Standing on a two-block parcel on a high hill overlooking Grove Street, the old Mercy Hospital’s blue tile front wall still beckons drivers off of the busy Clay Street thoroughfare. But the massive building is no longer a hive of activity, instead walled off from the community it once served by a high fence with razor wire on top. Even the nearby doctor’s offices that once served it have been vacated or turned to less intensive uses.
The hospital was the epitome of the post-World War II hope in modern medicine when it opened in May of 1957. Back then, the Vicksburg Evening Post ran a special issue describing the building, the leadership, the doctors who would staff it, the medical miracles that would be able to be performed there. Here’s just part of one of the articles from that issue.
New Three Million Dollar Structure Gives To This Area Finest In Hospital Facilities
Completion of the new Mercy Hospital-Street Memorial, three-million dollar structure, along with the Street Clinic and other adjoining facilities, is heralded as an important step forward for Vicksburg and this entire area.
The new 200-bed hospital gives to this section the newest and most modern facilities. A shining achievement for Vicksburg, many are expected from over a wide area to attend the dedication and opening on Wednesday.
Located on Grove street, one block north of the Memorial Arch on Clay, the new hospital and its adjoining buildings stand on the brown of a ridge that falls away toward the surrounding sub-division, Wildwood. The site includes some twenty-six acres.
The hospital was constructed by Seth E. Giem and Associates General Contractors with Raymond Birchett, native Vicksburger architect and engineer.
The main hospital building and its adjoining units form a huge U. The out-patient division is built adjoining the hospital but on a separate site. A beautiful chapel, constructed from private funds, is adjacent to the hospital and is accessible by means of a covered walk from the main building and to sisters and student nurses passing to and fro.
Just beyond the chapel is the nursing school and education building. This, too, is connected to the main units by covered walkway.
The hospital is completely air-conditioned.
Located, as it is on top of a hill mass, about forty feet above the road elevation at Grove street, the new hospital units command an impressive view from surrounding areas.
The building site was graded so as to provide the main entrance and ambulance entrances to the out-patient division at one elevation and all service entrances on the west side at a lower elevation.
Ample roadways and parking facilities for all points at the hospital have been provided. An access road for service vehicles was provided from Grove street into the courtyard.
With the Administration and Out patient division areas to the north, with easy access from Grove Street, the nursing units are to the south where they receive southern sun and prevailing summer breezes.
While the new hospital is designed for 200 beds, provision is made for adding fifty additional beds on the fifth floor at a later date. Plumbing connections, elevators shafts and dumbwaiter service for nursing stations were all included to provide for this future addition.
The hospital proper is divided into nine parts. These include the Administration, Adjunct Facilities, including Pathology, Radio and X-Ray Therapy, Hydro Therapy, Electro Therapy, Pharmacy, Nursing Facilities, Nursery, Formula Preparation, Surgical Department, Obstetrics, Emergency Service Facilities.
The Administration suite is adjacent to the main front entrance. It connect to the walk leading to the chapel, and nursing school. Space is provided for main lobby and waiting rooms, admitting office, Social services office, Information, PBX and tube room. Administrator, Secretary Director of Nurses, Director of Nurses, Director of Nursing Service, Director of Personnel, Purchasing office, Business office, Bookkeeping and Insurance offices, Business machines office, Record room, Staff lounge, Chaplain’s office, and Reference library is on the top floor.
Drugs from the pharmacy will be dispensed to out patients through the business office with pharmacy located directly behind the business office.
Vicksburg Evening Post, Tuesday, May 7, 1957, p. 1ff.
Mercy Hospital served Vicksburg and western Mississippi for several decades under the leadership of the Sisters of Mercy, who had a long tradition of nursing service in Vicksburg. Mercy even played a role in the establishment of a nursing school at USM in the 1960s. But changes in the medical industry (implicit in the new term “medical industry”) forced them to sell the hospital in 1991 to a group called Quorum Health Care. After that, my research gets a bit fuzzy because I haven’t been able to establish dates of when the hospital finally closed and whether the new River Regional Medical Center on Highway 61 is considered a successor or is a new hospital entirely. I’m sure, given the community that has grown up around the Kuhn Memorial Hospital post, that there are people out there who will help us with our dates and facts. My best guess is that Mercy closed around 2000.
I suppose it’s too much to hope for in a town like Vicksburg that this hulking modernist pile will ever be fixed up and given new life. Meanwhile, I’ll still enjoy looking over at the blue tile wall with the cross on it whenever I’m passing by on Clay Street.
Categories: Architectural Research