In the Broadway-Manchester neighborhood of South LA, on the corner of Broadway and 94th Street, sits a vast, quiet, and unkept lot flanked by affordable housing developments. At first glance, like most open lots in the city, this lot doesn’t mean much beyond being the epitome of disinvestment in South Los Angeles.
But what if, nearly seven decades ago, this lot wasn’t empty, but full of hope, purpose, and innovation? What if this was the site of a hospital that served Southwest Los Angeles?
This is the history of The Broadway Hospital in South LA, and how it was built and demolished all within 40 years.
Building Broadway Hospital
In the early 1950s, Los Angeles along with other cities across California experienced rapid population growth. On the other hand, the state experienced growing pains, which entailed a massive shortage of hospital beds in swiftly developing areas like Southwest Los Angeles.
Likely an effort to meet the need for hospitals, Dr. Robert L. Horowitz and a team of osteopathic physicians formed the Manchester Hospital Corporation in 1954. Through the corporation, the physicians planned to build a major hospital center called the Manchester Hospital on Broadway between 94th and Colden Avenue.
Sometime between 1954 and 1956, the Manchester Hospital Corporation changed the name of the medical institution from Manchester Hospital to Broadway Hospital. Beyond the name change, the Manchester Hospital Corporation privately financed the hospital, and planned to gradually expand the institution in phases. The first stage of the hospital included a 56-bed unit that would house both major and minor surgery units, a nursing wing, a laboratory, and a kitchen area. Impending plans included a maternity wing and additional beds to accommodate patients.
The Hospital Southwest LA Deserved
The Broadway Hospital opened for operation in September of 1957 after the Manchester Hospital Corporation’s board established a well-credentialed roster of doctors from across the city. The community hospital opened with rave reviews around its state-of-the-art X-Ray department, modern pharmacy, and stainless steel finishes across its facilities.
After an introductory success over a near five-year period, Broadway Hospital began its second phase of its expansion in 1962, building out a $200,000 maternity wing, which handled as many as 200 maternity cases per month. Like the initial launch, the Broadway Hospital’s new maternity wing expansion housed a modern delivery suite and new maternal care technology. The expansion also included an auditorium that could hold up to two classes for vocational nursing students.
By the early 1960s, the Broadway Hospital was recognized throughout Los Angeles. The Southwest Wave ran articles on new babies being born at the Broadway Hospital weekly. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). In 1963 it became a member of the American Hospital Association and the California Hospital Association. And in August of that year, it received an emergency center designation by Los Angeles County, denoting that it had a staff capable of handling all county emergencies around the clock.
Within just seven years, The Broadway Hospital exceeded the standard in filling a critical need in Southwest Los Angeles. But where and how did things go wrong?
The Broadway Hospital had a slow and steady decline that began in the 1960s. In 1964, a year after it received its emergency designation from Los Angeles County, the Broadway Hospital ended its emergency service contract with Los Angeles County on its own accord.
Broadway Hospital still had its sights set on its initial planned 50s-era expansion. In 1970, the board of The Broadway Hospital announced plans to build a $3.5 million addition to the Broadway Hospital. This would include adding 120 beds, 50,000 square feet of space that would include upgraded X-Ray and laboratories facilities, a new surgery suite, and 10 electronic intensive-care-unit beds.
But those plans never came into fruition.
At the end of the 1970s, Governor Jerry Brown zeroed in on five hospitals that were conducting Medi-Cal fraud in Southern California, overcharging the state for covered services. The Broadway Hospital was one of those five institutions listed in the governor’s audit.
The Los Angeles Times reported that state auditors accused the Broadway Hospital of overcharging the state by over $184,000 in the 1976 fiscal year. According to the chief hospital administrator, Fred Hellmer, the employee retirement benefit was entirely necessary because it was “an effort to keep employees in the ghetto.” The employee retirement benefit Broadway Hospital created, nonetheless, was audited as profit distribution, and using Medi-Cal funding to generate any form of profits is illegal.
The Broadway Hospital’s fraudulent activity was only the tip of the iceberg of its faltering performance. In the 1980s, The Los Angeles Times ran several articles that exposed the malpractice occurring within the institution, including the failure of the hospital to uphold an approved intensive care unit, which was a state requirement to take in local emergency cases.
The hospital also had a high senior mortality rate, particularly in the early 1980s. A professional standard review organization study found that 15 percent of Broadway Hospital’s Medicare patients died in the facility during the last six months of 1980. Comparable hospitals had a death rate between six and seven percent. Most of the senior-related deaths at Broadway Hospital were linked to neglect, including a senior dying of dehydration and another of a nose bleed.
By March of 1982, after the Times’ exposé on the Broadway Hospital, the state deemed the Broadway Hospital a threat to public health.
County officials moved to shut down the hospital, but according to the LA Times, by the time the officials arrived at the hospital, the doors were locked shut with a note reading “Hospital Is Closed,” at the door. The deputy attorney served a 61-page complaint to temporarily suspend the hospital license, but by then Broadway Hospital had completely ceased operation. The day before, Broadway Hospital had seventeen patients hospitalized in the building, but officials could only gather the patients had been transferred quietly overnight.
Dr. Robert L. Horowitz, the founding Manchester Hospital Corporation agent, was still chair and president of the hospital board, from the height of the hospital to its decline in 1982. I found no other mention of Horowitz and the Broadway Hospital after the hospital was abandoned.
Though, what I find the most interesting is the near parallel decline of the hospital and the neighborhood. As neighborhood demographics began to shift in the mid 1960s, namely harboring a smaller white population over time, the performance of the hospital also began to drop. Coincidence?
Months laters, Los Angeles City building records suggest that the hospital was taken over by Century Community Hospital, a nonprofit healthcare corporation that was founded in Michigan. As early as January of 1983, less than a year after Broadway Hospital was abandoned, Century Community Hospital ran an ad to fill most of the positions left by the Broadway Hospital.
While a noble attempt to save the hospital, Los Angeles city documents point to the hospital ceasing all operations by 1988, five years after taking over the Broadway Hospital (though, I couldn’t find any evidence on why the hospital failed and closed). An LA Times article describes the hospital as shuttered just after the 1992 riots. At this point, a former shell of the hospital was left to rot on Broadway. With Century Community Hospital out, and the Manchester Hospital Corporation disbanded as of March 1986, no hope was left for the community hospital.
After the failure of the hospital, the City of Los Angeles gained ownership of the building and later demolished the shuttered structure in 1994, leaving no trace of the institution. And the lot has remained vacant for nearly 30 years.
While vacant, there had been a few discussions of repurposing the lot. The original lot was divided up to make room for three affordable housing apartments through the City of Los Angeles.
In 2010, a city department attempted to work with Numbero Uno to build a supermarket on the unused portion of the city-owned land, but an agreement was never reached.
According to Urbanize LA, in 2020, 94B LLC, a development entity, started conversations with the City of Los Angeles to purchase the land to build a mixed use project with 180 additional apartments and 41,000 square feet of commercial space. The new commercial space, according to plans previously submitted to the city for review, is intended to house an unnamed grocery store.
As of now the state of this land is still up in there air, and is, at the least, showing signs of re-investment in South Los Angeles. It is, however, a shame that beyond this video and a scattered collection of news articles, there are no signs that a private hospital existed, served, and even failed in this now underserved neighborhood of Los Angeles. While the hospital no longer exists, I hope its story encourages others to continue to document and uphold history in the spaces around us.