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. Mary Warren Branum says:

    The best place I ever worked! Loved the sisters! It was like a death in the family when it was closed! I worked there 30 years.

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