The History of Charity

CharityHospitalSmall2Charity Hospital was founded in 1732 when a French seaman died, leaving his entire estate to “establish and maintain a hospital for the poor people of New Orleans.

By the time the Civil War began in 1860, Charity was one of the largest hospitals in the world, able to accommodate 1,000 patients at a time. During the Civil War, the hospital provided medical care for soldiers from both armies. In 1873, a local newspaper described Charity Hospital: “No question of race, nationality, religion, sex or character hinders a single applicant for repose and healing…the best medical talent in the city is placed at the disposition of the poorest and meanest of its citizens.”

Charity Hospital has been at its present location for so long, that today New Orleanians often think it has always been there and has always been the same. But, in fact, the hospital has been located in six different main buildings in four different locations during 260+ years. By the early 1930s, the old facility was crowded and out of date. Louisiana’s populist Governor Huey P. Long made it a priority of his administration to build a “fine, new hospital facility that would equal or better any other in the country.”

When the present building on Tulane Avenue was completed in 1939, with a bed capacity of 1800, but quickly approaching a census of 3000, making Charity one of the largest hospitals in the US, serving the educational and research needs of two medical schools: Tulane University Medical Center & Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.

The Emergency Department at Charity Hospital was, for many years, the busiest ED in the country. The legacy of treating those who have nowhere else to go and providing a high volume of life saving care for a wide breadth of critical illnesses continues through Interim LSU Hospital and into the future at University Medical Center. The legacy, spirit, and mission of Charity Hospital will always live on in the work of the faculty, residents, and support staff that make up our Emergency Medicine Residency.

Back in the Day


CNN’s Charity Hospital: 2005 Report

CNN’s Charity Hospital: 10 years later