There are signs in the front yards of homes on Bernard Street on the northwest side of the Hunter Hills section of Atlanta. The signs read, “Private Property: This house is not for sale”. The homes that have those signs out front are well kept, the grass is cut, the paint isn’t chipped, the doors aren’t off the hinges. They have the appearance of lovely places to live. A few doors down stands an entirely different story. 

A look inside the building, which no longer has a roof or stable walls, Monday, May 1, 2023. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

At the corner of Bernard and Chicamauga Avenue, NW, is one of the city’s oldest monuments to an Atlanta long forgotten. McLendon Hospital, one of two places Black Atlantans could go for medical care when it opened in the 1940’s, is in horrible condition. Opened by the late Dr. Frederick Earl McLendon, the hospital, along with Harris Memorial Hospital, which opened two decades earlier, served a population that was often marginalized. The fact that McLendon Hospital is no longer open isn’t the tragedy, it is how the building has been left to crumble that is the true tragedy. 

There are no doors on the building save the front door. There is no longer a roof, or windows and there are wooden beams holding up the walls. Where there was once three buildings making up the hospital 

May is Historic Preservation Month and Atlanta Preservation Center Executive Director David Yoakley Mitchell believes there’s no better time to bring light to McLendon Hospital’s current plight. “It should be the time to better appreciate the value of America’s historic places as definers of our national character,” Mitchell told The Atlanta Voice. “We should be advocating and encouraging thoughtful preservation and economic development of buildings, structures, and spaces like the McLendon Hospital as a matter of national policy, which is needed now more than ever.”

Wooden beams are used to support the walls of what was once a respected hospital for Black residents of historic Hunter Hills.
Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Up and down Bernard Street and throughout Hunter Hills there is construction taking place on homes. Private homes. The average cost of a single family home in Atlanta has gone up by just over 2%, according to online brokerage site Zillow. Houses in Atlanta are averaging $374,081, according to the site and with Atlanta’s population having grown by nearly 2% every year since 2019, according to prices will continue to rise along with the population. 

“This should be embraced as a universal goal and success,” said Mitchell of the reasons preservation is good for all involved. “McLendon Hospital manifests all of this and provides an anchor for this neighborhood and our city.”

The owner of the land and property at 1366 Bernard Street, NW, Cheng Yi Tsu, paid $270,000 in December 2021, according to Fulton County property records. The former McLendon Hospital building and surrounding land currently has an appraised value of $534,200, according to Fulton County property records. There are good odds that the property’s owner will not want to sell the property for preservation, which can draw less money than holding it for a developer to scoop up. 

Mitchell believes preservation of historic property is good for the fabric of Atlanta.

“Historic preservation is accepted as a key component for a thriving livable community that can support varied and rich experiences,” Mitchell said in an email to The Atlanta Voice. “Understanding how to adaptively reuse structures and spaces that retain historic character, and architectural diversity, is a way to create economic development and jobs.”

There have been efforts by grassroots organizations like the Historic Hunter Hills Neighborhood Association to get the word out on why the last remaining piece of McLendon Hospital should be preserved. They have even invited Tsu to their next community meeting on Monday, May 8.

“If we do lose McLendon, my hope is for other neighborhoods to see it as an example and to begin the process to protect their own jewels before they are crushed,” said Hunter Hills Neighborhood Association President Lisa Reyes in an email to The Atlanta Voice. “The struggle to save McLendon Hospital has been heartbreaking.”

Mitchell added about McLendon Hospital and other historic buildings and homes in Atlanta that are in danger of falling victim to neglect or worse, “We are indebted to those who had the foresight and self-determination to serve these citizens of Atlanta. Yet, this building has the challenges of providing both that context and the memory that make this building so important. The notable concentration of the Hunter Hills community – and those that could only find medical services in this building- now belong to a different world. This building stands as a lone reminder of a different time.”

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...