Page 8-The Michigan Daily-Wednesday, November 11, 1987
The once-bustling admissions lobby of Old Main Hospital is virtually abandoned now. Its reign as one of the country's premier teaching hospitals ended with the opening of the new University Hospital in February of
1986. Now Old Main is resting quietly, collecting dust, and waiting to be demolished.
AWalkThrough Old ain
The sign simply says, "We've moved."
"We've moved?" It's a sign you expect
to see hanging outside a restaurant, or a
drug store, maybe. But you don't expect to
round the corner of Observatory on your
bike and see the words "we've moved"
above the bolted, dusty doors of Old Main
Hospital. It's strange. And it's eerie.
And it's not quite right. On February
14, 1986, the massive new University
Hospital opened its glossy, white, com-
iuterized doors for business. The doctors
alid administrators and nurses moved their
Otatients and files down the street, like a
family moving from its summer cottage to
a high tech condominium. Yes, they
But something about Old Main didn't.
IBack in 1925 when it opened, Old Main
was the symbol of state-of-the-art medical
care and instruction in this country. Peni-
cillin wasn't discovered yet. Maggots were
used to treat infections. And the now-
obsolete open wards were to become the
sites of 60 years of medical triumphs and
breakthroughs at the University.
When the staff of the new hospital says,
"We've moved," they're talking about the
beds, the brain scanners, and the bottles of
medicine. But they're not talking about
shadowy emergency rooms and empty
wards, or dark hallways that once echoed
the footsteps of great doctors and brave pa-
tients. The memories of Old Main have not
But they cannot remain where they are,
Old Main has become its own last pa-
tient, and its prognosis is grim. Suffering
from a terminal case of uselessness, Old
Main will officially become an abandoned
piece of University property on January 1,
1988. It will be destroyed - most likely
by implosion - before next August. On-
ly the front administrative wing will re-
main standing, a nostalgic facade of old
Like this forgotten bouquet, Old Main sits
In the months ahead, the discussion
about Old Main will be reduced to finances
and logistics - how to destroy it, how
much it will cost, what will grow from its
graveyard. But 60 years cannot be erased in
a single moment. The memories will have
to move. And so they will become pho-
tographs and stories and, for many, nostal-
Kathy Mammel is a member of the
Hemodialysis department, which still re-
sides on a deserted hallway of Old Main.
Her office will move to the new hospital
on Nov. 19.
I watched the new hospital go up from
the windows. Now it blocks our view of
Ann Arbor. There's not a lot of care at Old
Main anymore. I think most people are
going to miss Old Main when it's gone.
Not the building itself - just how com-
fortable it was.
Lisa Stephens is a secretary in the Car-
diac Studies Department, scheduled to be
the last unit to evacuate Old Main this De-
I kind of like it here over at Old Main. I
worked in the new hospital for a while, and
I can tell you it sure is a lot of hustle and
bustle. Over here, though, it's like we all
have our own little community. I like ev-
erything about Old Main better - the
building, the design, the way we can have
our own space. The new hospital means
being cramped in cubicles, stuffed into the,
Yesterday I was outside Old Main and I
had to show an old woman where to go.
She was lost; she thought Old Main's
doors still opened. "What's nin on here?"
A University Hospitals secretary found an-old woman waiting outside the barricaded doors to Old Main this.
week. "You can't go in there anymore," the secretary told her. "What happened to the hospital?" the woman
asked. "Where do it go?"
But the truth is, no one is that glad to
move over. I've asked them. At New Hos-
pital you find you've lost a lot of the warm
feeling at Old Main. It's like a maze over
there. No broad hallways. No steady flow
of people. They miss all the little win-
Dr. William Robinson, a professor
emeritus in the department of medicine,
came to Old Main in 1934, as a medical
Old Main has outlived it's usefulness to
us. I'm not one for nostalgia, and there's
nothing left in that building. It was obso-
lete years ago. Yes, we have memories.
But we also have the future. When I saw
the New hospital I wondered what it was
going to look like in 60 years. But I can't
tell. The ability to predict how medicine
will change is still an awkward science.
Chief of General Surgery Dr. Robert
Bartlett considers Old Main's place in his-
It's a place where a lot of important
medical breakthroughs have occurred. It has
taken and given so much to all of us. It has
served patients and doctors and medicine
tive, all of Old Main might be saved. We
look at things from different perspectives, I
Audrey Lucas, a hospital employment
representative, remembers Old Main with a
sense of loss.
When I started here 35 years ago the
hospital was a community: elevator opera-
tors would talk to doctors, and doctors
would talk to administrators as they walked
down those hallways together. We sat at
the round tables in the cafeteria and ate
lunch together, family style. We all had
genuine care and concern about each other.
Now everything is decentralized, com-
puterized, and fancy. There isn't the time to
care that we used to have. Thinking about
the destruction gives me a very, very sad
feeling. When you work at a place for 35
years it becomes very much a part of your
life. I've stayed, but many of the older
people retired when they found out the Old
Main was coming down. Some of the peo-
ple actually miss the wards, miss the
openness that comes from seeing all your
patients at once. Sure it's wonderful to see
the new technology. But you can't look at
Old Main without thinking an era has
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