Dr. Fred H. Albee: A New Beginning for Nokomis and Venice
The life and contributions of world-renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Fred Albee (1876-1945) and his wife Louella Albee are highlighted in this interactive exhibit, which includes a short video, oral history stories, and hands-on displays. Unique objects on exhibit include a human skeleton used by Albee for teaching and a special orthopedic table he invented in the early 1900s.
Dr. Albee conducted pioneering work on bone grafting. He used human bone, preferably the patient’s own bone, for uniting broken knee caps, ankle joints, fractured hips, and the like. The approach won him international recognition, and during the First World War his techniques were put to good work. Bone graft operations saved the limbs of many soldiers and further disseminated his techniques. To aid in his grafting work, he invented motor-driven tools (Albee Bone Mill, 1909) and special operating tables (Albee Orthopedic Table, 1915 and 1936).
A prolific writer, he described his techniques in several books and well over 200 articles. His 1943 book, A Surgeon’s Fight to Rebuild Men, recounts his professional life. He was a consultant orthopedic surgeon to several hospitals in New York, New Jersey, and Florida and gave talks before countless societies and conventions. He performed some 30,000 operations, traveled the world, and was decorated for his medical contributions by a dozen countries.
Contributions to Venice
In early 1917, the Albees bought 112 acres on Dona Bay in Nokomis from Mrs. Bertha Palmer where they built an inn (originally called the Pollyanna Inn), as well as their home, Point o’ Palms. In 1925, the Albees bought 1,468 acres from Mrs. Palmer’s estate, largely where most of Venice now stands. Also in 1925 Dr. Albee built the area’s first bank, the Venice-Nokomis Bank, on a dirt road in Nokomis that is now Tamiami Trail.
In his first major contribution to the future of Venice, Dr. Albee recruited and hired John Nolen—Harvard University’s nationally known city planner—to develop a town plan for the area.
The fledgling city of Venice was struggling when Dr. Albee made his second great contribution. His work for the Army in World War I had convinced him of the value of a proper convalescence, and he believed that the Florida climate and local citrus and vegetables would aid in patient recovery. In 1933, at the depth of the Great Depression, he bought Venice’s Park View Hotel from the BLE and established the Florida Medical Center there. In addition to his surgery at the Medical Center, Dr. and Mrs. Albee grew produce and raised dairy cows to feed Center patients.
The medical complex included an annex and apartments. Staff, as well as patients and their families, helped Venice economically weather the hard times. Initially, the Seaboard Airline Railway was the main transport for the area, but the Center added its own airplane to provide ambulance service.
Dr. Albee and his pilot nephew, Stephen Albee, Jr., under wing of Dr. Albee’s airplane ambulance “The Reliance” (Stinson Reliant Airplane). The plane was used for long-distance flights transporting patients to his Florida Medical Center located in what was the former Parkview Hotel (where the Venice Post Office is now (2001) located).
In April 1942, the U.S. Army took over Dr. Albee’s Medical Center for an Army Hospital, as well as the Annex and the Bungalow Court Apartments. After Dr. Albee died in 1945 the Army returned the buildings to Mrs. Albee, who sold them.