St. Vincent's Infirmary

This state historic marker near the northwest corner of East Vermont Street and North Park Avenue commemorates the first location of St. Vincent's Infirmary. From 1881-1889, the first location was here and, from 1889-1913, the second location was at the southeast corner of East South Street and South Delaware Street.

St. Vincent's Infirmary: First Location, 1881-1889

In the late 1880s this city block, bounded by East, Michigan, Liberty (now Park Avenue), and Vermont Streets, had a brick perimeter wall--parts of which are intact. This eastern half of the block contained the original St. Joseph Catholic Church (later moved to the southwest corner of College Avenue and North Street) and its seminary. In 1881, a vacant seminary building became St. Vincent's Infirmary when six sisters from the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul came from Maryland to establish a medical facility at the request of then-Bishop Silas Chatard.

Some city residents had deemed a hospital in a residential area a "public nuisance," with concerns such as adequacy of the city water supply and sewers for removing hospital waste: "[F]oul air constantly escaping, impregnating persons along the line of flow with the seeds of disease." Bishop Chatard, who had been a physician before his ordination, responded that hospitals needed to be located where they could serve the greatest number of people. He wrote that he intended that St. Vincent's Infirmary not be permanently located in the seminary building, stating his hope that Indianapolis citizens would "take enough interest in this work to enable those connected with it to buy a suitable site elsewhere, and there build [a larger] edifice . . . ." Just as he envisioned, St. Vincent's Infirmary outgrew its space rapidly so, between 1887 and 1889, a larger $111,000 facility was constructed about a mile to the south.

St. Vincent's Infirmary: Second Location, 1889-1913

Located at the southeast corner of East South Street and South Delaware Street, the second St. Vincent's Infirmary stood four stories high, with 38 private rooms and eight open wards providing space for 150 patients. The most famous patient was President Theodore Roosevelt, treated there on September 23, 1902, for an infected cut on his shin. Nevertheless, St. Vincent's Infirmary continued to treat patients who could not afford to pay.

In 1902, St. Vincent's Infirmary was hailed as one of the "three great hospitals of the city"--a far cry from the public nuisance that had been feared. The South and Delaware Streets region was Indianapolis's medical hub, with numerous related facilities nearby, such as Eli Lilly and Company. By the 1910s, however, it had become an industrial area: railroad tracks and train sheds had been built across the street to the north, and the dangerous acetylene-compression Prest-o-Lite factory was immediately adjacent to the south. Noise, dirt, and danger contributed to the decision to move St. Vincent's away from the city center in 1913. The old infirmary building subsequently served a variety of purposes, and was finally demolished in 1958.

St. Vincent Hospital Locations: 1913 to the Present

With a name change to St. Vincent's Hospital, a new facility was built on the north side of Fall Creek Boulevard between Capitol Avenue and Illinois Street. The hospital remained there until 1974, when it moved to its current location at 2001 West 86th Street. In 2012, the old hospital building on Fall Creek Boulevard, heavily renovated, became the headquarters of Ivy Tech Community College.

Images

First Location

First Location

This image from about 1887, looking northward up Liberty Street (now part of North Park Avenue) from East Vermont, shows the first location of St. Vincent's Infirmary (1881-1889), visible on the far side of the chapel in the foreground of this image. These buildings are of the Gothic Revival style. Image source: Thurman B. Rice, "The Catholic Hospitals," in One Hundred Years of Medicine: Indianapolis, 1820-1920 (1949). | Source: Thurman B. Rice, "The Catholic Hospitals," in One Hundred Years of Medicine: Indianapolis, 1820-1920 (1949). View File Details Page

St. Vincent Historic Marker

St. Vincent Historic Marker

The brick wall visible beyond the state historical marker is part of the perimeter wall that once surrounded this entire city block; much of the wall survives. The first location of St. Vincent's Infirmary stood on the other side of this section of the wall. This site is in the Lockerbie Square Historic District (1855-1930), which is listed both on the Indiana Register of Historic Sites and Structures and on the National Register of Historic Places. Some of the houses in Lockerbie Square were originally located here; others were relocated here to fill spaces that had been emptied by blight and urban destruction. The result is this Victorian neighborhood, which is highly regarded by preservation activists. Photo by Kurt Lee Nettleton, 2013. | Creator: Kurt Lee Nettleton View File Details Page

City Block, 1887

City Block, 1887

The first St. Vincent's Infirmary and an adjoining chapel were located on the eastern part of this city block (at right). On the western part of the block (at left), a kindred community, the Little Sisters of the Poor, ran the Home of the Aged Poor which, at the time, had the address of 520 East Vermont Street. Image source: Indianapolis Sanborn Map #50, 1887, courtesy of IUPUI Center for Digital Scholarship | Source: IUPUI Center for Digital Scholarship | Creator: Sanborn Fire Insurance Map View File Details Page

Aged Poor Home

Aged Poor Home

The Little Sisters of the Poor religious order's Home of the Aged Poor was at 520 East Vermont Street, sharing this city block with the first location of St. Vincent's Infirmary, and long survived it. In 1968, the Little Sisters' facility was renamed St. Augustine Home and relocated to the southeast of West 86th Street and Township Line Road, where it still stands. Image ca 1950s. Image courtesy of Indiana Medical History Museum, "Zwick" folder. | Source: Indiana Medical History Museum, "Zwick folder." View File Details Page

Aerial View, 1982

Aerial View, 1982

The large building in the foreground, at 430 North Park Avenue, was the Indianapolis Glove Company factory from 1910 until the mid-1980s. In 1984, it was repurposed to become the Lockerbie Glove Condominiums, locally referred to as the "Glove Factory." The first St. Vincent's Infirmary (1881-1889) stood in the southeast quadrant of the city block (lower left in this photo). Image courtesy of Indianapolis Star, 31 January 1982. | Source: Indianapolis Star View File Details Page

Second Location, 1916

Second Location, 1916

The second location of St. Vincent's Infirmary (1889-1913), at the southeast corner of East South Street and South Delaware Street, was much larger than the first location. The octagonal room on the south side of the building was a surgical amphitheater with a skylight. The "Bottling Works" (the pink rectangles) was the highly dangerous Prest-o-Lite factory. Image courtesy of Indianapolis Baist Atlas Plan #1, 1916, IUPUI Center for Digital Scholarship | Source: IUPUI Center for Digital Scholarship | Creator: Indianapolis Baist Atlas Plans #1, 1916. View File Details Page

Post Card, 1910

Post Card, 1910

The second location of St. Vincent's Infirmary (background, with central tower), on a postcard postmarked in 1910. Note the proximity to the railroad tracks and train sheds, and to Fall Creek in the foreground. Image courtesy of the Vincentiana Collection, DePaul University Special Collections, Chicago, Illinois. | Source: Vincentiana Collection, DePaul University Special Collections, Chicago, Illinois. View File Details Page

St. Vincent Infirmary, 1916

St. Vincent Infirmary, 1916

The second St. Vincent's Infirmary building, pictured here in about 1916, was in the Romanesque Revival Style. It was demolished in 1958. Image courtesy of the Vincentiana Collection, DePaul University Special Collections, Chicago, Illinois. | Source: Vincentiana Collection, DePaul University Special Collections, Chicago, Illinois. View File Details Page

Prest-o-Lite Risk

Prest-o-Lite Risk

A factory for manufacturing Prest-o-Lite (used to make the first true car headlights by compressing acetylene gas into canisters) was built to the south of the second St. Vincent Infirmary location in the early 1900s. In 1908 alone, this volatile process caused explosions and fires three times, the third one severely damaging the infirmary. This danger, along with dirt and noise from the railroad tracks and train sheds and to the north, were among the reasons for relocating St. Vincent's to Fall Creek Boulevard in 1913. Image source: Indianapolis Star, 7 June 1908. | Source: Indianapolis Star View File Details Page

Fall Creek Blvd

Fall Creek Blvd

With a name change to St. Vincent Hospital, a new facility on the north side of Fall Creek Boulevard between Capitol Avenue and Illinois Street opened in 1913. The hospital remained here until 1974, when it moved to its current location at 2001 West 86th Street. In 2012, the old hospital building, heavily renovated, became the headquarters of Ivy Tech Community College. Photo by Sarah E. W. Dargatz, 2013. | Source: Sarah W. Dargatz View File Details Page

Present Location

Present Location

St. Vincent Hospital is now a part of St. Vincent Health, which has a large complex at 2001 West 86th Street in Indianapolis, and in numerous other locations throughout the city and central Indiana. Photo by Sarah E. W. Dargatz, 2013. | Creator: Sarah E. W. Dargatz, 2013. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Gail Gráinne Whitchurch, “St. Vincent's Infirmary,” Discover Indiana, accessed July 26, 2017, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/15.
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