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Blake Pontchartrain: N.O. Know It All 

What's up with the old tuberculosis hospital next to Charity Hospital?

click to enlarge The John Dibert Tuberculosis Hospital in the downtown medical corridor may be converted into housing for students in LSU's health sciences programs.

Photo by Kandace Power Graves

The John Dibert Tuberculosis Hospital in the downtown medical corridor may be converted into housing for students in LSU's health sciences programs.

Hey Blake,

Are there any plans to get rid of the building that once housed tuberculosis patients? It stands in the middle of the medical center being built and is empty and ugly.

Jeannine Ward

Dear Jeannine,

  "Ugly" is a matter of opinion. Some parties have worked hard to protect this historic building. The John Dibert Tuberculosis Hospital at 340 S. Claiborne Ave. was built in memorial to John Dibert, a wealthy lumberman and foundry owner whose wife, Eve Christine Dibert, donated thousands of dollars to ensure her husband was commemorated properly. A school on Orleans Avenue was named in his honor, and he was interred in a classical-style mausoleum in Metairie Cemetery.

  The neoclassical five-story hospital on South Claiborne Avenue is more than 58,000 square feet and was built in 1926. At that time it had 250 beds.

  Tuberculosis did not have the same devastating impact in New Orleans as it did in other major U.S. cities. In 1953, a 10-bed alcoholic rehabilitation hospital was opened in the Dibert building, and most recently, the building functioned as a primary care health clinic.

  The building suffered damage during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and FEMA took measures to avoid further deterioration by securing and ventilating it.

  In conjunction with Facility Planning and Control (FP&C) and LSU, FEMA developed a strategic plan to encourage adaptive reuse of the John Dibert Building, along with eight other historically significant structures that made up the former Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans (MCLNO). That includes Charity Hospital, by the way. It was up to LSU to determine which of the nine properties would be suitable for its use.

  In a 2008 programmatic agreement, FEMA said that if LSU decided the Dibert Building was not suitable, FP&C would offer it to other state agencies or other interested parties.

  The most recent plan calls for converting the structure into housing for students in the LSU Health Sciences Center's programs in medicine, nursing, dentistry, allied health professions, graduate studies and public health. As for the building's famous neighbor, Charity Hospital, Mayor Mitch Landrieu continues to promote his plan to convert "Big Charity" into a civic complex.

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