Purchase and The 19th Century
In 1803, Louisiana and
New Orleans came under control of the United States, and American
physicians began coming to the city in increasing numbers.
In contrast to the French and Spanish physicians, who often
allowed nature to take its course when treating disease, the
Americans advocated “heroic” measures to treat
diseases such as yellow fever, including bleeding, purging,
cupping, and copious doses of calomel, or mercury.
In 1809, tragedy again
struck Charity Hospital. The 1785 building, bequeathed by
the Almonester family, burned to the ground, killing 4 patients.
For two years, indigent patients were shuttled to different
facilities around the city, often close to starvation and
in deplorable conditions. Finally, in 1811, the Almonester
family relinquished control of rights to the hospital and
for the first time the city of New Orleans was responsible
for Charity Hospital.
Funds were appropriated by the city to build a new hospital,
and in 1815 work began on the next incarnation of Charity
Hospital, this time on a lot bounded by Canal, Common, University
Place and Baronne streets. Currently this lot is the home
of the Fairmont Hotel, but in 1815 it was at the remote, swampy
edge of the city, close to the ship-turn where the two earlier
versions of Charity had resided. When completed, it was described
as “vast and commodious … capable of caring for
120 patients.” The new Charity had wards for fever patients,
those with dysentery, females, and convalescents, a surgical
hall, and apartments for residents. In 1823 1,700 patients
were admitted; 1,200 were discharged and the rest died, half
of those from yellow fever. Yellow fever, malaria and cholera
continued to afflict the city for the next century.
1812, Louisiana was admited to the Union. Statehood, coupled
with growing port operations, swelled the population of the
city. With this increase in population came an increase of
seamen and immigrants, and plans were made to build a new
Charity Hospital to accommodate more patients. The new building
was completed in 1832, and was comprised of three floors.
The top two were patients floors, with the second being reserved
for women. The female floor was divided into three wards:
one for women of good character, one for women of ill-repute,
and one for women with surgical or obstetrical needs. The
bottom floor housed the library and classrooms to be used
by the Medical College of Louisiana. 1834 also brought management
of the daily operations of the hospital under the nuns of
the Daughters of Charity.
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