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Come along on a caring history of Manatee County's hospitals

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The history of hospitals in Manatee County is a tribute to this area's commitment of caring about its people, and it begins in the early 1900s. As the CEO of Manatee Healthcare System, I have a unique perspective of how we have evolved over a century that I hope to share with you. This is the first of several columns exploring many of the major historical events, beginning with the earliest attempts to establish a hospital to the opening of Manatee Memorial Hospital on Feb. 23, 1953. Today, I'll introduce you to the Larrabee hospital, established in 1920 and serving patients in our county until 1957.

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This all began with Dr. Charles William Larrabee and his wife Dovie Mae Collins Larrabee — also his head nurse. The couple moved to Bradenton from Georgia in 1920, and together they founded what was known as Larrabee Hospital its first five years. In 1925, it became Bradenton General Hospital for decades.

The hospital held a unique position as the first general hospital between Tampa and Fort Myers. Located at the corner of Ninth Avenue West between 13th and 14th streets in a converted former home of a physician, the large clinic held five private rooms and three wards with three beds each. Eventually, the hospital grew to where it could accommodate 75 patients.

A month after Dr. Larrabee’s death in April 1957, Dovie Mae Collins Larrabee closed the hospital. The structure languished empty until it was demolished in May 1968 to make way for a new business.

Another version of the hospital's history places the facility in the old Leonard Sanitarium, a "poor folks home" that grew into a complex of 17 buildings connected with covered walkways. The sanatorium story ends on a brighter note, depicting a relocation and repurposing of the complex of 20 buildings. The complex of 20 “fairly large, well-built buildings,” the Bradenton Herald reported, were moved to the 2300 block of 32nd Avenue East to become homes “in a pleasant, comfortable neighborhood called ‘Mockingbird Hill.’ ”

In 1972, the Manatee County Medical Society erected a historical marker at the Larrabee site, stating: “On this site from January 1, 1921 - May 31, 1957 stood the Bradenton General Hospital owned and operated by Dr. C.W. Larrabee and his wife Dovie Collins Larrabee for the use of all doctors and benefit and care of all people in this area.”

Dr. William Daniel Sugg as well as others practiced there, while the everyday running of the hospital was overseen by Mrs. Dovie Larrabee. In 1932, Sugg, who specialized in surgery, was elected president of the Manatee County Medical Society. He performed the final operation the year the hospital closed.

Kevin DiLallo, CEO of Manatee Healthcare System, has been a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives for over 25 years and has a passion for providing health care to his community. Email him at Kevin.DiLallo@uhsinc.com

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