Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Hospital and Its Neighborhood

Martha Jefferson Hospital has special meaning for me, since that's where my son entered into this world (11 years ago this coming Friday). The hospital means a lot more, however, to the people who live in its shadow.

I spent part of yesterday afternoon taking a walking tour of the Martha Jefferson neighborhood, courtesy members of the Martha Jefferson Neighborhood Association (MJNA). The folks at MJNA are pursuing historic designation status for their lovely neighborhood and are rightfully concerned for its future, given the looming departure of Martha Jefferson Hospital to a new suburban campus east of town. MJNA wants to make sure that whatever takes the hospital's place respects the historic and aesthetic fabric of their neighborhood, which seems like a mighty reasonable request to me. The hospital's leadership has said time and again that they want to leave a positive legacy and wish to involve the neighborhood in the transition process, and I take them at their word.

Big changes are coming to the Martha Jefferson neighborhood (as referenced in this week's C-Ville Weekly), and hopefully the net result will be something we can all look upon with pride.


One of the things that I like about collecting vintage postcards is that you can see how a particular building or site has evolved over time. Given the increasing interest in the future of the Martha Jefferson Hospital property, I thought I'd share some images from the property's past. Enjoy!

The original hospital building, opened as a 25-bed sanatarium/training school for nurses at 919 E. High St. on July 11, 1904.

Circa 1918.

On December 9, 1929, Martha Jefferson opened its new, 50-bed facility on Locust Ave. Reported the Daily Progress: "The new $100,000 Martha Jefferson Hospital . . . was formally opened this morning. All equipment and patients were moved from the old building Saturday. The new plant . . . is well and modernly equipped. Eleven rooms have already been furnished by funds from people interested in the institution. The structure itself is considered one of the handsomest in the city. The old hospital will be utilized as a home for nurses." (courtesy

Circa 1940. (Random deltiological aside: for some reason unbeknownst to me, there seem to have been more prints made of this particular postcard than of any other in Charlottesville history. If I had a dime for every time I've come across this postcard for sale, I could buy the old hospital myself.)

Circa 1950, shortly before the Rucker wing was added in 1954.

Circa 1970, before construction of the South wing began in 1972.

The new, $14.5 million South wing, dedicated on July 11, 1977. 24 years later, in April of 2001, Martha Jefferson Health Services agreed to purchase 84 acres in Albemarle County and soon began planning for the hospital's move to the 'burbs.


Kempis said...

I forsee the hospital being cut up (with the approval of City Council) into more million dollar condos for the downtown area.

Keep the luxury condos coming in and eventually 250k to 350k will certainly look like "affordable housing."

DaveNorris said...

Kempis -- I recently saw a local home being advertised as "surprisingly affordable at $400,000" so we may be closer to your prediction than you think. As I've said many times previously, development in Cville cannot consist entirely of luxury condos and we need to do everything we can to ensure that the working class has a place here too.

Kempis said...

When $400,000 becomes "affordable" for me I can think of several other places in other states with nicer year round weather that I would also be able to afford.

I would propose impact fees of 15 percent per unit for each luxury condo unit priced at or above 300k. (those units were never going to be affordable so might as well not pretend and just get the money from those that will be able to afford 500 to 700k for an expensive condo.)

Require that from the developer and then take that money, invest it so it doesn't deplete itself, and use the income from it to create a housing/mortgage assistance fund targeting the classes of employment you wish to assist.

Mortgage assistance is probably the only real way to make effective progress with this issue, anything a developer might voluntarily do isn't going to be enough.

Keep in mind though that Teachers, Police and Fire get all the media attention as poverty professions, when in fact there are far more people going unnoticed in jobs that are often overlooked.

With Teachers, you'll also want to make sure that they have received tenure with the City School system before extending them assistance.

Affordable housing is just one aspect in a series of interconnected issues/problems. Some of which are in direct opposition to one another. And with those issues you cannot say "yes" to one and still expect to make headway against the other.

As a P.S. you might want to consider taking some of the developer proffer money and consider funding a summertime "Midnight Basketball" program (or something like it). To try and keep some of the delinquents occupied and off the street as a way to attempt to cut down on some of the overnight problems downtown. With all thats been done to make the Downtown area a draw to those with financial means, it might be time to do something for those without.

Anyway that's my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

Wow! What an interesting collection of photos! The orignal building was so nice- it really makes you think about "progress" when you see the final photo from the 70's. Yikes!

DaveNorris said...

Anonymous -- how true!