The U.S. Marine Hospital in Portland. (Click to see full size.)

By John Guthrie

You’ve probably seen the U.S. Marine Hospital and not have even realized it if you’ve traveled past the 22nd Street exit of Interstate-64 in the Portland neighborhood.

The exterior was restored and a dedication was held in 2007 honoring the people who worked to preserve this important piece of Louisville history.

Howeverk, there remains significant work to be done on the interior in order to make the building usable for a tenant, and the resources were simply not available to complete that work at the time.

Fast forward to 2012 and Family Health Centers (FHC), part of Louisville’s Board of Health, oversees the Marine Hospital and occupies the neighboring building that replaced the Marine Hospital in the 1930s.

FHC officials are seeking $6 million from the Kentucky Legislature to return the historic U.S. Marine Hospital to beneficial community use, complimentary to the mission of FHC.

“Our plan is to establish the Center for Health Education and Training in the historic U. S. Marine Hospital building. The Center will provide a stepping-stone to health careers for disadvantaged Portland and West End,” said Bill Wagner, executive director of Family Health Centers.

“It will be operated under a partnership between the Family Health Centers, Jefferson Community and Technical College and U of L, with the ultimate goal to enhance the overall health of the community by improving access to health care, and providing opportunities for healthcare education, training and workforce development.”

Louisville’s political and corporate leadership talk about education and workforce development.

They say becoming a center for excellence in the care for older adults is a priority: They set education goals like 55,000 degrees.

FHC is asking the state to make a $6 million investment in the residents of West Louisville and the Portland neighborhood, in an effort to prepare students to enter various health related programs at other local institutions.

Other goals include improving health of the community by expanding access to primary care and preventive services, provide training and career paths for Portland/West End students, meet demand for primary care physicians under health care reform, create a pipeline for FHC recruitment, create health care jobs, and invest in the economic development of the Portland Neighborhood.

Family Health Services officials developed a plan for this incredible public building that meets the goals of our community leadership, and provides a path to career opportunities in an area of Louisville that desperately needs it.

The project was presented to Greater Louisville Inc. for consideration as part of its legislative priority list, it did not make the cut (see list here. Warning, pdf link.)

Louisville is a city full of historic landmarks – the Louisville Water Tower, Locus Grove, Farmington Historic Plantation, and the Belle of Louisville. Several of these have become de facto symbols of our community, and can be seen on posters, t-shirts and other Louisville tchotchkes.

In 2003 the National Historic Trust listed the Marine Hospital as one of the most endangered historic buildings in the country.

Grants and gifts totaling $2.5 million were raised to return the building to its original form Gifts came from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a National Park Service – Save America’s Treasures grant, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Kentucky Transportation and Commerce Cabinets, the Kentucky Heritage Council and State historic Preservation Office, along with corporate and individual contributors.

About the author: John J. Guthrie is a consultant working with local nonprofits on fundraising, Board development, capital campaigns, and the business of nonprofit organizations for the firm Ashley|Rountree and Associates in Louisville. He is also an advocate for the arts and getting creative about what role arts, artists and economic development can play together in revitalizing Louisville neighborhoods.