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Burrell Memorial Hospital
Burrell Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Virginia.jpg
Burrell Memorial Hospital, February 2010
Burrell Memorial Hospital is located in Virginia
Burrell Memorial Hospital
Location in Virginia
Burrell Memorial Hospital is located in the United States
Burrell Memorial Hospital
Location in the United States
Location 611 McDowell St., Roanoke, Virginia
Area 3.8 acres (1.5 ha)
Built 1915 (1915)
Architect Hannaford, Harvey E.; Stone and Thompson
Architectural style International Style
NRHP reference No. 03000450
Quick facts for kids
Significant dates
Added to NRHP September 22, 2003

Burrell Memorial Hospital, also known as BRBH Burrell Center, is a historic African-American hospital located in the Gainsboro neighborhood of Roanoke, Virginia. It was built in 1915, and is a four-story, 73,000 square foot, International Style building. It is "T"-shaped in footprint with three wings extending from a central elevator core. In the 1980s, the Burrell Memorial Hospital was renovated for use as an adult care facility. The building housed the only African-American medical facility in Roanoke from 1915 to 1965.

"The hospital’s namesake, Dr. Isaac Burrell, had perished on account of having to travel to Washington, D.C. — by boxcar, no less — to receive routine gall bladder surgery denied to him at segregated Roanoke Hospital, the predecessor to Roanoke Memorial."

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

"[S]everal black physicians in the area, including Dr. Issac David Burrell, were working diligently to establish a hospital for black residents. In the midst of these efforts, Dr. Burrell became seriously ill with gallstones and was forced to travel in a train baggage car to Washington, D.C. for treatment. He died following surgery, and the heart-wrenching circumstances of his death served as a catalyst to ensure that this tragedy would not be repeated for another black person.

On March 18, 1915, Burrell Memorial Hospital, named in honor of Dr. Burrell, opened at 311 Henry Street. It began as a 10-bed facility equipped with $1,000 of borrowed money but went on to become the first African-American hospital to earn full approval of the American Board of Surgeons. Dr. Lylburn C. Downing, who had been the first African-American accepted as a member of the Roanoke Medical Society, became the first superintendent and held that position until 1947. "After Burrell's death, the doctors Downing, Williman and Roberts, joined by John Claytor, Sr., and Jerry Cooper, founded Burrell Memorial with ten beds on North Henry Street in March 1915."

The flu epidemic of 1919 created the need for expanded facilities, so the hospital moved into the abandoned Allegheny Institute building on the corner of McDowell Avenue and Park Street (now 7th Street) in 1921. This building was used until 1955 when the present hospital was opened.

Burrell Memorial Hospital remained a prominent black institution until the 1965 Civil Rights Act mandated the desegregation of hospital facilities. In 1979, the hospital closed. Today, The Burrell Center is home to Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare.

More from 1915: Today the c.1955 Burrell Hospital building is known as The Burrell Center, and houses many of the adult service programs of Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare, one of 40 Virginia Community Services Boards providing comprehensive services for individuals who have mental health disorders, intellectual disability, or substance use disorders. BRBH operates multiple programs with more than 400 employees.

In 2003 BRBH completed a renovation that preserved much of the former hospital's design, including terrazzo floors at the former nurses’ stations, wide hallways and solid patient room doors, many retaining the small observation window common in the past. A few employees report that they were born in the building, but the building's historical significance and its importance to the neighborhood are recognized by all who enter via a multi-panel display in the lobby of old photographs and text that tells the story of the prominent role Burrell Hospital played in the past."

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