Founded in 1963, General Hospital is the world’s longest-running daytime drama and the second-longest running scripted series overall. ABC’s Emmy(r)-winning serial continues to captivate millions with its iconic characters, steamy romances, family drama and trailblazing storylines that were often ahead of their time. From AIDS awareness to tolerance and acceptance for the LGBTQIA community, General Hospital is a touchstone for social change.
The fictional hospital has a rich and fascinating history that dates back to the early 20th century. Originally, the facility was known as the Leprosarium and was located on a hill overlooking Port Charles called Hospital Hill. By 1911, the facility was bulging at the seams and it had to be expanded. Doubling the number of beds on the original structure also doubled the cost and it was decided that a new building would be needed to accommodate the growing patient load.
Designed by local architects Root & Siemens and Frederick C. Gunn, the new building was dedicated on Nov. 7, 1908. The facility was one of the largest medical facilities on the East Coast at the time and a major employer in town. It was also one of the first places in the nation to offer specialized treatment for tuberculosis, a contagious disease that still plagued the region at the time. The new wing was also equipped with a psychiatric unit to treat those with mental illnesses.
A large part of the success of the new hospital was due to the passionate chemistry between Dr. Steve Hardy (Tony Geary) and nurse Jessie Brewer (Genie Francis). Both had painful pasts to deal with and it was the on-again, off-again relationship between the two that captured hearts. Although their love affair was fraught with infidelity, they remained a very compelling couple to many viewers and were the foundation of the show for years.
While the hospital hasn’t disappeared, it has been relegated to the background in favor of psychotic royal families and mobsters. However, when Valentini took the helm in 2012, he began to focus on the hospital again. He brought back several of the show’s veteran cast, including Genie Francis, Tristan Rogers, Finola Hughes, Kristina Wagner and Lynn Herring. He has paired them with some of the younger actors, including David Lewis, Chad Duell, Maurice Benard and Kelly Monaco, to create front-burner stories.
Today, the show is a mix of veteran and young cast members. It also features some of the best writing the soap has ever had, which is evident in the performances by Tabyana Ali, Nicholas Chavez and Evan Hofer. General Hospital airs weekdays on ABC and is available to stream on Hulu. Genie Francis and Tony Geary’s Luke and Laura continue to be a draw for fans. With improved writing, the hospital and its legacy will continue to endure for decades to come. For more information, visit the official GH website.