Doors to the Past

Barnett Hospital

Barnett Hospital Resuscitated
         Cabell Standard 12/10/2007

Adam Brown
Staff Writer

HUNTINGTON- In the days before big hospitals like Cabell Huntington, St. Mary's and King's Daughters began providing services to citizens throughout the Tri-State region, small neighborhood hospitals with a few physicians and less than fifty beds were the norm.

One former hospital in Huntington that is still a landmark today is the Barnett Hospital. Located at 7th Avenue and 12th Street, in the heart of what once was a thriving black professional neighborhood, plans are underway to restore the old Barnett to its former glory. 

The hospital closed in 1939 and from 1947 until 2007 the building was used as offices for General Laborers Union Local 543, Karen Nance, the new owner, said.

Having bought the building from the union, Nance now plans to restore it and turn the building into low-income apartments.

"Dr. Barnett opened the hospital in 1912 and then he and his second wife Clara opened the nursing school in 1920. At the time the school opened, it was one of only 22 black nursing schools in the country," Nance said. "When I discovered the history of the hospital I knew this was a building that needed to be saved."

Although at first glance the building looks like one square structure, it's really three buildings that have been connected. The Barnetts lived in back of the hospital, and then later added onto the back of their property to build the addition for the nursing school, where students boarded as well as worked. Nance believes a third story was added later, since an old picture of the building does not show a third story.

During its largest incarnation, the hospital had 30 rooms, she said.

Walking into the second and third floor of the building, save for a coating of dust and some old election signs stored by the union, not much has changed. The check-in window on the second floor is still intact and some of the rooms are still numbered.

Although the elevator isn't functional, old ropes and pulleys hang from the shaft. Spaces are cramped and the hallways expand and contract with little rhyme or reason.  In the cold quiet of the upper floors, it's hard to imagine that for forty years people wheezed, coughed, bled, lived and died here.

"Dr. Barnett lost the hospital in 1930 after the stock market crashed and it was the city hospital from that point until 1939 when it closed due to lack of funds," Nance said.

A historian and renovator of historical buildings, Nance helped to renovate the Maude Carroll house in Guyandotte and the historic bandstand in Gallapolis as well as homes in Ironton and throughout the Tri-State region.

She said she plans to turn the old hospital into nine apartments, seven being one bedroom and two being two bedroom. She will also make the first floor handicap accessible.

Nance said she plans to start renovation by October of 2008 and be finished at the end of 2009.

Submitted by Ed Prichard
January 4, 2008


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