A VITAL ROLE TO FILL — Jacksonville’s first hospital for African Americans was Brewster Hospital, which dated from 1901. Most health care institutions on the First Coast wouldn’t admit African Americans, so Brewster served an essential need.
The hospital’s name came from Mrs. George A. Brewster, an early financial contributor to it. Together with a training school for nurses, the facility was founded by the Women’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Church. It was an outgrowth of Boylan-Haven School, a private institution for girls in Jacksonville. Brewster Hospital was the first training hospital for African-Americans in the nation.
Brewster’s first home still stands. The institution operated in a former residence for a meat dealer. It was located just west of downtown in La Villa at 915 West Monroe Street. Built in 1885, the dwelling features one of Jacksonville’s oldest & most remarkable Victorian “gingerbread” porches. The two-story veranda contains intricate scroll work cut by a jigsaw.
After Brewster moved from its inaugural home, it occupied several other larger facilities. In 1931, Brewster finally obtained a new medical complex at 7th & Jefferson streets, near the western edge of Springfield. This was where the photo above was taken. During Brewster’s first year in this location, its officials published a brochure that invited the state’s African American doctors to send their patients. There were no hospital facilities for African Americans in many parts of Florida.
The passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act doomed Brewster Hospital. The legislation opened the city’s other health care facilities to African Americans. This resulted in a substantial drop in revenue for Brewster. The venerable old institution finally shut its doors in 1966. Its last home, the 7th & Jefferson complex, was torn down, and the site is now occupied by Methodist Hospital.
The city relocated the structure from its former location at 915 W. Monroe St. to the northeast corner of Monroe and Davis Streets in September 2005. In 2007, the City of Jacksonville began extensive restorations.