The Downtown Investment Authority has unanimously approved the terms and conditions proposed by the North Florida Land Trust to make the historic Brewster Hospital its new headquarters. The land conservation organization is interested in moving to the building in LaVilla, which provides more space and room for growth. The approximately 5,700 square foot building, which is owned by the City of Jacksonville, has been vacant for years.
“Frankly, we have just run out of room at our current office in Riverside,” said Jim McCarthy, president of NFLT. “Over the last couple of years, we have greatly increased the number of projects and land we conserve each year and with that, we have had to add staff to keep up with the workload. Brewster Hospital is a wonderful community asset that has been idle for too long and it fits our needs and mission.”
The City of Jacksonville’s general counsel will now draft a lease that must be approved by the City Council. The lease would be for five years with an option for a five-year renewal. NFLT has agreed to pay for about $250,000 in improvements to the building, which would include the addition of an elevator and other handicap requirements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a kitchen and small eating area for employees, an off-street parking lot, plus fencing, lighting and other security features. In return, the rent would be waived until the principle and accrued interest from the improvements has been retired.
Brewster Hospital was built in 1885 and was Jacksonville’s first hospital for African Americans and a training school for nurses. It served African Americans in Jacksonville from 1901 to 1966. It was founded in 1901 as the George A. Brewster Hospital and School of Nurse Training, because there was no place for Negroes to go to for treatment after the disastrous Great Fire of 1901. Its sponsor was the Women’s Division of the Methodist Board of Missions. (As in other Southern cities, white hospitals did not treat Negroes before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.) It closed in 1966 because, like Florida A&M Hospital, the forced integration of white hospitals meant it lost its funding. The building was gutted and rebuilt as Methodist Hospital, opening in 1967. The building that replaced it became Methodist Medical Center in 1993, and in 1999 merged with University Medical Center to become the Shands Jacksonville Medical Center
The original building was moved to its current location at the corner of Monroe and Davis Streets in 2005. The City of Jacksonville did extensive renovations to the building in 2007. NFLT would occupy a portion of the building and will designate an area on the first floor that will serve as a memorial to the history of Brewster Hospital. The area will be available to the Brewster and Community Nurses Association for meetings and events.
“While we are primarily a land conservation organization, our mission also includes the preservation of historic resources in North Florida, like Brewster Hospital,” said McCarthy. “This historic building has the space we need, it is a valuable piece of Jacksonville’s history and it is vacant; the perfect scenario for us and our mission.”
NFLT would begin improvements as soon as the City Council approves the lease agreement, which is expected to be voted on in August.
About North Florida Land Trust
North Florida Land Trust is a non-profit organization who serves as a champion of land conservation primarily in Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Nassau, Putnam, and St. Johns counties. NFLT was founded in 1999 and has protected thousands of acres of environmentally significant land including land at Big Talbot Island, the River Branch Preserve, Pumpkin Hill, Moccasin Slough, along the St. Mary’s River and other valued natural areas in Northeast Florida. NFLT is funded largely by private and corporate contributions and works closely with private landowners and other public agencies at all levels of government, not-for-profit partners, and foundations. For more information, visit www.northfloridalandtrust.org.