The Holmes Hospital Museum received a welcome shot in the arm in the form of a $75,000 donation from Baldwin County’s Legislative Delegation on Dec. 30. The museum has been closed since the building was heavily damaged by Hurricane Sally in September. Flooding occurred when part of the roof blew away, causing damage to floors, walls and ceilings. The donation will be used to rebuild exhibits and protect the museum’s collections.
Two members of the Baldwin County Legislative Delegation, Sen. Chris Elliott, District 32, and Rep. Steve McMillian, House District 95, awarded the check to museum board members. Elliott said the delegation is proud to support the museum and wanted to make a donation that would be impactful. The funding comes from sales and use taxes designated for historic purposes.
Bill Swanson, chairman of the South Baldwin Museum Foundation that owns and oversees the museum, describes the donation as “an unexpected and greatly appreciated donation to the rebuilding of the museum.”
“We were very fortunate that with the help of volunteers the day after Hurricane Sally went through, we were able to save 90 percent of the artifacts from the damaged portion of the museum,” said Swanson.
The donation will be used to protect and improve the display of the museum’s collection. Exhibit displays recognizing the nurses and doctors who served at the hospital are among projects that are planned.
The building is located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Highway 59 and Highway 98 in Foley. This is the original building that housed the Sibley Holmes Memorial Hospital, the only hospital serving this area from 1936 until 1958, when the new, modern South Baldwin Hospital was opened.
Thanks to the hard work of members of the South Baldwin Museum Foundation, which owns a portion of the building as well as the museum’s collections, and the untiring efforts of Swanson, the quality of the museum has steadily improved over the past few years. This includes additional exhibit displays, and better telling of the stories of the how this hospital came to be, the dedicated people who worked there and the impact this hospital had on the community.
Over the past few years, dedicated docents Swanson and Zana Price have worked tirelessly to improve the museum experience. In 2019, the museum welcomed 8,920 visitors. Many are locals who grew up hearing stories from relatives who were born or treated there. Others are tourists who enjoy exploring the quirky museum displaying medical artifacts from a bygone era. Swanson estimates the museum should reopen in the spring of 2021.