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Triana Health Clinic sees refurbishing with town’s fundraising

TRIANA – Town of Triana residents have been busy at work to save and expand a landmark building in the community.

One of the community’s oldest buildings, the Triana Health Clinic is an icon in the river town. The building served as a public health clinic for African Americans in North Alabama. The clinic provided health care to low-income Black families, when this care was virtually non-existent in the South’s Jim Crow era.

“North Alabama friends, we’re still on our quest to complete this building by the end of the year,” Triana Mayor Mary Caudle said.

Built in 1941, the building was covered in sandstone and intended to serve as a game warden’s residence. Civilian Conservation Corps and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service constructed the building, one of the last four remaining structures built for Wheeler Wildlife Refuge.

Less than a decade later, the house was converted to a public health clinic for Triana. The clinic served in that capacity for 40-plus years.

In the late 1940s, Dr. Harold Fanning Drake and Nurse Johnnie LouJean Dent, two pioneers in the African American community, administered the clinic. “Nurse Dent was known far and wide, particularly for rural Black families that grew up around Madison County,” Caudle said.

Dent ran the clinic another 11 years after Drake’s death in 1979. She retired in 1990 at the “relatively young age of 83,” Caudle said. Nurse Dent died in 2008; she was 101 years old.

In the mid-2000s, Triana Historical Society started a campaign to save Triana Health Clinic after the building suffered a catastrophic roof collapse. With Triana Historical Society’s diligent work, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010.

In the future, officials want the building to serve as a community space. The structure can help with town meetings and events at the adjacent Flamingo Park, along with partnering with the planned Singing River Trail. The space can accommodate pop-up health screenings and immunizations and as an educational/history center.

Fundraising efforts to-date have generated more than $150,000 from donations and grants. “We’re now in the final phase of construction, but we need the community’s help to get to the finish line!” Caudle said. “Consider a donation to our great project to save one of Triana’s oldest and most important structures.”

For more information, call Project Manager Chris McDowell at 504-644-8118 or Betty Williams, President of Triana Historical Society, at 256-772-3653.

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