Neighborhood estate sales had nothing on Sutter Memorial Hospital this weekend, where wards and exam rooms were packed with oddities and relics from the now-closed medical campus.
The sale, open Saturday and Sunday for the public, drew Sacramento’s collectors and bargain-hunters, each on a mission to find a long-desired item or take home a little memory of the old facility.
Sutter Memorial Hospital, long considered the city’s “baby hospital,” opened in 1937 and saw roughly 350,000 births before closing in August. The East Sacramento hospital no longer meets earthquake standards and will be demolished at the end of this year to make way for residences. Sutter patients needing maternal, fetal, pediatric or cardiac care are now seen at Sutter’s renovated and expanded medical campus near Sutter’s Fort.
Clearing out the old building hasn’t been easy, said Gary Zavoral, spokesperson for Sutter Health. Hundreds of chairs, computer monitors, clocks, bedside tables, toys and other items that didn’t make the move to the new Anderson Lucchetti Women’s and Children’s Center had to be hauled from the hospital’s upper floors and basement and prepped for the cash-only, first floor sale.
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In the kitchen, a maze of refrigerators were on display as well as industrial stoves, freezers, mixers, hotel pans and soup vats. In the lobby, shoppers navigated shelving units, ICU carts, signage and artwork through pedestrian traffic jams before moving on to hallways lined with exercise equipment or massage chairs.
Centurion Service Group, a company that auctions hospital equipment, handled the sorting of medical equipment for auction and non-medical equipment for the public sale. Anything that isn’t sold by Sunday evening will be offered to community nonprofits on Monday.
“Everything is for sale that is not attached to the building,” said Eric Wilensky, the company’s vice president. “It took us about a month to bring everything to the first floor so we could control the crowd ... a lot of people buy for the history, maybe their kid was born here so they want stuff from that room.”
For Lillian Fulton and her daughter Ann Marie Van Note, the sale was an emotional journey through an all too familiar space. The two spent Van Note’s childhood in the hospital’s surrounding neighborhoods, often visiting Fulton’s mother, who worked in the building for 22 years, during her lunch breaks.
Fulton gave birth to Van Note there, who in turn had two children of her own - one of whom spent his first weeks of life battling a frightening illness that doctors suspected was pneumonia. Both women were in tears as they circulated the sale Saturday, collecting toys for other kids in the family and pausing to write a farewell message on the wall.
“It’s just such a shame that they’re tearing this place down,” Fulton said.
“We’re hoping that after the demolition we can at least have some of the bricks,” Van Note added.
For others, the sale served a more practical purpose. One gentleman who refurbishes ambulances was in search of hard-to-get items. A woman helping her daughter start a local cheese-making business was happy to find culinary equipment at such a low price.
Nicole Hendrix, a former Memorial nurse turned teacher, was delighted to find a projector for her classroom.
“I just thought I’d come down and see what’s left after the big move,” she said. “It’s a neat way to say goodbye.”