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  • Cierra Chenier

The Lost Souls of Charity

Charity Hospital

If you've ever passed over by Canal and Tulane, you couldn't have missed the abandoned, deteriorating former Charity Hospital.


"Big Charity" was built in 1736 with a grant from French shipbuilder Jean Louis, whose dying wish was for a hospital built specifically for the poor. Charity was one of the largest hospitals in the world, with an accommodation of 1,000 patients at a time. In its prime, it was considered to be the best hospital in the nation to train for emergency medicine and was also known for its mental health services. According to a study done by Charity in 1996, one third of their patients were gunshot victims, with 51% of them being uninsured. Charity Hospital carried the legacy of treating those that had nowhere else to go, often times those that were poor and/or Black.

Then came Katrina.

Following the storm, Charity Hospital was left to die. Severe damage and "lack of funding" are the excuses used to justify Charity's abandonment. The closure resulted in a loss of 128, much-needed, psychiatric beds. However, $1.2 billion later, the new University Medical Center was built around the corner from where Charity still stands.

From its forever-bustling emergency unit, the severely mentally ill, and influx of gunshot victims, those that worked in Charity saw it ALL; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Today, the building serves as an eerie reminder of what once was.

Numerous photographers have gone in and captured what's left of Charity: a decaying building, leftover blood specimens, rotting body parts, hazardous chemicals, medical beds in hallways, and a creepy operating "theatre" behind the morgue.

Christmas light inside of the abandoned Charity Hospital

Around Christmas of 2015, Lisa Walley Staggs' Facebook post made headlines. The image appears to be a lit Christmas tree in one of the windows of the abandoned hospital. The occurrence was downplayed as a break-in by police, but many New Orleanians, including myself, still have raised eyebrows.

The legacy of Charity lives on, and the spirits of the poor, injured, oppressed, and deceased do as well.

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