Today, officials with Parkland Health closed the doors to the former Parkland Memorial Hospital, thus signifying the start of a 24-month process that will end with the building’s complete removal from the site.
The storied structure where tens of thousands of newborns let out their first cry and countless individuals recovered from accidents and illnesses welcomed its first patient on Sept. 25, 1954. Sixty-one years later, on Aug. 16, 2015, the last inpatient was wheeled across the Mike A. Myers Sky Bridge into the new state-of-the-art Parkland hospital.
The multi-step process will take more than a year and will include hazardous materials abatement, including the removal of asbestos, a common building material used through the 1980s, followed by piece-by-piece demolition of the building. Demolition, which is being handled by the joint venture firm of Beck – EJ Smith, is expected to be completed in November 2023. Construction will then commence on an administration tower that will house Parkland staff who are currently occupying leased space in numerous Dallas locations.
For Grady Portis, Sr., 60, the building has significant meaning. Not only was he born in Parkland, but it has been his work home for the last 22 years. As one of Parkland’s Life Safety Coordinators, Portis was one of the last employees stationed in the former hospital.
“It’s a little sad that the building is coming down,” Portis said. “There’s so much history. I can remember my grandmother bringing me to the Emergency Department when I was just a kid and had gotten hurt. On my last birthday [in March], I went up to the Labor & Delivery area and thought ‘this is where my life began!’”
Still Portis understands that time has taken its toll on the aging facility.
The building is no longer suitable for contemporary healthcare use. The deterioration of its mechanical, plumbing, electrical and life safety systems, and the high cost of ongoing electrical power consumption even in its “mothballed” state led Parkland leaders to make the fiscally sound decision to demolish the building.
“The building is only barely viable for administrative operations, but because of its age and the lack of availability of parts for many of the mechanical systems, it’s time to make room for a building that is projected to save the Dallas County taxpayers about $3.4 million in annual lease costs,” said John Raish, Parkland’s Senior Vice President of Support Services.
Raish also noted that even though the former hospital is where President John F. Kennedy died, the building was never designated as a historical site, and the emergency department had been renovated numerous times since 1963.
“Every year, especially in November, we receive inquiries from people asking about Trauma Room 1, but it hasn’t been in existence for years,” Raish said. “The entire room was purchased by the federal government decades ago and all of its contents are in a secure location near Kansas City, Missouri.”