Alabama’s first skilled nursing home to be owned and operated by a general hospital.
At a called meeting on February 8, 1952, Jewett and Charlotte Flagg and the J.T. Flagg Knitting company made available $25,000 for the purchase of El Reposo Sanitarium and some 22 acres of land to serve as an annex to the Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital. Flagg’s announcement of the gift was carried in the February 10, 1952 edition of The Florence Times:
The year 1952 is the 25th anniversary of the operations of J. T. Flagg Knitting Company. We have enjoyed in our neighborhood the friendship and hospitality and cooperation of a very splendid body of citizens. We have tried to contribute to the public welfare as opportunity has offered in the past but in this anniversary year my wife, Charlotte and I and the J. T. Flagg Knitting Company would like very much to mark this period by a specific donation. And I speak for J. T. Flagg Knitting Company because the Board of Directors of the corporation has authorized the appropriation of its portion of the fund. In making the gift we anticipate that the properties so acquired will be operated in a sound way as your present institution has been operated and is now being operated and that it will continue in the future contribute to the lasting welfare of our community.
The Flaggs requested that the newly acquired facility be named Hollingsworth Annex in honor of the Reverend David Wills Hollingsworth. Dr. Hollingsworth requested that this honor be passed to the late Judge J. Mitchell. The Board of Governors quickly resolved the matter by designating the new facility as Mitchell-Hollingsworth Annex.
Dr. Hollingsworth will be remembered as the individual who, more than any other community leader, played a key role in bringing together the people and the resources that led to the establishment of ECM Hospital. Known throughout the area as the “Parson,” he served as a pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Florence from 1918 to 1953. Dr. Hollingsworth served on the hospital board longer than any other individual and remained active in this relationship until his death in 1965.
John Jackson Mitchell was a native of Florence and from 1876 until 1881 was the publisher and editor of the Florence Gazette. He served two terms in the Alabama Legislature and was elected Probate Judge of Lauderdale County from 1886 to 1904. Judge Mitchell was the first chairman of the Board of Governors of ECM Hospital.
The original building was a natural stone veneer building housing 13 private rooms. In September 1953 the complex was expanded in order to provide a total of 23 rooms at a cost of $17,000. In 1957 a recreation room and chapel replaced the steam baths that were a part of the original sanitarium. In 1962 the addition of 15 beds was financed by funds provided by the Hill-Burton Act and the State of Alabama. A weekly rate of $42 was approved by the Board.
There were two building programs at MHA during the sixties. The first was a 15-bed addition in 1960 at a cost of approximately $158,000. The second program amounted to a 61-bed addition which began in the late fall of 1963. Total estimated cost of this edition was $791,000. An application was submitted in 1968 for an 80-bed addition to the annex. Total cost for the new beds was approximately $1 million.
Open house ceremonies were held June 11, 1972. Upon completion of the project, new floor plans of MHA showed 85 private rooms, 110 semi-private rooms and one apartment.
In the 1980s a long range building plan called for a building program to replace the older section of Mitchell-Hollingsworth Annex known as “the 100 unit.” Duncan Construction Company of Florence was awarded the contract for this work in December 1983 at an estimated cost of $1.7 million.
The groundbreaking was held on December 28 and the project was completed in the spring of 1985 with the total cost exceeding $2 million. This project included a new activity center and beds that could be utilized for respite care. The respite area now houses the facility rehab patients.