St. Joseph Hospital: Tycoons, Brakemen, and Sisters of Charity

You can scrape a city block clean of its bricks and concrete and steel, but you can’t scrape it clean of its history.

On this block on South Main Street, cleared in 2013, once stood St. Joseph Hospital.

St. Joseph’s was Fort Worth’s first hospital and its only hospital until 1906. St. Joseph’s in its first few incarnations was one of our most stately public buildings. The original building was three hundred feet long with two stories and a porch around all four sides. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

J. M. Eddy of tycoon Jay Gould’s Missouri Pacific railroad founded the hospital in 1883, about two years after the railroad began serving Fort Worth. Missouri Pacific had started its hospital system in 1879. The system was funded by employee dues, which ranged from thirty-five to fifty cents a month.

gould ok 5-31-83 dwh To induce the railroad to locate its hospital here, citizens of Fort Worth donated $4,000 to buy a site where South Main and Morphy streets intersect today. That site was well out of the city in 1883. Clip is from the May 31, 1883 Dallas Weekly Herald.

gould accident 1-17-84 dwhCowtown worked quickly in those days. By the end of September 1883 the hospital was nearing completion and already treating patients. Good thing, too. Because on January 17, 1884 the Dallas Weekly Herald reported that nineteen victims of a train wreck had been taken to what was then called “the Gould hospital” or “the railway hospital.”

gould fire 4-27 gazBut on April 26, 1885 the wooden hospital building was destroyed by fire. The railroad quickly rebuilt the hospital. Clip is from the Gazette.

Railroading was dangerous work. This clip from 1886 shows the type of railroad injuries the hospital treated.

In 1886 two of the lawmen wounded nearby at the Battle of Buttermilk Junction were taken to the hospital for treatment.

This 1887 Fort Worth Gazette map shows that the hospital was located beside a corridor that included four railroads, including the Missouri Pacific.

But this clip from 1887 shows that the hospital was not yet in the city limits.

The Rosedale streetcar company operated a line from its pavilion on Samuels Avenue south through downtown to the hospital.

In 1887 Gould sold the hospital to the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of San Antonio, who had been staffing the hospital. The sisters renamed the Gould hospital “St. Joseph Infirmary.” The infirmary treated railroad workers and their family members but also charity cases and nonrailroad paying patients. The rate for paying patients was ninety cents a day.

In 1897 three doctors, among them Dr. Bacon Saunders (dean of Fort Worth Medical College), gave the infirmary two horses for its ambulance.

Also in 1897 the sisters took bids for a new building. Architect J. J. Kane had also designed St. Ignatius Academy (1889) and St. Patrick’s Cathedral (1892) downtown.

This 1898 photo shows that the sisters had a handsome building of rusticated and cast stone with dormer windows, quoins, and cupolas. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library.)

The building in 1955. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Library Special Collections.)

As these clips from 1907 and 1912 show, railroading continued to be a dangerous job, and injured workers continued to be treated at the infirmary that had been started for them in 1883.

In 1930 the infirmary was renamed “St. Joseph’s Hospital.” This photo by W. D. Smith shows the hospital in the 1930s. The hospital continued to replace and expand its buildings. For example, in 1957 seven floors were added to one addition.

st jo 1911 1952A Sanborn map shows the footprint of the hospital in 1911. A 1952 aerial photo shows that the older buildings (dark roofs) still stood.

By 1993 sixteen hundred people worked at St. Joseph’s. But in 1994 Columbia/Hospital Corporation of America bought the hospital and in 1995 closed it. In 1997 a California company bought St. Joseph’s to operate as an Alzheimer’s center but went bankrupt. Diversified Capital bought the hospital in 2005. In 2008 the Tarrant County hospital district bought the hospital from Diversified Capital. In 2013 the hospital district cleared the block where St. Joseph’s stood to make way for expansion of adjacent John Peter Smith Hospital.

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13 Responses to St. Joseph Hospital: Tycoons, Brakemen, and Sisters of Charity

  1. Janet Foster says:

    I worked at Saint Joseph’s Hospital as a temporary Registered Radiologic Technologist just in the radiology department in the early 1990’s Until it’s closing. I was contracted by a radiology service. I read about the historical beginnings of the hospital. I went to Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City for radiology training. It also was an old hospital and was later made a way for the new mercy which probably is now old in Oklahoma City. It is at least 50 years old. I was born in 1944. I knew of Saint Anthony’s hospital a few blocks away from old mercy hospital when I was a child in the 1950s. Then at age 21 in the x-ray school, I read about Saint Anthony’s hospital history. So this article was interesting to remind me of the past and insight me with the new information I had not remembered for 25 years approximately. It was a fun place to work as the previous person said. Everyone was so nice. It was a bright day in my life to work there! I am now 75 years old.

    I hope others that work there will remember incidences will come forward and tell her they’re short story and long stories there. Each year And this article made a difference for me reading about this grand old hospital, Saint Joseph hospital. My stories to my children and my resume is verified. People were real, and history did happened. I guess you could say,I was the second generation of 60 to 70 years to these histories of old buildings. X-rays were invented in1894 in Germany. The automatic film processor was developed in the 1960’s for use at Mercy Hospital by the time I went to school in 1965. X-rays were processed by hand tanks of chemicals for 7 minutes and washed for 20 minutes totaling twenty minutes. Add another 20 minutes for the films to dry in warm heaters then cut the sharp corners out of the film by which they were hung on hangers. It took seven minutes to develop films and 20 minutes to dry. Without computers the paperwork of pulling all the x-rays or making a new folder for the films to be read on a dictation-recorder. The typist would listen to the Dictaphone and type the reports out for the radiologist to sign them before other doctors got to see them. In1965, it took approximately 9 minutes to develop films automatically. In 2005, I retired, and the digital films were beginning to be used in the hospitals in Dallas and Fort Worth areas. Today digital is immediately ready for the radiologist to read the x-rays A few seconds after they are taken

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