Carraway Hospital

24639580497_04ca5eb66b_kIn 1908, Dr. Charles Carraway built a 16-bed hospital and office next to his home in Pratt City. He named it Carraway Infirmary. Carraway financed the facility by contracting with Birmingham’s industrial employers to provide health care to workers’ families based on a monthly fee. Businesses would pay $1 per employee or $1.25 per family for treatment. Dr. Carraway would even make house calls in his 1903 Cadillac. In 1917, Carraway purchased a lot on the corner of Sixteenth Ave and Twenty-Fifth Street, and moved his practice to the present location in Norwood, renaming it Norwood Hospital.

Charles Carraway 1920
Dr. Charles Carraway, 1920

Inspired by Charles and William Mayo of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, Carraway brought in other doctors to practice under one medical group. The group would be incorporated in 1926 as the Norwood Clinic. The clinic became Alabama’s first multi-specialty medical group practice. The hospital added an additional nursing wing in 1949 with a $200,000 federal grant.

Carraway HospitalAfter Dr. Charles Carraway suffered a stroke in 1957, his son, Dr. Ben Carraway, was appointed in his place as Chairman. Under his guidance the hospital, then known as Carraway Methodist, grew from 256 beds to 617 beds. Now a Birmingham landmark, the notable blue star was placed on the roof during Christmas in 1958. Dr. Charles Carraway died in 1963 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

Carraway HospitalThe Purcell Wing opened in 1957 and was the first of many renovations of the medical center. Like most of Birmingham during the 1960s, Carraway Hospital was segregated. The hospital came under scrutiny in 1961 after staff refused admittance to James Peck, a white Freedom Rider who was severely beaten by the Ku Klux Klan. The hospital was racially integrated by 1968. Although, accusations of racial discrimination against the hospital were made in the 1970s.

Carraway HospitalThroughout its history, Carraway Hospital remained a leader in medical care. The $27 million Goodson Building was completed in 1974, with Charles Carraway’s 1903 Cadillac on display in the lobby. In the 1980s, the facility added the only Level 1 Trauma Center in Birmingham, 3 Lifesaver helicopters, a hyperbaric oxygen therapy department, a sleep center, and wound care center. The Lifesaver helicopter program carried 30,000 patients as part of Carraway Hospital, and was one of only 5% of emergency flight programs that placed physicians on every flight.

Carraway HospitalCarraway Hospital began facing financial difficulties in the early 2000s. The hospital began looking for a buyer in 2001. During that time, the Chairman was the founder’s grandson, Dr. Robert Carraway. The Birmingham News blamed the declining Norwood neighborhood and decades of choosing patients over profits for the institution’s financial demise. In September 2006, Carraway Hospital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, with ownership being placed up for auction. A group of doctors bidding as Physicians Medical Center LLC submitted the highest bid of $26.5 million.

Carraway HospitalAfter the buyout, the new owners changed the name in early 2007 to Physicians Medical Center. The hospital was able to turn a profit for the first time in many years in June 2008. Sadly, the newly found success was short-lived. By October 2008, Carraway was unable to make payroll. The hospital officially closed on October 31, 2008 after 100 years in business.

Carraway HospitalIn 2009, a South Korean investment firm proposed to buy Carraway Hospital and reopen it as a training center for nurses. That plan never materialized. The Lovelady Center, a non-profit women’s rehab center, purchased Carraway Hospital for $6 million in 2011.

Carraway HospitalThe Lovelady Center planned to spend $15 million over 3 years to convert the 52-acre campus into a multi-use development that would include the rehab center, a hotel, emergency, room, pharmacy, and a long-term medical care center. The finished project would be called Metro Plaza.

Carraway HospitalThe neighborhood committees around Carraway opposed the Lovelady Center moving into the vacant hospital. They believe a transitional housing center would be a step back for the community, and not a beneficial use of the massive complex.

Carraway HospitalIn 2016, the Lovelady Center announced they were selling Carraway Hospital, after being turned down by the local zoning board for not meeting regulations. The future remains uncertain for Carraway Hospital, but city leaders are hopeful that the prime location may attract a new developer.

Carraway Hospital

Abandoned Birmingham

Founded in 1871 after the Civil War, Birmingham rapidly grew as an industrial enterprise due to the abundance of the three raw materials used in making steel–iron ore, coal, and limestone. Birmingham’s rapid growth was due to the booming iron and steel industries giving it the nickname “Magic City” and “Pittsburgh of the South.” The city was named after Birmingham, England, as a nod to the major industrial powerhouse. The iron and steel industries began to dry up by the early 1970s, leaving behind dozens of abandoned structures that now dot the city’s landscape. In the last several years, Birmingham has begun to experience a rebirth. Money has been invested in reconstructing the historic downtown area into a pedestrian-friendly mixed-use district. In Abandoned Birmingham, photographer Leland Kent gives the reader an in-depth look at the forgotten buildings and factories throughout the city. This copy will be signed. Free Shipping

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33 Replies to “Carraway Hospital”

  1. On Nov. 30, 1985, my brother was one of those helicopter flights. Unfortunately, he did not survive the accidental gun shot wound. Thankful for those who tried so hard to help him but too much blood loss. Tragic that such a place of great service did not receive the service it deserved.

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  2. I t is a shame the neighborhood thought the LoveLady plans were not what they needed. Have they looked around at their surroundings ? Must not have been profitable for some politicians, so they voted to let the building remain empty. WHAT kind of plan is that?

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    1. It’s a SHAME & DISGRACE it has been ALLOWED to be vandalized and ripped to pieces. That Community had a chance to be better and was denied by its own people. Shame on you. Do you see what you have now? An eyesore to the Community. When I passed not long ago it looked like the star had a big hole in it. It would have been an awesome rehabilitation center. Lord knows we need something like that. A part of Birmingham history is turning into a pile of rubble. Top Golf is a beautiful facility right up the road. Who ever did that, congratulations on your vision and making Birmingham beautiful again! We need more like you.

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    2. I couldn’t agree more!! I live a few blocks from the Lovelady Center in East Lake. It is well kept (it’s just old and shows it). I’m proud to have them in my neighborhood and hope to volunteer there when I retire.

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  3. I was raised in Mt. Olive and my Mom and Dad used it all the time. My Fad passed away their in 2006. It is a shame to see it just sitting there not being used and to me something there would be better than nothing. It is ashamed that it is not being use.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was a very sad day for me when they closed the doors to the hospital. It has such wonderful memories of both of my babies being born there. Dr Boulware delivered my oldest daughter and Dr Faucette was suppose to deliver my youngest daughter. What wonderful and caring doctors they were. It also has sad memories for me because I was diagnosed with breast cancer there. But because of my wonderful, caring surgeon, Dr Robert Carraway, the nurses and his caring office staff I have been cancer free since ‘85. This place and the people that made it the best hospital in Birmingham for so many years, will always hold a place in my heart. Thank you Dr. Robert Carraway for being such a wonderful doctor.

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  5. Dr. Wm. Howell was my doctor for many years at the Clinic. He was a great physician and we always used Carraway Hospital. It was a great place . So sad to see it empty. Serviced so many people for so long. Convenient too. Now, it is St. Vincent’s So. Or East. I so wish it could be a great hospital again!

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  6. I attended nursing school there and then went on to work there 16 years on the Ob-Gyn unit I loved working there . I worked with some great Drs and nurses. All three if my children were born there . So sad to see it now. It

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  7. On December 26, 1978, I began my career as a registered nurse on 9 Goodson…a psychiatric unit at Carraway Methodist Medical Center. Wow…what I learned and how I made life long friends. How proud I was to be a part of a facility that became a Level 1 Trauma Center with Life Saver helicopters…who eventually flew to my Grandfather’s farm in Ball Play…outside of Hokes Bluff, AL and transported him as he had had a cardiac event; cured my father of adenocarcinoma and gave my mother some years of life following a diagnosis of lung cancer…all at the hands of caring, dedicated physicians . A fun memory I had was caring for Dr. Ben Carraway…he was my patient at the time on my medical unit, BUT…I had to delay my care because he put on a lab coat, left my unit and made rounds on HIS patients! It is sad and haunting to see such a once clean and pristine place deteriorate! Thank you, CMMC, for the memories.

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  8. I grew up in Gardendale and Mt Olive. I never actually went to Carraway myself, but I remember when I was younger, hearing what a great hospital it was. I remember that seeing that big blue star was the coolest part of our drives through Birmingham. I remember seeing in in its prime; so busy and full of life. Then I remember when I realized that I was closed…. and even though I had never had a personal experience there, it still struck a chord with me that this once great thing, this one staple in my childhood is now gone.

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  9. I was born at Carraway Hospital in July 1952..
    Dr. McDonald was my baby doctor..
    We used Carraway Hospital until it’s closing
    After lifesaving heart surgery and kidney
    Surgery my father in law passed away there in 1996 but he was given many more years of life because of the wonderful doctors and nurses
    whose expertise in their fields was excellent.
    When the doors closed at Carraway Methodist
    it was a sad day for sure😔
    My father in law passed away there in 1996

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  10. Raised in the neighborhood Carraway was always a place of healing and help to me.
    I delivered my last child there. I had several surgeries there.
    All my regular doctor visits. Also had many lunches there just because of the great food.
    In 1995 my family was carbon moximonoxide poisoned.
    The hyperbaric chamber saved my life.
    Really miss this place.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I was born there as were my two sisters in 1948,1950 and 1951. All delivered by Dr Roundtree ( who also delivered my Mother)
    Later, as an RN I worked there.
    Was working there 9/11 and will never forget how we were instructed to discharge as many as we could that day thinking we might get some patients from the Trade Towers ( flown to Birmingham) later in the day.
    Sadly, there were no Flights to Birmingham for medical care that day.

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  12. My Granfather gave a great part of his life to the success of this facility as an Administrator. My Dad, Mom, Aunt, Uncle and myself all were employed by the Carraway System. It’s heartbreaking to know that thing that was talked about over so many dinners has just been cast aside. I remember Dr Ben as a sweet bow-tie wearing little old man ,although I know he was much more than that . Wish someone could make use of it. Will III

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  13. I’m not sure if you got permission to go in there, but if so who do you contact for that? I would like to do this for my photography class final, so I figured I should at least try going through the legal channels. Either way, thanks for all the information! I had a hard time finding anything for places like this in my area of the country before I found your page.

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  14. How do I get permission to go in and take photos ? and maybe a documentary video because I was born in this hospital and I was premature and died 3 times after I was born.

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