Mayo looking for stories about Naeve Hospital as removal draws near

Published 5:09 pm Friday, September 22, 2023

As the date to remove the former Naeve Hospital approaches, Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea is seeking to collaborate with community groups and contractors to preserve stories, historical elements and the history of health care in the city.

Construction work is slated to begin in mid-October to bring down the building by the end of the year and install a commemorative garden in the spring of 2024, according to a news release.

Mayo Clinic Health System officials at the end of April announced plans to demolish the building and the adjacent building along Fountain Street, which together are now known as the South Annex.

Email newsletter signup

The Naeve Hospital building, constructed in 1911, has not been used for patient care since 2016 due to concerns with the building’s structural integrity, and during the COVID-19 pandemic, the building became unoccupied as employees started working from home. The health system said permission for demolition was granted based on the determination that complex maintenance costs and safety concerns made the reuse of the existing building cost-prohibitive.

Former staff, patients and nursing students with stories from working or receiving care in the Naeve Hospital building are asked to submit their stories to, the press release stated. Stories will be published on the Naeve Foundation website at

Family members are also welcome to share stories with approval of patients mentioned in the stories.

Stories will be collected through the end of 2023 to be shared as part of the opening of the commemorative garden that will be created in the footprint of the former hospital building. Additionally, stories can be submitted continuously for sharing on the Naeve Foundation website.

“We value the stories and experiences people had at the building,” said Dr. Sumit Bhagra, physician site leader at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin. “Nurses studying at the Naeve School of Nursing, physicians performing ‘modern miracles,’ the local care received by our patients — recording and commemorating that history, that’s what’s important.”

Robert Albright, regional vice president of Mayo Clinic Health System’s southeast Minnesota region, said the history of health care in Albert Lea goes back more than 150 years to when Dr. J.M. Todd opened up his home to sick patients.

“Over the years, Albert Lea citizens shared their homes, land, money and talent to create what is now an exceptional example of a rural health care facility,” Albright said. “It is sad to say goodbye to the Naeve Hospital building, but we do so while prioritizing what our predecessors also valued — the welfare of today’s patients — and preserving what will outlast us all: our community’s stories and memories of what’s taken place at this site.”

Mayo Clinic Health System will also work with the construction contractor to preserve elements of the building, like its cornerstone, to incorporate into plans for the future of the space or community use.

“We’ve learned that there is very likely a time capsule from 1911 in the building walls,” Bhagra said. “We’re excited at the prospect of seeing what our past generations wanted to share with citizens of Albert Lea more than 110 years later. We look forward to sharing what it may contain with the community at an event in the spring to celebrate the opening of the commemorative garden.”

The release stated the health system will remain fully open during the construction and it will work with the city, Albert Lea Fire Department and contractor to ensure all construction activity on West Fountain Street is performed safely and with minimal disturbance to local residents, businesses, patients and visitors. Throughout construction, surrounding neighborhoods will be informed of any activities that could generate excessive noise or traffic in the area.