Metro General Hospital, formerly serving many of the underprivileged in Nashville, Tennessee, closed in early 1998. The former hospital site along Hermitage Avenue has since been repurposed into the mixed-use Rolling Hill Mill development.
Metro General Hospital first admitted patients as the City Hospital on April 23, 1890. The land the facility was built upon was donated by the state of Tennessee in the 1840’s 5 to never be used as anything but a hospital. When it opened at a cost of $30,000, it was Nashville’s first full-service hospital.5
The facility operated with one physician, 7 nurses with a capacity for 60.1 Each room had an iron bed and chair, with dumb-waiters hoisting supplies and food from floor to floor. Laundry chutes took away soiled sheets and garments to a dedicated laundry building.
The hospital flourished, producing much revenue that was boosted by the local medical schools, the University of Nashville and the University of Tennessee. The first administrator saw the need for more qualified nurses, which led to the completion of a training school for nurses in 1891. It was the first such school between the Ohio River and New Orleans.5
Another new addition to the hospital was constructed in 1913 followed by a pediatric ward a year later. In 1932, a large expansion project was constructed in the Art Deco architectural style, which increased the average number of patients that were able to be admitted to 188.
After World War II, Metro General’s admissions began declining.
The tide turned after World war II when admissions began declining. Vanderbilt University operated the hospital under contract, but the university was overextended as their own Vanderbilt Hospital saw patient number declines.5 In May 1954, Vanderbilt proposed a merger with Metro General but the idea was rejected. The nursing school closed in 1970 due to low enrollment.
Meharry Medical College and Hospital
Samuel Meharry, an African-American, founded a predominately-black medical college and hospital in 1876 in Nashville with a starting pledge of $10,000.2 Legend had it that on a lonely Kentucky road in 1826, Samuel’s wagon was stuck in mud; a family of free blacks had taken him in for the night and helped him get on his way the next day. From that act of charity, Samuel vowed to someday repay them by doing something to help blacks.
The first class of just 13 at the new Medical Department of Central Tennessee College of Nashville was held in a dank basement, an institution that was established ten years prior by the Freedman’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1900, in honor of the Meharry brothers, the department was renamed in honor of them. It became an independent medical college in 1915.
Meharry’s pet project, the Meharry-Hubbard Hospital, was dedicated in 1912.7
The Meharry Medical College prospered throughout the 20th century, graduating thousands from its ranks every year, and becoming well known as its alumni practice medicine and health services across the country and worldwide. Nearly 40% of black physicians and dentists were Meharry trained,2 4 but Meharry-Hubbard teetered on financial ruin several times due to the excess supply of patient beds in the metropolitan area.
A $30 million patient tower, constructed in 1973, was never utilized to its maximum extent and became a money drain.4 The college eventually defaulted on the loan.7 Licensed to hold 405 but staffed for only 110, students from the college found that they could not receive adequate student training at the facility. These lack of patients eventually led to the college losing accreditation in two key medical programs in 1988.2 Metro General was much the same way, licensed to hold 213 beds, with an average patient load at about 100.4
In the same year, Meharry proposed merging Metro General to Hubbard. Under the plan, the city would own and operate the facility, but Meharry doctors would staff it.7 The motion did not pass and afterwards, Meharry-Hubbard threatened to move out to another, more supportive city.4
Mcharry Medical College was facing dire financial situations in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.2 In mid-October 1991, Nashville officials approved of a plan to merge the financially-ailing private institution’s hospital with the city’s physically deteriorating Metro General. The merger would phase out services at the current Metro General Hospital over the time period of two years and relocate them to Meharry-Hubbard. During this time, the city would be responsible for the services at the merged facility.
In early 1998, Metro General relocated from original Hermitage Avenue location to the renovated George W. Hubbard Hospital on the Meharry Medical College campus.1 It operates today as a 127 bed facility, now named the Nashville General Hospital at Meharry.6 The former emergency room was utilized for a brief period for the Metro Primary Care Center but was closed by 2000.5
On July 19, 2000, the city of Nashville received $900,000 of a $1.5 million grant as part of a federal brownfield grant. The money was spent preparing the riverfront along the Cumberland River for redevelopment with an emphasis on the former Metro General facility.6 Nearly $200,000 of the money was allocated to clean up petroleum-related and minor barium and lead contamination, $200,000 on hazardous-waste assessment of the riverfront, $200,000 on petroleum contamination assessment of the riverfront and $300,000 on the revolving-loan cleanup fund.
The city received a $1.35 million federal grant in February 2003 to prepare the 10-acre hospital site for redevelopment.3 The project name, Rolling Mill Hill, was derived from the mills that were once located in the area that processed corn shipped to Nashville for flour.5 This included the Metro General site. A site plan was completed by RTKL Associates by July which included residential, retail, entertainment and office development, along with a park and recreational trail along the Cumberland River. Under the proposal, some of the older hospital structures would be saved and reused under phase one. Other non-notable or non-historic structures would be demolished.
Those proposed to be saved included the original circa 1890 administration building sans its additions, the circa 1932 Art Deco-styled building, the circa 1920’s power plant, and the circa 1930’s Works Progress Administration-era trolley barn.5
According to the proposal,8 333 conventional apartments would be constructed, along with 255 loft apartments, 63 loft condominiums, 65 fee simple townhouses, 98,630 square-feet of office space, 104,020 square-feet of retail space and 150,000 square-feet of community space, such as a community center, parks and art facilities.
- City Hospital was the northern-most building and also the oldest. In 1998, it included the original 1890 section, the 1911 copper-roofed East Wing addition that overlooked the Cumberland River, and the 1932 brick addition that fronted Hermitage Avenue.8 The 1932 addition was considered one of Nashville’s “best examples of Art Deco architecture.” Several post-World War II brick additions were considered ‘not historic’ or ‘architecturally significant’.
- The Howse Wilson Hall was constructed in 1922 as a school for the nurses and enlarged in 1931 when the original City Hospital was expanded.8
- The boiler house and smokestack (power plant) was located adjacent to the original hospital structures and were constructed in 1927.8
- The site also included a one-story brick car barn constructed in the early 1920s to service and repair Nashville’s electric streetcars.8