HISTORICAL POSTCARDS OF SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI
St. John's Hospital (first building)
St. John's Hospital began in a two-story gray brick house at the southwest corner of Washington and Chestnut at 536 East Chestnut. It was a private sanitarium until a group of about 75 ladies in the Springfield Hospital Aid Society became involved. They, under the leadership of Dr. J.E. Tefft, applied to the Sisters of Mercy in St. Louis to send some Sisters to Springfield to administer the hospital. The Sisters arrived in Springfield on October 29, 1891. The original three were Sister M. Alacoque Kelley, Sister M. Xavier Kinsella and Sister M. Stanislaus Tennelly. A month later two more Sisters arrived.
They arrived to find not a hospital, as they were expecting, but an ordinary two-story gray brick house with eight rooms. The Sisters had to live in the residence as well as run a hospital from it. The Sisters cared for those too ill to leave home by walking, sometimes ten miles, to the patient's home. The Sisters also raised livestock and a garden and did sewing and teaching for pay. In 1893 a three-story frame addition was added. This allowed the hospital to serve 20 patients at a time.
In 1899 Springfield was hit by a smallpox epidemic. A "pest camp" was set up with tents for the victims outside the Springfield city limits. The Sisters of Mercy volunteered to care for these unfortunates when no one else would venture near the camp for fear of being infected. One of the Sisters contracted the disease, but survived. To thank them for their compassion, Springfield City Council voted to donate $500 to the Sisters and many Springfieldians gave money themselves in addition. This money was used to build a new 40 bed hospital in 1906 at the corner of Nichols Avenue and Main Street. The hospital's address was 1015 North Main Street.
This 1906 hospital is the one portrayed in the postcard. The St. John's school of nursing also began in 1906 with five students. Also in 1906 the Sisters of Mercy moved into its own quarters at Scott and Main Streets.
The new hospital building was four stories high made of red brick and stone. The building cost $40,000 to build and depended on donations from Springfield citizens to raise the $5,000 more needed to furnish the rooms. By 1920 plans were made to expand the hospital. In 1923 a new $360,000 addition increased the capacity of the hospital from 40 beds to 105 beds. The picture in the postcard was made after the hospital's addition. Starting in 1923 St. John's Hospital treated Frisco employees that had been going to the Frisco Hospital. They were treated in an annex of St. John's Hospital. In the new hospital rooms were equipped for the first time with signal lights to summons the nurses (bells had previously been used) and on the third floor was built a large chapel for the Sisters and nurses. This building served as St. Johns hospital until 1952 when St. Johns opened in its present location at Cherokee Street and National Avenue.
The old building was converted to Mercy Hospital, which was actually a nursing home. The name was later changed to Mercy Villa. In 1975 Mercy Villa moved to a new facility on St. John's Regional Health Center grounds at 1845 South Rogers. The old hospital building was sold to the Assemblies of God. In 1982 the Mercy Villa moved to its current location at 1400 East Montclair and the Rogers building became a psychiatric unit of St. John's.