Contractors have begun demolition of the old nurses' residence located on the property of St. Luke's Hospital Miners Campus in Coaldale.

The decision was made to raze the structure after an intense investigation into options to save the building.

Surviving almost 80 years, the large structure stood to the eastern rear of the present hospital building. It served the hospital from 1934 to 1973.

In addition to housing nurses who cared for patients in the original hospital, some of the rooms were utilized as doctors' living quarters. The wing served the hospital in many different capacities over the years, before being vacated in 1973. It was also used as a hospital during the construction of the "new" building in 1973.

"After researching the financial feasibility of salvaging this building, we have reached the conclusion that we need to remove the former nurses' residence," said Bill Moyer, president of St. Luke's Miners Hospital. "With input from our board of trustees, donors and community leaders, we have agreed that our first priority must be patient care, and we accomplish that by continuing to attract highly-qualified doctors and expanding our services."

The nurses' residence has remained vacant for the past 40 years and has reached a point where a significant investment would have to be made to save it, said Moyer.

"The beautiful building, a Colonial Revival-style, has been in disrepair for a long period of time," said Dale Freudenberger, president, Tamaqua Historical Society. "It is a shame to lose such a prized landmark."

"It is a very historic building for the coal region," said Bob Perrin, who is hoping to form the Coaldale Historical Society. "The hospital, and its history, serve as a big part of our coal region's rich heritage."

St. Luke's Hospital Miners Campus has taken extra steps to insure the demolition of the former nurses' residence on campus is safe for patients and the community, said Moyer.

"St. Luke's has hired a contractor and consultant with expertise in demolition of buildings similar to the nurses' residence," said Moyer. "The contractor, O'Lazarus Demolition and Contracting, is a certified demolition expert and has handled thousands of similar buildings." He added that ACM, the project consultant, is an accredited environmental and hazardous materials abatement consultant.

"Demolition permits were filed and approved by the municipality, DEP and EPA, as required," added Moyer. "St. Luke's has worked with the borough in order to utilize a fire hydrant with a backflow preventer as a water source that is available in order to water demolition debris. Any material that requires a manifest will be properly disposed of, as per EPA and DEP guidelines."

It is currently unknown what St. Luke's will do with the lot after demolition is complete, although most unofficial talks involve expansion and modernization.