Brown Glides on was one of his nurses. Steve had his tonsils out there and I was hospitalized with intestinal flu

  8. Francis DiNardo March 16, 2018 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    I think this building has huge potential for a revitalization project. Jeffrey Marlowe, the owner of the building, passed away in December, leaving his wife Catherine as the sole owner. Mrs. Marlowe is elderly so it’s possible that the building will come up for sale again.

  9. K Duncan March 16, 2018 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Oh, I hope the “clinic” can be repaired to meet current codes & remain open. So many childhood memories are in Pittsboro. When the Court House burned, I was in shock for days. It’s so great how the little town has found life, where many small towns do not.

    • Main Street Pittsboro March 18, 2018 at 6:35 pm - Reply

      We’d like to see the clinic spared too. Pittsboro has lost many of our historic properties and this building clearly holds a special place in the hearts and memories of many of our neighbors. Promoting and building downtown vitality is one of our primary missions and why we work with the Pittsboro Business Association, the Chatham Historical Association, and the Town of Pittsboro to program events and other opportunities that attract people to downtown.

  10. Beverly Hearne Harris March 16, 2018 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    My mother, Margie Hearne had 5 children. All of them were born there but me. Due to complications, Dr. Mathiesen sent her to Duke when she was ready to have me. I went many times growing up. I had my tonsils out there and had to get stitches multiple times. After Dr. Mathiesen retired, my mother and her friend Monk Durham traveled to Bryson City many times to visit the Mathiesens.

    • Main Street Pittsboro March 18, 2018 at 6:37 pm - Reply

      Thanks for sharing your story! It sounds like the Hearne family kept the clinic busy. Many folks have commented on visiting the Mathiesen’s after they moved away. They must have been beloved. Do you know why they left Pittsboro?

  11. Dana Flynt Smoak March 17, 2018 at 2:47 am - Reply

    My husband, Doug, was born there on Thanksgiving day of 1966.

    • Main Street Pittsboro March 18, 2018 at 6:39 pm - Reply

      A Thanksgiving baby is a special miracle! Thank you for sharing your connection to this building.

      • Gina Roberson Goins June 5, 2019 at 5:11 pm - Reply

        I was born there in 1971.

  12. Carolyn Barnes Orr March 17, 2018 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    Duncan Renaldo, who played the Cisco Kid, did visit the clinic. While he was in the area, he visited Moncure High School and all of us students went into the auditorium to see him. I remember it well, especially since Mr. Renaldo sent autographed copies of his picture back to all the kids in our school once he got back home. I kept my copy of his picture for many years. He may have visited other schools, but I don’t know for sure. My recollection is that he had gone to the clinic to have his son treated for asthma by Dr. Mathiesen. I also was a patient when I was a child but can’t remember why.

    • Main Street Pittsboro March 18, 2018 at 6:44 pm - Reply

      Other commenters have shared that Mr. Renaldo came to their schools. Do you know what year that was? He must have been a kind man to do that. We wonder if Dr. Matheisen gave him the idea to visit schools? Dr. Mathiesen sounds like he really loved Pittsboro and his neighbors here.

    • Wincie Jane Johnson Hinnant March 21, 2018 at 1:20 pm - Reply

      I remember well the Cisco Kid/Duncan Renaldo coming to Pittsboro…probably around 1956 or so. We lived beside Dr. Mathiesen when I was growing up so I got to meet the famous Cisco Kid and his son who was being treated for asthma. I still have my pictures. Dr. Mathiesen had a hugh garden and used the vegetables from his garden to feed patients at his clinic. Also, he had several washing machines in his basement where the laundry was done for the clinic. I also played with his children back then. His oldest son became a doctor but is now deceased. His two daughters are living and another son is deceased. Remember many stories. The clinic still has a “smell” that I remember from many years ago. The elevator is still in use.

  13. Janet Farrell March 18, 2018 at 12:26 am - Reply

    Janet Farrell. My brother was born there. My sister and I had our tonsils removed on the same day there that came with an overnight stay and we had matching robes an slippers.

  14. David & Jackie Jones March 19, 2018 at 12:38 pm - Reply

    Our 2 sons were born at the clinic. Gary David Jones 1958 and Donnie Ray Jones 1960. Went there many times.

  15. Sarah Poe Hearn March 19, 2018 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    In 1956 I had my tonsils removed at Mathiesen’s Clinic. I was 6 years old. I remember going to the operating room and a mask being put on my face to put me to sleep. When I woke up the first thing I got was ice cream. My 2 older brothers also had their tonsils removed at the clinic. My grandfather worked next door at Justice Motor Company. He and my grandmother lived right next to Pittsboro Methodist Church. The site is a parking lot now. They were friends of Dr. Mathiesen and his wife. I remember my grandmother saying that Dr. Mathiesen opened another clinic in Bryson City that specialized in asthma and allergies.

    • Main Street Pittsboro March 20, 2018 at 12:55 pm - Reply

      Ahhh, ice cream! The classic balm for recently removed tonsils. Ms. Hearn do have pictures of the home your grandparents lived in? The one that was next to the Pittsboro Methodist Church? We’d love to see them sometime.

  16. Tiana March 20, 2018 at 2:01 am - Reply

    NC State did two overnight paranormal investigations in the old hospital, recorded evp’s, and had experiences while there.

    • Main Street Pittsboro March 20, 2018 at 12:59 pm - Reply

      Everyone loves a good ghost story, Tiana! Tell us, what is an “evp”? Do you know the folks who did the investigations? How do we learn more about the findings? Now, you’ve got us thinking about a new blog possibility “Ghosts of Old Pittsboro”.

  17. Julie Cannefax March 20, 2018 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    I was born there on October 29th, 1965. My grandparents, Silas and Irene Mann were good friends with Dr. Mathiesen and I remember us traveling to Bryson City to see them once they had relocated there.

  18. Suzanne Parker Clute March 20, 2018 at 8:18 pm - Reply

    The Professional Building was also previously owned by Craig Corry, DVM and Tim Hubbard, Atty. Chathamborough Research Group occupied the front of the building and Pittsboro Animal Hospital was run out of the back of the building until Dr. Corry moved it to East St. I worked for Chathamborough from 1986 to 1989. The rooms on the top floor were leased to other small businesses. The only two that I recall was Cheryl Talarico’s Chromatography lab and a Hypnotist. I miss working so close to home and watching traffic out those windows. I would sure love to see the building look “Professional” again.

  19. Peggy Ann Clark Camp March 20, 2018 at 11:45 pm - Reply

    I was not born in the Clinic but Dr. Matheisen came to our house after I was born to check on my mother and me. That was June 23, 1942. I had my tonsils removed at the Clinic when I was in the third grade. I had always suffered from asthma until I had my tonsils removed.
    Many memories of visiting the Clinic.

  20. Linda Clark March 21, 2018 at 1:15 am - Reply

    I was born at Mathiesen Clinic. When I was in third grade I cut my foot really bad. Mom loaded me up and took me uptown to the Clinic and Dr Mathiesen was there in a few minutes and sowed my foot back together, 15 stitches later I was on the way home. Then in the fifth grade I fell out of a tree and broke my arm. Mom loaded me up in the car again and off we went to see Dr Mathiesen. He made me spend the night in the Clinic just in case my arm swelled and he had to cut the cast off. I stayed on the second floor, it was scary. I grew up and had my daughter Rhonda there in 1970. They always took such good care of you. Dr Mathiesen was the best.

  21. Tiana March 21, 2018 at 1:23 am - Reply

    Wow, check this out! http://abc11.com/archive/8546202/

    • Francis DiNardo March 22, 2018 at 4:43 am - Reply

      I came across this report when I was working on the story but I chose not to include it because Dr. Mathiesen had already passed away before the allegations were raised, so he never had a chance to respond to them.

  22. Tiana March 21, 2018 at 1:25 am - Reply

    The family who owns the building now are the ones who told me about the investigation. Their phone number is on the front of the building, I believe. EVP’s are electronic voice phenomenon

  23. Emily Roberts Foushee March 24, 2018 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    I were born in Mathiesen’s Clinic in March 1950 and my sisters were also born in the clinic during the 50’s. My daughter was born there in June 1971.
    I remember spenting time there receiving glucose when I had the flu and got denigrated. Not fun but always made me feel better. One thing that does not happen any more — when my daughter was born, I stayed for 7 days. Nurses gave back massages and took wonderful care of me and my baby.
    Dr Mathiesen and Dr Jacques were great for our town and community.

  24. Jerry Partin March 24, 2018 at 7:44 pm - Reply

    I was born at Mathiesen clinic in 1949

  25. Jerry L. Harrison March 30, 2018 at 12:37 am - Reply

    Duncan Renaldo son was right across the ward from me.

    I had my surgery done by Dr. Baxter and Dr. Mathieesen.

    Duncan son and I had a field day racing around the hospital; Dr. Mathiesen always told us to be carefully with a smile.

    In 1966 the US Navy had me to get a paper sign by the Dr. himself. He told me that he would be glad to sign it.

    Because he told me after surgery he did not think I would be able to go into service.

    A week later Duncan son have the exact same surgery as I . I got to meet Poncho too.

  26. Grant Howard June 3, 2018 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    I was born there in August, 1967.

  27. Diane Howell Robinson July 10, 2018 at 10:15 am - Reply

    I was born there in 1949. We lived with my grandparents in Bynum where they worked in the cotton mill. Dr. Mathieson was my doctor until I was about 8 or so.

    • Main Street Pittsboro July 17, 2018 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your note. Dr. Mathiesen clearly played an important part in many people’s lives. We wonder who helped with people’s care when he left? Do you recall the name of your doctor after Dr. Mathiesen?

  28. Kerry Straughn September 2, 2018 at 12:49 am - Reply

    I was delivered there by Dr Jaques in 1962. Had my tonsils out at three by Dr Mathiesen, all I remember about that was the ice cream and going down to the waiting room where the only TV was so I could watch the Harlem Globetrotters. Had 7 stitches in my chin by Dr Mathiesen a few years later. I remember playing Pony League baseball when Tony Brown got hit on his batting helmet causing his ear to bleed, they took him to the clinic. When the game was over we all went to check on him. Remember Dr Mathiesen telling my father (the coach), “Ikey, bring those boys in to see him, best medicine we can give him”. Whole baseball team trodding down the hall with metal baseball cleats on. No hospital would allow that now.

  29. Cindy Thornton March 24, 2019 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    I was born in 1961. When I was in the first grade, I had an asthma attack that lasted 21 days weigh other treatments. My parents brought me to the clinic and the next morning after treatment I was jumping up and down on the bed. Believe me that was a miracle. My dad had had to carry me to bathroom and etc for 21 days.

  30. Sara Donaldson June 2, 2019 at 8:06 pm - Reply

    I was born there in 1961. Had my tonsils out (week long stay back then) and had stitches more times than I can count. I fainted once, as a child, and fell and hit my head on those monster heavy scales that sat at the end of the hall! I was bruised for weeks. They had a little pharmacy and the door was cut in half so only the top opened. If you were good after your visit you could go by the pharmacy and get a sucker that had a little garden tool at the end of the stick! I remember the nursery had a glass door and it was a treat to peep in and see the babies!

  31. James Wheeler June 2, 2019 at 11:03 pm - Reply

    I was born there in January 1969.

  32. Amy Wagner Whitt June 3, 2019 at 6:35 am - Reply

    Wow! Now this is a blast from my past! Yes all 4 of the Wagner Babies were born at the Clinic. I am the youngest of the 4, born December 1958. I have spent many hours in there for stitches, broken bones and numerous bouts of tonsillitis.. We kept that nasty pink Amoxicillin in our fridge constantly.

  33. Donna Holt June 3, 2019 at 8:34 am - Reply

    Good memories of the wonderful services of Dr and Mrs. Mathiesen as well as Dr. Jacques! Both my children were born there (Lou and Van in 1960 and 1968 respectively). On many occasions we were there for ear infections, and other typical children’s issues. The clinic staff were very accommodating to all who came there for help. Mrs. Mathiesen helped in the delivery room and with babies. I also recall Mrs. Stubbs being a nurse there and I believe I am correct that Mrs. Poole who lived across the street worked in the office.

    My grandmother, Fannie Lutterloh, was at the clinic for a few months before she passed away. She had what was called then “hardening of the arteries” and played with her doll most of a day. They were so kind and patient with her needs. What a blessing!! No assisted living or nursing homes available then.

  34. Sharon Thomas June 3, 2019 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    I was born there in 1953 and my sister, Cindy, in 1959. My grandma, Evie Thrift, and aunt, Ola Mae Bowles, were nurses at the clinic. When Duncan Reynolds came with his son, I got to meet him and still have my autographed picture. Dr. Mathiesen’s daughter, Cindy, was one of my best friends. She lived on one end of Lindsey Street and I lived on the other. We spent a lot of time at the Clinic. Things were so different then. We could go in the nursery and help Mama Junior with the babies. The clinic had a medicinal smell that I can still remember. When you went to the doctor you knew you would get a shot. That was always the case. The needles were in the metal syringes that they used back then. Unlike today, the doctors and nurses all wore white. The nurses in their crisply starched uniforms, white stockings and shoes and their nurse caps. Medicine has changed completely since those days. It is good to think back to those days and see how time has changed.

  35. Wayne McNeill June 5, 2019 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    I was born there, December 1969

  36. Ray Porter June 5, 2019 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    I was treated there for allergies and for severe nose bleeds in the early 1960s. For a while, I was given injections of a clotting agent by Dr. Mathiesen periodically. My younger brother contracted some sort of very serious illness when he was very young (younger than 2 years old) and hospitalized at the clinic sometime between around 1959 or 1960. Our mom always credited Dr. Mathiesen with saving his life.

  37. Jeff Conken June 5, 2019 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    I was born there in Oct 1970. Charles Thomas is my uncle and it was my grandmother Ann Thomas who worked there for 20 years. I also am one of the leaders of the Pittsboro 7th Day Adventist church he started. He was a great man!

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