The last days of General Hospital

The big move is coming soon, perhaps as early as Friday, for hundreds of patients of the old County USC General Hospital in Boyle Heights. The patients and staff of the old hospital are not going very far, just next door into a new facility. But what will happen to the Moderne-style tower, which opened its doors in December 1933 with more than 1,600 beds?

It’s hard to imagine that the aging hospital, designed by Allied Architects, was once regarded as a state-of-the art medical facility, as cutting edge as its glass and steel replacement next door. General Hospital’s opening, according to one account, was regarded by the local press as a major civic accomplishment during the Great Depression:

“Cream-white in the noonday sun—gold tinted in the afternoon haze, looming black against the stars at night—the Los Angeles County General Hospital rounds a hilltop with its soaring mass of concrete, the greatest single monument to that command ‘Heal the sick’ ever erected by an American community.”

So far, the only immediate plans for General Hospital, which was featured in the opening credits of the soap opera of the same name, are to convert the basement through the fifth floor into office space, said hospital spokeswoman Adelaida DeLaCerda. The remainder of the 18-story tower, however, will remain empty.

The ceiling murals in the entry alcove painted by Hugo Ballin will also be preserved as will “The Angel of Mercy,” one of three stone figures carved by sculptor S. Cartaino Scarpitta, that looks down on patients as they walk through the main entrance.

“It remains the way it is,” DeLaCerda said. “All that will be left intact.”

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