Ask McGehee: What was the Hannan Home for the Aged?

The 1901 Hannan Home was so successful that it was quickly outgrown.  In 1913 this 300-bed facility replaced it, lasting until 1976 when the current Sacred Heart Residence was completed.  All three have been overseen by the Little Sisters of the Poor. Image courtesy The Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of South Alabama.

In 1901, Major Patrick C. Hannan funded the creation of a “Home for the Aged and Infirm in charge of the Little Sisters of the Poor.” A historic home on Monterey Street termed “the old Roberts homestead” was purchased along with 15 acres of land.

Hannan had the 14-room house overhauled and repaired, and a news account noted that the first-floor rooms contained marble mantles. He also purchased 60 iron beds with canopies.

Visitors were invited to look over the home at its dedication in July of 1901, along with its sheds, stables, a laundry and a newly constructed chapel of “ample size.” The property also contained gardens and a barnyard. It was explained that residents were welcomed “without any discrimination as to creed,” as long as they were “over the age of 62, of good character and without visible means of support.”

Who was Hannan?

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Patrick C. Hannan was one of countless Irish immigrants who arrived in Mobile in the years prior to the Civil War. There is no record of war service. Perhaps the title of “Major” was used out of respect to one of the city’s most generous residents. While the name of another generous Irish family, McGill, remains well known today, Patrick Hannan has been forgotten and the street adjoining the home’s property on Monterey Street is even misspelled as “Hannon.”

As a wholesale grocer with various partners over the years, Hannan saved and invested well, amassing a comfortable fortune. He was a bachelor, and from the addresses at which he resided appears to have lived rather frugally. He retired from the grocery and liquor trade in the late 1880s.

His Temple of Worship

In 1902, Hannan donated to the construction of the new Providence Infirmary on Spring Hill Avenue and later occupied what a news account described as an apartment there. In 1904, he provided funds for that hospital’s expansion and the “chapel of the Immaculate Conception of the Providence Infirmary.”

At its dedication the following year, a reporter described the two-story structure, which was surmounted by a dome and contained a 12-foot altar, eight stained glass windows and decorated in white and gold, to be “one of the most beautiful temples of worship in this city or in the South.” It was also handicap accessible with a door arranged “so that patients unable to walk can reach the chapel in movable couches and chairs with comfort and ease.”

Patrick Hannan died at the Providence Infirmary in 1911 and his elaborate funeral took place in the chapel he had financed. Afterward, he was buried in Catholic Cemetery under a simple marker.

In September of 1911, Hannan’s will was probated and his estate was valued in excess of $100,000. In current dollars, that would equal about $3.5 million, and the entire amount was bequeathed to “charitable and educational institutions of the Catholic Church.” The document specifically barred any members of his family from contesting the will, but he had no known relatives at his death.

The End of the Hannan Home

Within two years of Major Hannan’s death, the home he had created for “the elderly of good character” had been outgrown and was demolished. The 300-bed brick replacement described as “modern in every respect and fireproof throughout” was built for an estimated $80,000 and would serve its residents for six decades. In 1976, the present Sacred Heart Residence was constructed and is still overseen by the Little Sisters of the Poor, just as it has since its conception by a now forgotten Irishman.

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