Hartselle Medical Center receives dignified end it deserves
By Randy Garrison
When I received word from Huntsville Hospital Systems a few weeks ago, I was extremely excited to find out the board had approved funds to demolish the former Hartselle Medical Center building.
This is something I have been personally working toward for the past four years.
Although you might drive by, see the outside of the building and think it still looks in good shape and should be repurposed, let me share some inside information with you.
The roof of the Hartselle Medical Center building has been leaking for many years. Water drips into the third floor, especially in the oldest section of the building. The area where the kitchen was formerly located is full of water as well.
If you are familiar with building, you know there is a large basement. Water was pumped out with sump pumps when the building was in operation. In fact, if you remember seeing water running down Pine Street, even in the summer, this was coming from the sump pumps running in the basement.
Evidence of water waist high can now be seen in the basement area.
The building is full of mold and mildew, as any building would be after having been closed for several years.
There is also lots of evidence of vandalism inside the building – which is no fault of anyone; it is always difficult to completely keep a building secure. Without security on site 24 hours per day, vandals will find ways to access the facility.
I can still remember the press release I received in January 2012 with the news the hospital would be closing Jan. 31. It was somewhat of a shock but not completely unexpected.
Already changes in personnel had taken place, with administrative and business services being moved to other sites. With the low patient count for several years, it was easy to see the writing on the wall and what was to come.
The loss of the hospital was not good for the city – not only in terms of the loss of health and emergency care but also the number of jobs that were affected. A huge foundation of the City was ceasing operation.
There had been a hospital in Hartselle for many, many years, and to not have one here was going to be a change for everyone.
The City of Hartselle has worked in conjunction with Huntsville Hospital Systems for many years trying to find a use for the building. I personally have shown the property to interested folks several times in the past 4.5 years.
Unfortunately, the building was designed and constructed as a hospital or health facility. It is very institutional in design, and that does not work for the needs or desires of other possibilities, such as assisted living and veterans’ homes. These types of facilities now seek a more personal and home-like design.
Thus, here we are in 2021 with a building that is decaying from the inside out and beyond being brought back to life.
I appreciate and am very thankful Huntsville Hospital has decided to allocate the necessary funds to remove the building. The deterioration only gets worse as the days go by, and an abandoned building very close to our downtown area does not help in recruiting businesses or individuals to our city.
I would rather see the building taken down all at one time, versus watch it continue to decompose slowly over the years.
The grand old building deserves to go out with a little grace and dignity after she proudly stood and served the City of Hartselle and surrounding communities over many years.