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Indiana Historical Bureau

IHB > Historical Markers > Find a Marker > St. Vincent's Infirmary St. Vincent's Infirmary

St Vincent's InfirmarySt Vincent's Infirmary

Location: 536 E. Vermont St., Indianapolis (Marion County, Indiana)

Installed: 2007 Indiana Historical Bureau and St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital

ID# : 49.2007.3

Text

Side one:

Bishop Francis Silas Chatard began work to open an infirmary here in St. Joseph's Seminary by 1878. Many local residents and physicians opposed the infirmary, fearing the spread of disease. The Daughters of Charity St. Vincent de Paul in Maryland sent sisters to take charge of the infirmary 1881. It was incorporated as St. Vincent's Infirmary 1884.

Side two:

Overcrowding required new infirmary, built 1889 at South and Delaware Streets. By 1899, new infirmary added 19 private rooms, an operating room, and an operating theater used for teaching. Industrialization of city and continuous influx of patients created safety problems; building damaged by gas explosion 1908. Moved to Fall Creek Boulevard 1913.

Keywords

Medicine

Annotated Text

Side one:

Bishop Francis Silas Chatard began work to open an infirmary here in St. Joseph's Seminary by 1878.(1) Many local residents and physicians opposed the infirmary, fearing the spread of disease. (2) The Daughters of Charity St. Vincent de Paul in Maryland sent sisters to take charge of the infirmary 1881. (3) It was incorporated as St. Vincent's Infirmary 1884. (4)

Side two:

Overcrowding required new infirmary, built 1889 at South and Delaware Streets. (5) By 1899, new infirmary added 19 private rooms, an operating room, and an operating theater used for teaching. (6) Industrialization of city and continuous influx of patients created safety problems; building damaged by gas explosion 1908. (7) Moved to Fall Creek Boulevard 1913. (8)

Notes:

(1) Bishop Francis Silas Chatard began correspondence 1878 with the Daughters of Charity St. Vincent de Paul in Emmittsburg, Maryland, asking them to take charge of the infirmary. Letter, Bishop Francis Chatard to Mother Euphemia, September 6, 1878, St. Vincent Hospital Archives, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Evansville, Indiana, Arch. Vol. 1 (B050094).

Letter, Bishop Francis Silas Chatard to Mother Euphemia, March 10, 1879; Bishop Francis Silas Chatard to Sister Veronica, March 31, 1881, Ibid. Bishop Francis Silas Chatard to Mother Euphemia, January 7, 1880, Ibid. Sister Veronica to Bishop Francis Silas Chatard, April 6, 1881, Ibid.

(2) The infirmary was established during a period when hospitals were seen as a danger to public health. Contemporary newspapers contain articles from both residents and physicians against the infirmary. Indianapolis Journal, April 7, 1879 (B050119); Indianapolis Journal, April 14, 1879 (B050154); The Two Communications of Charles L. Holstein, Attorney for Certain Resident Taxpayers, to the Mayor, City Attorney, and Common Council (Indianapolis, 1879) (B050300).

Sanborn Insurance Map of Indianapolis, Indiana, 1887 (New York, 1887) (B050088) provides an exact location. R. L. Polk & Co's Indianapolis Directory for 1878 (Indianapolis, 1878), 60 (B051038) and R. L. Polk & Co's Indianapolis Directory for 1882 (Indianapolis, 1882), 35 (B051039) prove that the infirmary was in St. Joseph's Seminary.

St. Vincent's Infirmary was the second hospital in the city of Indianapolis. The first city hospital was built in 1859. Jacob Piatt Dunn, Greater Indianapolis: The History, the Industries, the Institutions, and the People of a City of Homes (Chicago, 1910), 550-52 (B050102).

Because of financial difficulties, the city hospital did not open to the public until 1866. William N. Wishard, "The First Formal Effort to Obtain a General Hospital for Indiana, " The Journal of the Indiana State Medical Association, 24: 426-28 (Fort Wayne, 1931) (B050297).

(3) On April 28, 1881, Sisters M. Teresa O'Conner, Servant, Oswald, and Abertine Ott arrived in Indianapolis and were met my Bishop Chatard. These sisters began work at the hospital. Indianapolis Sisters to Sister Teresa Healy, April 28, 1881, St. Vincent Hospital Archives, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Evansville, Indiana, Arch. Vol. 1 (B050094).

An article in the Indianapolis Journal indicates the sisters were to arrive April 26, 1881. "The City in Brief, " Indianapolis Journal, April 26, 1881, p. 8 (B050272).

(4) Incorporation, St. Vincent's Infirmary, Indianapolis, Indiana, July 31, 1884, St. Vincent Hospital Archives, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Evansville, Indiana (B051027).

(5) The new building was at the southeast corner of South and Delaware Streets. "A Noble Charity, " Indianapolis Journal, May 21, 1888 (B050160); Sanborn Insurance Map of Indianapolis, Indiana, 1898 (New York, 1898), 319 (B050009). Loftus, 23 (B050103).

(6) "St. Vincent's Infirmary, " Annual Report of Saint Vincent's Infirmary, 1899-1900 (Indianapolis, 1900) (B051025).

To accommodate the need for a city medical teaching clinic, a large operating room amphitheatre was built. "St. Vincent's Infirmary, " Annual Report of Saint Vincent's Infirmary, 1899-1900 (Indianapolis, 1900) (B051025).

(7) Bishop Chartrand wrote in 1904 that a new facility was needed: "The Sisters must soon have a second hospital here - Hundreds of patients wanting private rooms have been refused during the last few months." Letter, Bishop Chartrand to Sr. Raphael, April 20, 1904, St. Vincent Hospital Archives, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Evansville, Indiana, Arch. Vol. 1 (B050094).

Concerns about developments around the infirmary increased the need to move. On February 5, 1908, the infirmary council decided to buy a new site and build. "The present location of the hospital building has become dangerous, as various railroads have made their center and established their depots around the hospital, thus making it unbearable for the sick and convalescent." Letter, Sr. Josephine to unknown, February 5, 1908, St. Vincent Hospital Archives, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Evansville, Indiana, Arch. Vol. 1 (B050094).

The extreme danger of the infirmary's location was epitomized by a major gas explosion in 1908. On June 6, 1908 a major gas explosion from the Prest-O-Lite building located next to the infirmary blasted some the infirmary's windows out, imbedding glass into walls. Indianapolis Star, "City Jolted Again By Prest-O-Lite, " June 7, 1908 (B051045).

The east end of the infirmary was badly damaged. The Indianapolis City Building Inspector Thomas A. Winterrowd was amazed at the extent of the damage done to the infirmary, particularly the east end and the gables. Winterrowd commented, "This building would have gone too if it hadn't been for its brick walls. They are good, old brick walls, I tell you. It's a fine building, or it wouldn't have stood up under this." Indianapolis News, "Prest-O-Lite Lets Go Again, " June 6, 1908 (B051043).

People inside the infirmary were injured. A pastry cook claimed to have been hurled ten feet by the explosion. Sister Vincent, on duty when the explosion occurred, went into shock. To make matters worse, the explosion filled the air with Asbestos. Indianapolis News, "Prest-O-Lite Lets Go Again, " June 6, 1908 (B051043).

The Star and News both noted that the June 6 explosion was the third to come from the Prest-O-Lite building in a year. Indianapolis Star, "City Jolted Again By Prest-O-Lite, " June 7, 1908 (B051045) and Indianapolis News, "Another Prest-O-Lite Explosion, " June 6, 1908 (B051044). The combination of continued railroad development in the area combined with the constant danger posed by the Prest-O-Lite building contributed to the need to move the infirmary.

(8) In 1913, the hospital moved to moved a new, state-of-the art facility on Fall Creek Boulevard. Indianapolis News, February 8, 1913 (B050302).

In 1974, St. Vincent Hospital moved to West 86th Street. Indianapolis Star, April 1, 1974 (B050292). It has remained in that area and extended its operations and physical plant. The infirmary had been renamed St. Vincent's Hospital 1909. St. Vincent's Infirmary, Special Meeting Minutes, November 22, 1909, St. Vincent Hospital Archives, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Evansville, Indiana (B051028). St. Vincent's Hospital, Annual Meeting Minutes, March 3, 1910, St. Vincent Hospital Archives, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Evansville, Indiana (B051032) proves the name St. Vincent's Hospital was officially being used at this time.

The petition to change the name from infirmary to hospital was handled by the Indianapolis law firm of Smith, Hornbrook and Smith. The firm was supposed to submit the petition to the Secretary of State; for some reason, the Secretary of State never received the petition. The situation was not discovered by St. Vincent's Hospital until 1913. The name was not legally changed until 1920. Letter, Smith Hornbrook & Smith, Attorneys at Law, to Sister Superior, St. Vincent's Hospital, February, 7, 1913, St. Vincent Hospital Archives, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Evansville, Indiana (B051029); Letter Chas. W. Smith to Bernard Korbly, March 17, 1920, St. Vincent Hospital Archives, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Evansville, Indiana (B051030); Letter, Bernard Korbly to Sister Mary Joseph, March 19, 1920, St. Vincent Hospital Archives, Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Evansville, Indiana (B051031).