The Original Charity Hospital was founded in 1736 by a French shipbuilder to serve the poor and uninsured in the city. It was named Charity due to its links to the Catholic leadership, the Sisters of Charity. The original location was in the French Quarter and it stayed there all the way up until the 20th century. As New Orleans rapidly grew in the early 1900s, a new, larger Charity Hospital was built in 1936. This was a 2,680 bed Art Deco-style hospital and served as the largest safety-net hospital in the region clocking in at 1,000,000 square feet!
Charity Hospital was one of the longest continuously operating hospitals in the United States until Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. Instead of renovating the structure, federal funds went to build University Medical Center (UMC). Charity Hospital still stands on Tulane Avenue as a reminder of its historical roots in the city and the millions of patients who were cared for there. We recommend the fascinating documentary, “Big Charity” that unravels the story of the original hospital’s closing and how UMC came to be.