Black History Month: Brewster Hospital-Jacksonville’s First Hospital for African Americans

  • by Catherine Tortorici
  • February 23, 2022

When one thinks of the last name Emerson, Ralph Waldo Emerson is easily one of the most commonly studied individuals in school curriculums. However, in relation to Jacksonville’s history, his cousin, Hattie E. Emerson is the member of the family worth mentioning. In 1886, Hattie E. Emerson worked with the Woman’s Home Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church to establish Boylan Industrial Home and School for Negro Girls.

The Boylan Industrial Home and School for Negro Girls | Source: UF Health Jax

This school sat on the corner of Davis and Duval Street in Downtown Jacksonville and provided education/vocational training to young Black women. During the time of its early operation, Boylan Industrial was faced with two significant challenges- a state bill prohibiting Blacks to be taught by White teachers and the segregation policies of hospitals in the South. Fortunately for Emerson and Jacksonville’s newly freed Black residents, state legislators did not intrude on the operations of the school, and their lack of intervention enabled the school’s expansion/the eventual establishment of George A. Brewster Hospital & School of Nurse Training.  


George A. Brewster Hospital & School of Nurse Training | Source: UF Health Jax

In 1901, Brewster became Jacksonville’s first hospital for Black citizens and the first Black nursing school in the state of Florida. After operating for 30 years at its original location, Brewster received funding for a state-of-the-art hospital, which served 60,636 patients in its first year (7th & Jefferson St). This three story (basement included), fireproofed, and red brick building officially closed its doors in 1966, and the National Register of Historic Places added the Old Brewster Hospital & School of Nurse Training to its registry ten years later (1976).  

 Nurses at Brewster Hospital (1947) | Source: Jacksonville Historical Society

Since then, the city of Jacksonville has moved the Old Brewster Hopsital building to 843 West Monroe Street (2005) and restored the exterior of the historic monument (2007). In addition to this, the North Florida Land Trust has made extensive repairs/ improvements to the interior of the building, which now serves as their headquarters. If you would like to learn more about Brewster Hospital, please feel free to review Jacksonville Historical Society’s article,  visit UF Health’s website, or go check it out yourself. The building is in great shape, and North Florida Land Trust has maintained a significant part of Jacksonville’s history by preserving it.  

Restored Old Brewster Hospital | Source: UNF Digital Commons

 Article by Wilshem Pennick


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