AUSTIN, Texas - At the top of what was UMC Brackenridge hospital, if you look close, a faint outline can be seen from the old marquee. Inside, as FOX7 walked with Seton historian Carl McQueary and Central Health's Juan Garza, it was as if time had been suspended.
"So it's a little staggering to see the hallways empty and just to be able to hear, well basically the silence that you never heard before because it was always active, always going and really never stopped,” said McQueary.
None busier was the ER. On a daily basis life and death decisions were made there.
"I am really grateful for their dedication; the dedication that they showed to what they do is nothing short of amazing,” said Garza.
Now the trauma and operating rooms are empty or are being used as storage closets.
"The thing about it is, it's not the building, that's what we all had this big discussion about, the building is very important, in what it represent, but it’s the folks that staffed this place that are the legacy,” said McQueary.
The emotional tie to the building can be seen on a few of the walls. Good-bye messages were left behind by several staff members.
"It’s always sad to leave things behind, but I think in this case we are moving to a better future,” said Garza.
As we went through the building it looked as if everyone left in a rush. Items were scattered on the floors cabinets left open and hospital beds lined up down hallways. In the labs we found equipment neatly stacked away waiting for technicians who will never be back. What’s not sold off- will be sent to other hospitals run by Seton.
In the meantime everything remains locked up. As we entered the lower part of the building, the morgue which is typically a quiet place, had a deeper sense of finality to it, it was something that was hard to ignore.
The hospital has become a mere reflection of what it used to be, and in a way, has the feeling of a set in a horror movie. In fact Central Health has been contacted by at least one film maker who is interested in using the building to make a movie.
"So there are a lot of stories that come around those dark spaces where most people don’t get to go, but there is the story of a little girl in a red dress, and there is a story of the lady who is looking for her husband, every generation that has lived and served here has a story,” said McQueary.
During the tour we had our own unexplained moment it happened here in the ICU. Alerts started going off, and notification lights flashed outside of each room. It was the system to request a nurse but what set it off remains a mystery.
Behind another locked basement door is located an Urban Legend of the hospital. There is a giant limestone rock out cropping known as the Brackenridge Rock. The hospital was literally built around it. The rock is expected to be broken apart when the hospital complex is redeveloped.
"It would really be wonderful if maybe just a small brass or bronze plaque over the location where the primary rock was, saying beneath this floor, is the Brackenridge Rock something like that would be really great,” said McQueary.
For the first time in more than 140 years the Brackenridge site will no longer directly provide health care. The plan is for a new development to occupy the site. Its purpose will be to generate revenue for local health programs. The care provided down these lonely hallways will now be done a block away in the new teaching hospital.
Officials with Central Health said changes to the site will start in about a year. But the old hospital will not be torn down in one full swing. Some parts like the parking garage is being used for the new hospital. The old children's hospital along the I-35 frontage is being used for training.