Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Old Hospital in Critical Need of Life Support

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Old Hospital in Critical Need of Life Support

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton, Times-Union columnist

There isn't a debate about whether the Old Brewster Hospital ought to be preserved.

Built in 1885 as a private home and converted in 1901 into Florida's first hospital for African-Americans, the building at 915 W. Monroe St. has both architectural and historical significance.

In fact, it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

That, ironically, is one of the factors that has created a sort of bureaucratic tug-of-war that threatens a building everybody agrees should be saved. Because, while groups debate how the Old Brewster should be used and where it should be moved, the building is visibly deteriorating, its second floor columns stolen, its roof overhang starting to sag.

The Old Brewster Hospital is on a site where the architectural firm Pappas JSA is going to build a medical office complex. Actual construction is still a year and a half away. "But the problem is it is sitting there falling apart while the homeless defecate in it," said Ted Pappas, who can see the building from his new offices in LaVilla.

"They did, finally, put a fence around it. But people still seem to get in and sleep on the porch. I'm afraid one day somebody is going to set it on fire. It's so fragile anyway, " said Vera Cruse, president of the Brewster nurses alumni association.

The city, which owns the building, has promised to move it. The question is where.

City Councilman Reggie Fullwood, in whose district the Old Brewster Hospital is located, wants the building moved to the LaVilla Experience, a block bounded by Ashley, Jefferson, Broad and Church streets. That block includes Genovar's Hall, now under restoration, which as the Lenape Bar was one of the hot spots during Ashley Street's mid-century Golden Age. Three shotgun houses also were recently relocated from near the hospitalonto the LaVilla Experience site. …

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