Hidden History: Looking inside the remains of a 111-year-old hospital for African Americans in Raleigh
St. Agnes Hospital is viewed by many as a symbol of strength and resilience in the aftermath of slavery. It was built by the students of St. Augustine, who not only built the structure, but quarried the stone from the ground themselves. It served as a segregated hospital for the black community, and was the largest and highest quality medical care between Washington D.C. and Atlanta. WRAL Hidden History takes a look inside the remaining walls of St. Agnes Hospital.
so Good morning, everybody. Thank you so much for joining me today. This weekend, our Sunday special is going to be on ST Agnes Hospital, which is the structure that we're looking at today. And I am so, so happy and fortunate to be able to come in here and bring you this because ST Agnes is gated up for its own protection and because it's dangerous inside. Uh, but I have talked to the marketing team and gotten permission to come in here, so we're gonna actually go inside it a little bit today. Once again, it's a hot one. So forgive my, uh forgive it if I get out of breath, it's it's quite warm to be walking around and exploring, but I really want to show you this right here. So today we're gonna go inside ST Agnes, and we're gonna talk about the history a little bit. And then normally I have a story already written for you. But because of the nature of the timeliness of getting in to the structure and getting access, the story is gonna be coming tomorrow. So if you are interested in this and you want to see more pictures and learn more history. Please check out the hidden history article tomorrow that I'll be putting out. So I'm gonna try to find a good way in here. Look at this. So that is shady spot here, ST. Agnes. A lot of people drive by this building and don't know what it is. I'm included. I used to not know what this was. I used to go toe Oakwood Cemetery to see my grandfather's grave, and we passed this building and I go, Mommy, look, a castle. And she didn't know what it was either. This is your house. That would be nice. This would be a nice house. Even in its current state. I would not mind owning this house. So, ST Agnes, for those of you who don't know, this was one of Raleigh's earliest segregated hospitals. So ST Agnes was originally created. I'm gonna try to find a safer way in here. Well, what do you think? And I walk on that. I'm sure there's poison ivy, but I'm gonna try to come in here. Who? Being careful. This is the fun of these streams. Guys. You actually get to explore with me. It's not a scripted piece it. See full exploration. Nikki is You said your grandmother was born here? Yes, ST Agnes. So, ST Agnes, lots of people were born here. This place closed in the 19 sixties, but it's been standing here ever since then. And there have been discussions about, um, bringing it back, renovating it. Um, and there's still discussions about that. They do have events here every so often. So the history. I'll start there. This Let me go now. I'm in here. This was built while this structure wasn't built. ST. Agnes Hospital was started in the late 18 18 nineties. So if you think about when did the civil War end, which is 18 65? This was built about 30 years later. Not this building. The hospital was built at the time. The hospital was just a smaller structure on ST Augustine campus, and it was actually built as a passion project of the principal's wife. She was the one who kind of pushed for for a hospital to be built for African Americans. So in Raleigh here, downtown Raleigh, the area that is now downtown Raleigh. We had several plantations, and when the civil War ended, we had a lot of people who didn't have anywhere to go. They didn't have health care. They didn't have homes, They didn't have jobs, They didn't have college educations, and those structures had to be built. The first, the 1st 4 year medical school in the entire country was right here in Raleigh, and it was actually for African Americans. It was at Shaw University. Shaw University had the 1st 4 year medical program, and that was before ST Agnes. Unfortunately, that medical program closed, and I believe it was believe it might have been 1918. My article will have the very specific dates, but it was the early 19 hundreds. ST. Agnes lasted, however, until until the 19 sixties, so this was here much longer, but it came slightly later. ST. Agnes didn't just provide health care for the black community. It also provided opportunity because you got to think there weren't necessarily a lot of places if you were black, where you could learn to be a doctor or a nurse, and this was a teaching hospital so people could come here and learn how to be doctors, how to be nurses and really build up a good, solid future for themselves. And I will tell you I spoke with Esther Delaney. She is the great granddaughter, possibly the great great granddaughter off Bishop Delaney. And he was a person who had been freed from slavery, and he laid the cornerstone of this hospital. Many people who I've interviewed about this hospital include England in Dallas, who heads up, envisioned ST Agnes, which is a nonprofit that's trying to help preserve history of this building. They have said that this and of course, I talked to Esther Delaney, whose great great grandfather laid the cornerstone of the building. This building was more than just a hospital. It was a symbol of making a way out of no way. And that is the quote that I have. It's the symbol of making a way out of No way. So when you don't have as many resource is as much money as much training, what do you dio And this hospital was built by the students of ST Augustine University. College students built this college. Students learned how to build and put this together. They actually quarried the stones from the earth themselves. I know where I went to College was wonderful college, but it's hard to imagine students there quarrying stone out of the earth and building building a hospital if that was needed. But that's how ST Agnes was built. It was built by students and by people who were passionate about having a place where freed black people could learn how to become doctors and nurses and care for each other and protect each other's help. Now, when I asked Esther Delaney on, I spoke with her years ago, wasn't for this article, but I've talked with her about ST Agnes because I've covered ST Agnes before. In fact, you might find other articles about ST Agnes out there that I've written in the past. Esther told me. I asked her. I said, Well, what if you were? What if you were black and you lived at the beach Wilmington and there wasn't a hospital near you? His hospitals were segregated, so you couldn't go to a white hospital if you were not white. And I said, What would you do if you were having a heart attack and you were at, you know, the beach and Wilmington and you had to travel all the way here to Raleigh to come to this hospital order, whatever. Smaller, less, uh, less quality hospital care they had there. And she said you would probably die. I said, Really? If you were just laying in front of a hospital that was segregated for whites only, and you couldn't make it all the way here, they would not take you in. And she said she believes that you probably would just die. That was the value of ST Agnes ST Agnes. ST Agnes was the highest quality hospital for African Americans, the largest, most well equipped hospital of its time. And it was right here in Raleigh. Well, the largest, most well equipped hospital between Washington, D. C. And I believe it was New Orleans, Louisiana. So if you can imagine right here in Raleigh, we had the highest quality hospital care for the African American population. Gonna look up here a little bit? I'm gonna show you a little bit of this. By the way, the care here was so good that even though if you were black, you could not go to a white hospital. Some of the black doctors here moonlighted at white hospitals because their skill level was so much higher because they had to work here with less money and less equipment. Um, of course is closed in the 19 sixties. Ah, big reason it closed was that Wake Med opened. And while Wake Med was still segregated, they had a hallway for the African American population. And unfortunately, as amazing and high quality of ST Agnes was, it still couldn't compete with the money that Wake Med add. So that's one reason that it closed. So I'm gonna show you a couple of things here that I think are interesting. First of all, you've seen me walking around what looks like you know, the first floor. This is the basement, and I actually walked in a window. The reason is because the first floor would be up here just pretty high above me. This would have been the first floor, but it has rotted away. A lot of people have the mistaken idea that ST Agnes burned, and that's why it looks like this. It didn't burn. Ah, the insides were actually gutted because they originally thought they might preserve the building. But unfortunately, there's been a lot of back and forth, and it has not yet been done. So we're in the basement. I believe that right there. Straight ahead. That's the main entrance. That would have been the front door. And I'm gonna show you the outside to That's the main entrance. We have some beams up here holding it together, these air newer and one cool thing that, actually, my friend Michael Palko, who also did some history on ST Agnes he showed me served me to seek. There's a glare, but these windows here, if you notice those are not square, those are actually the chapel windows. That's where the chapel would have been. That's really interesting. You could see that, and it's pretty overgrown. But there is a nameplate that usually is out there that says the name of Ah, the woman who established the hospital. But I think it's probably overgrown. I'm gonna walk out here. I want to show you guys a little bit more of the outside. This is a really rare opportunity. You do not normally get to see the inside of ST Agnes. It is closed off to the public. It is definitely considered trespassing. They haven't gate up. They were very, very kind to give permission for us. Teoh, come here. One second. Thank you. I will. That's Ah, that is Kimberly. She works in marketing here, and she's the one who gave me permission to come in here. I'm just showing you some of the outside shots, and then I'm gonna go in and get a few photos. No, guys, if you want more of the history of ST Agnes again, normally I have a article already up. But because of the timing and the permissions to get in here, the article will be going up tomorrow. But it's the Sunday special. So tomorrow Sunday, special will be on ST Agnes and it will have even more history and more information about what's currently being done with ST Agnes.