Community recognizes legacy of Alachua General Hospital with historic marker
The public, local officials and University of Florida Health administrators gatheredon July 11, 2014 for the unveiling of a Florida Historical Marker that honors the legacy of Alachua General Hospital, Alachua County’s first community hospital.
“It’s an honor to pay tribute to AGH — not the building, but the thousands of people who, for decades, provided life-enhancing medical care and compassionate attention to residents of Alachua County and the surrounding communities,” said Tim Goldfarb, executive vice president for regional and governmental affairs at UF Health. “We’re celebrating the doctors, nurses, techs, support staff and volunteers whose commitment, talent and positive spirits made AGH such a special and beloved part of our community.”
The state issues markers to designate sites that are significant local landmarks and are of historical and visual interest to visitors. They recognize notable places, persons or events in the areas of architecture, archaeology, history and culture.
The marker was installed on the site where the hospital stood for nearly 82 years, at the corner of Southwest Fourth Avenue and Southwest Seventh Terrace in Gainesville. Generations of Alachua County families were treated at Alachua General Hospital, also called AGH, which gained a reputation for providing the area with high-quality, compassionate care.
“The men and women who worked at AGH practiced ‘care for the whole person — body, mind and spirit,’ and many are still with us at UF Health and in the community, continuing to fulfill that mission,” Goldfarb said. “The legacy of AGH lives on in north central Florida.”
Among those who spoke at the event were Goldfarb; Ed Braddy, mayor of Gainesville; Lee Pinkoson, chair of the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners; Melanie Barr, chair of the Alachua County Historical Commission; and Florence VanArnam, a local medical historian and former AGH Auxiliary volunteer.
The ceremony was held at Innovation Square at UF, the former location of the hospital. Innovation Square is a 40-acre development that connects UF with downtown Gainesville. It includes facilities for science and technology research, and provides entrepreneurs and startup companies with office space and opportunities to collaborate with the university.
“I will always have fond memories of Alachua General Hospital. I was born there and had one of my first jobs working in its blood bank,” Pinkoson said. “It was the county commission’s decision to turn the hospital over to Shands that eventually made the exciting and visionary Innovation Square project possible. I am very happy that this historical marker will be there to keep the memory of this important community resource alive.”
In 1905, the closest modern hospital to Alachua County was in Jacksonville, about a five-hour train ride away. Money was raised to establish a community hospital, and Alachua County Hospital, as it was then called, opened in 1928 with 58 beds, two operating rooms, 25 nurses and 12 physicians.
Over the next 20 years, admissions increased to 3,600 patients annually and a new annex added 116 beds. In 1949, county commissioners changed the name to Alachua General Hospital, and a year later a new hospital was opened on the same site, offering 60 additional beds, an expanded emergency department, six operating rooms — and air conditioning.
In the 1970s, the emergency department doubled in size, as did the number of patient beds. By its 50th anniversary, AGH had become a private, not-for-profit hospital.
In 1983, AGH became part of SantaFe Health Care; then in 1996 it was purchased by Shands HealthCare and renamed Shands AGH. After 13 years, the hospital closed and became the site for Innovation Square. A majority of the hospital’s services and staff moved to other Shands hospitals.
The State Historical Marker Council, a division of the Florida Department of State, issued the Florida Historical Marker after approving the application submitted by the Alachua County Historical Commission. UF Health sponsored the application for the AGH marker.
“The site has great emotional significance to thousands of people, and the Alachua County Historical Commission is pleased that UF Health agreed to fund the State Historical Marker for Alachua General Hospital,” Barr said. “The 81-year-old legacy will not be forgotten, and the marker will aid visitors and residents when they are searching for the site to show loved ones where significant changes took place in their life, whether as a patient or an employee.”
The text of the marker reads: “Historic Alachua General Hospital (AGH) stood on this site for nearly 82 years. A county or community-supported venture for much of its history, the hospital served the needs of Alachua County citizens for generations as a respected health care resource.”