Originally named the Hospital of Saint John or L’Hôpital des Pauvres de la Charité (Hospital for the Poor), the hospital was built in the French Quarter. By 1743, Charity Hospital had outgrown its original location, and a second hospital was built on Basin Street. In 1785 a third hospital was built (and renamed at the time San Carlos Hospital).
A fire destroyed the hospital in 1809, and the fourth facility was constructed on Canal Street in the edge of New Orleans. Although completed in 1815, the new hospital was inadequate for the City. A fifth hospital was built in 1832 under the administration of the Sisters of Charity who ran the facility for about a century.
As New Orleans expanded, the need for expanded indigent medical services resulted in a sixth hospital, built on Tulane Avenue in 1939.
Charity Hospital served the many uninsured citizens of New Orleans, and also had the second best Level 1 Trauma Center in the United States.
Control over Charity Hospital went from the Louisiana Department of Health and Human Resources (DHH) tin 1970, to the Louisiana Health Care Authority (LHCA) in 1991, and finally to the Louisiana State University System in 1997.
In August 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, with the largest loss of life occurring in New Orleans. By February 2007, a renovated University Hospital handled most of the emergency services in the city. The University system announced plans to build a new, modern facility nearby, thus eliminating the need to rebuilt Charity Hospital.
Until its closure after Hurricane Katrina, Charity Hospital was one of the oldest continuously operating hospitals in the world. The decision to keep the building shuttered remains one of the most controversial decisions after Hurricane Katrina. Memorialized in literature, song, and soul, Charity Hospital was one of a kind. The controversy surrounding the proposed new medical complex, however, would permanently eliminate any future for Charity Hospital.