Until its closure following damage incurred by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Charity Hospital was the second-oldest continuously operating hospital in the U.S. (the oldest being New York City’s Bellevue Hospital, which opened its doors six weeks before Charity).
In 1735, Jean Louis, a French seaman and boat builder, bequeathed his fortunes to the founding and upkeep of a hospital to serve the indigent of New Orleans. Charity opened on May 10, 1736, and was located at Chartres and Bienville streets. In 1743, it moved to Basin Street, near the St. Peter Cemetery. After storm damage in 1779, the building was rebuilt in 1785, but burnt down in an 1809 fire.
It took five years for a new hospital to be built, during which time patients were housed variously in the Cabildo, a private Marigny home and the De La Vergne Plantation. The new building, opened in 1815, was situated on Canal Street (presently the site of the Roosevelt Hotel), but quickly fell into deplorable condition. Things improved, but plans for yet another new building were created, with funding raised via gambling revenue and the selling of slaves.
This location, bounded by Girod, Gravier, St. Mary and Common streets, was built in 1832 and was home to the hospital for more than 100 years.
The current Charity Hospital building was erected in 1939 on Tulane Avenue, as a Public Works Administration project, where it remained in service for more than 65 years. It served as a teaching and learning hospital
as part of the Louisiana State University Health Care System, and was regularly among the top-ranked trauma centers in the country.