Back in the late 1800s, the need for medical care in the city of Trenton was growing. In 1892 the Fisk family offered up some land on the west side of the city to to the board of directors for the new hospital, dubbed the Mercer Hospital. The hospital accepted its first patients in 1895 while simultaneously opening a nursing school on site. The three-story building included a reception area, dining and meeting rooms on the first floor, five patient rooms and a children’s ward on the second floor, and three wards, with 25 beds and six cribs, on the third floor.
In 1902 the Mercer Hospital was expanded with several departments added throughout the new wings. The hospital received several new additions over the next few decades, largely funded by private donors. A power plant, central heating facility, and laundry building were added in 1922. Mercer Hospital was chronically overcrowded during and after World War II. The Maternity Building was expanded and renovated in 1959, followed by the expansion of patient facilities in 1961 to accommodate 330 beds.
To reflect its comprehensive services, Mercer Hospital was renamed to the Mercer Medical Center in 1973. In the mid 1970’s a massive demolition project took place around the hospital. All the homes on both Rutherford and Bellevue Avenues were demolished the whole way down to Prospect St. By the time construction was completed on this last project, the hospital featured more than 650,000 square feet of building space, ranking it as one of the state’s largest medical facilities.
Capital Health System announced its proposal to close Mercer Hospital and construct a new acute care facility in Hopewell Township in January 2005 in a bid to create a better payer mix of more affluent, insured patients. The community was not pleased to hear this. It was quite a distance from the neighbourhood where Mercer Hospital stood. Residents were concerned that an ambulance dispatched from the new hospital would take far too long to reach them and then get back, whereas now they had medical care at their doorsteps. By 2011 the hospital was closed its doors. They shuttered everything but their satellite emergency room, which was kept open in order to appease the angry citizens. However two years later the ER had closed as well.
In 2013 the complex was sold to a Global Life Enterprises developer, but its plans for redeveloping the space into a health and wellness complex fell through due to lack of funding. The complex wasn’t completely forgotten however. A security guard was hired to sit inside and scare off trespassers. He had all sorts of noise traps set up, and chains around several interior doors. Unfortunately at some point security responsibilities shifted and the man was only inside for a few years. The defunct Mercer Hospital campus has remained vacant since then, with vandals and scrappers causing significant damage to the buildings’ interiors. Plans are currently being discussed to return the property back to use for the community.