Gartly-Ramsay Hospital

For years, the corner of Jackson and McDavitt was the eyesore shown here, a cluster of tumbledown buildings that had clearly seen better days. Motorists driving past probably never realized the complex was once a very fine private hospital, a place whose patients included Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner.

According to A History of Medicine in Memphis, published in 1971 by the Memphis and Shelby County Medical Society, two Canadian doctors — George Bradley Gartly and Robert G. Ramsey — came here in 1909 and decided to open a small hospital. The building they purchased was once a private residence, the McDavitt home, built in 1859, and reported to have the first bathtub in Memphis. Extensive renovations converted the rambling old house into a 50-bed general hospital, with state-of-the-art x-ray equipment and diagnostic laboratories. In 1950, Gartly-Ramsey Hospital began to specialize in the care and treatment of psychiatric patients, “not only from the Mid-South but areas as far away as Florida, Michigan, Texas, and California.”

Gartly-Ramsey had such a good reputation that it attracted Faulkner, who was treated here for various problems. Some of the methods seem rather unusual by today’s standards. In an article published in the September 1993 issue of Memphis magazine, Dr. D.C. McCool, one of the psychiatrists who treated Faulkner at the time, recalled that patients were often given a dose of something called Metrozol, which provoked violent convulsions, after which the patient fell into a deep sleep. “It was a rather drastic but effective treatment for depression at that time,” said McCool. We don’t have any record of what Faulkner thought about it.

After the hospital closed, there were some half-hearted efforts to convert the place into a senior citizen’s center or a boarding house, but nothing come of it, and for years it stood empty and abandoned. The entire site was finally bulldozed, and since 2000 it’s been home to the Salvation Army’s Purdue Center of Hope, offering special assistance to homeless women and children.

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