Now that we have hope for the future of Mound Bayou’s Taborian Hospital, maybe we can renew some energy for Yazoo City’s earlier Afro American Sons and Daughters Hospital, long abandoned and disappearing beneath ravenous vines.
Mississippi’s first hospital for black patients, the Afro American Sons and Daughters Hospital was listed on the National Register in January 2006 and you can click here to view the full nomination. The MDAH Historic Resources has an evocative torn-up historic photo that shows the building in its heyday.
Closed in 1972, the building had been long abandoned when it was placed on the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 2007 10 Most Endangered Places list:
Built during the era of Mississippi’s rigid racial segregation, the Afro-American Sons and Daughter’s Hospital (AASDH) in Yazoo City served as the state’s first hospital for African Americans. When health care was not accessible to most black residents in Mississippi, the AASDH provided free health care to anyone. The hospital also trained future nurses, enabling them to receive their state licenses and serve other parts of the state. Founded in 1928, the hospital boasted full-service operating and surgical rooms, plus a delivery room and nursery until it closed in 1972. The hospital campus included a residence for its nurses that still stands, but has gone through alterations. Many African American doctors and nurses have been associated with the AASDH, but the most prominent was Dr. Lloyd T. Miller who served as its chief surgeon for many years.
MHT updated its entry in 2009, and even the thin thread of hope that runs through this update seems to have unravelled completely since then:
2009 Update – In Progress
The building is continuing to suffer from roof leaks and vandalism. The Afro-American Sons and Daughters Foundation has made plans for several fund raisers in 2009 and hopes the building will house the Yazoo City Headstart program, a Black History Museum, a Black Doctors and Black Women in Healthcare Hall of Fame, and host community events. The foundation has worked hard to obtain donations and grants to help with restoring the building but it is far from reaching its estimated $1.6 million goal.
When I first saw this building back probably in 2002 or so, it was locked up tight and the grass cut around it. Now, doors stand ripped off and who knows what is going on more than the collapse of one of the back additions?
According to this website, which I’m not sure reflects recent information, the Afro-American Sons and Daughters Foundation has $26,689 in assets. Which is indeed a far cry from $1.6 million. However, as with Rust College and the Mississippi Industrial College campus, I wish they would use their assets to do what they can in the meantime to at least keep the building from collapse. Have a volunteer cleanup day, get people interested! I know that the Espy family has an interest in this historic site, but I wish the Foundation would put on more of a public campaign for this building. MHT could be more pro-active too since this has been on their endangered list for 5 years. I know that times are hard, but historic preservation has always been about overcoming difficult times and bringing hard-case buildings back from the brink. I’m happy that our second-oldest African American hospital may be getting brought back to life, but let’s use that energy to bring back the oldest too.
For pictures of the building without so much vine coverage and other thoughts, see Urban Decay’s 2010 post: Afro-American Sons and Daughters Hospital.
more Abandoned Mississippi . . .
Categories: Abandoned Mississippi, African American History, Demolition/Abandonment, Hospitals/Medical, Yazoo City
Times are hard, but a volunteer push to at least clean the grounds and secure the building itself need not cost very much. New Orleans still has the Katrina-era adopt a building program. Each weekend/week a business or church or college sponsors team to move the project steadily forward. Many of these come from out of town, or state. This might be a way to get at least some of this done.
Is there a separate body or foundation overseeing preservation attempts?
As far as I know the only foundation that is overseeing preservation attempts is the Afro-American Sons and Daughters Foundation named above. According to the address on this website, http://non-profit-organizations.findthebest.com/l/1304867/Afro-American-Sons-And-Daughters-Foundation-Inc, they are located in the Lamar Life Building, but no phone number is listed.
Unfortunately, the condition is even worse than it was in 2010, when I took photographs inside. I would hesitate to enter the premises now. In 2010, the roof in the back had semi-collapsed where a big tree trunk had fallen through it.
I would definitely ask people not to enter the building, and yes that rear area is getting worse. Thankfully a later addition took the brunt of that tree, but the back slope of the main part of the building also sustained damage that years later is really taking its toll on the building in the same way that the small collapse at Cathrine Hall turned into full-scale collapse.
Those interested in this or other such fraternal hospital organizations in Mississippi may find this account fascinating. http://www.davidschmidtz.com/sites/default/files/future_readings/Beito.pdf, that being a 1999 article entitled Black Fraternal Hospitals of the Mississippi Delta, 1942-1967. Despite the title, the article covers earlier events about the founding of such organizations as well.
By a coincidence, John L. Webb, who revitalized an almost defunct organization in Arkansas into a 70,000-strong fraternal hospital organization (and who also headed up the National Baptist lay organization for many years), lived in Yazoo City for some time before moving to Hot Springs. Webb also was a building-designer and contractor in Hot Springs, but it is not clear to me if he had his start in construction in Yazoo City.
I now find that Webb lived for a number of years in Yazoo City and was a contractor/builder/designer there as well, doing for the times exceedingly well as a contractor. Moreover, the fraternal organization I previously mentioned was actually originally a Mississippi based organization, the Woodmen of the Union, that he moved out of Mississippi to Hot Springs.
The following excerpt is from the Arkansas nomination form. Webb’s architectural works still form the core of the Pleasant Hill Historic District in Hot Springs. It is interesting to speculate what would have occurred if he had remained in Yazoo City with his fraternal organization. If anyone on the ground in Yazoo City can look, there is one possible clue to determining Webb’s buildings: at least later in Hot Springs Webb favored green roofing tile and red brick structures.
I had mentioned in a passing comment on a posting, in passing, a week or two ago that a John L Webb, later of Hot Springs Arkansas, had lived in Yazoo City and had himself started a fraternal hospital organization in Hot Springs. I had assumed that was that — merely coincidence. However, the story is a bit more complicated, as this excerpt shows. Webb’s fraternal organization, the Woodmen of hte Union, was centered in Mississippi, but Webb brought it out of there to Arkansas. Exactly what he had been doing with the Masons I don’t know. However, if Webb could have kept his organization there and pushed it as he did in Hot Springs, I suspect that the Yazoo City area would have an even richer architectural and social history. Perhaps in the years to come you might spot one of his buildings or even the home he built for himself and his wife that is mentioned below.
“After obtaining his certificate in carpentry from Tuskegee, Webb worked in various towns, including Marianna, Arkansas, where he met his future wife Carrie around 1903. They married two years later and he built her a home in Yazoo, Mississippi, where he was living at the time. In 1913 Webb accepted the position of Grand Lecturer for the Masons of Mississippi, but the state that year began requiring fraternal orders to deposit $10,000 to operate within its borders. Webb, a savvy businessman who had made good money as a contractor, came up with the entire $10,000 for the Supreme Lodge of the Woodmen of the Union. Finally, in seeking a more tolerant atmosphere, Webb moved the Woodmen’s headquarters and his family to Hot Springs, Arkansas, around 1918.
“Webb’s largest and most significant building project was the Woodmen of the Union Building at 501 Malvern Avenue. By 1921 work was underway on construction of the Woodmen of the Union Headquarters building on Malvern Avenue. The four-story brick building spans the entire east side of the 500 block of Malvern between Gulpha and Garden streets. Sanborn Fire Insurance maps indicate that a few small buildings were on the site when the Woodmen acquired the land in 1919. A full-page advertisement the Woodmen placed in the city directory for 1921 says that “on April 1st we commenced the erection of our $100,000 bathhouse and hospital which will be erected and paid for in cash without extra taxation or assessment of any kind, and will open the doors to do business on October 1.” John L. Webb was listed as the Woodman of the Union’s supreme custodian and Dr. E. A. Kendall, the supreme president. Dedicated on January 17, 1924, the building became the center of activity in the black community of Hot Springs. The building housed the various activities of the fraternity. Also within the building were a 100-bed hospital and nurse training school, a 75 room bath hotel, the Woodman of the Union Bank, an electrically operated printing plant, professional and executive offices and a 2,500 seat auditorium, which featured such attractions as Count Basie and Duke Ellington.
“John L. Webb managed, in a few short years, to strengthen and grow the Woodmen of the Union fraternal organization from a membership of 82 in 1913 with significant debt to a prosperous organization with membership of over 70,000, with assets of $600,000 and debt free by 1926.”
(There is more about Webb in that source, although the nomination does not make clear that John L. Webb’s third, separate career was the lay leader of the National Baptist Church and that the Church then later bought the Woodman building and used it for many years.)
That’s a really great article, John, thanks for the link!
Sadly no one cares or at least enough to do anything about it. Our community and out people are not into preserving our heritage. Not sure why that is. Soon this will be lost and as people die the memories will be lost too. No one are writing the stories. No one is writing the history. It like so much else in our community is left to the elements to decay and crumble around us. We ask for a raft to keep us from drowning though the water is only two feet deep. We could wade the waters to safety but it is easier to ask for deliverance. We are not being delivered.
I hate to see the hospital, each time I go through YC, looking more and more ruinous. There was some interest maybe 7 or 8 years ago, and it was completely saveable at that time but it seemed to just vanish before getting anything accomplished. I still have hope that something akin to the Taborian Hospital project in Mound Bayou may still happen in Yazoo City. If you’re not familiar with the project, here are some pictures of the before and after and some links to other posts about the project. https://misspreservation.com/2016/11/16/before-and-after-taborian-hospital/
If you’re interested in trying to spearhead a preservation project at the Afro Americans Sons and Daughters, let us know. I know that the folks at the Mississippi Heritage Trust and at the Mississippi Dept. Of Archives and History would love to see something start up again there.