St. Mary’s Hospital (1898)

The 1898 St. Mary’s Hospital. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

404 East 3rd Street | Architect: Clarence Johnston | Built: 1898 | Lost: 1967

The first home of St. Mary’s was in Lincoln Park, at Twentieth Avenue West and Third Street, where Benedictine sisters opened their hospital in 1888 due to the eruption of a typhoid epidemic. St. Mary’s was certainly innovative in its early years. In the days when the timber industry reigned in northern Minnesota, long before medical insurance, St. Mary’s own Sister Amata sold those who worked the lumber camps “lumberjack hospital tickets” for seventy cents a month. The cards guaranteed the jacks— who performed dangerous work and weren’t always flush with money — medical care and a bed. It was one of the first plans of its kind in the nation. It moved to a new building on East Third Street in 1898 becaue the 1888 building had become overcrowded.

According to Sister Margaret Clark, local architect Gearhard Tenbusch had drawn up plans for a new facility, but after  a disagreement, Mother Scholastica hired renowned St. Paul architect Clarence Johnston, who adapted Gearhard’s plans in a slightly simpler design. The new building held 200 beds—twice as many as the 1888 facility.

A 75-bed addition was made in 1912, along with facility for X-rays. That same year the St. Mary’s School of Nursing graduated its first class. (That school is now an apartment building, and today in Duluth students can learn nursing at the College of St. Scholastica, another Benedictine organization.) St. Mary’s doubled its patient capacity in 1921 when a six-story addition went up.

The 1950s saw further growth, first with a psychiatric unit in 1955 and again in 1957 when a nine-story wing was added. In 1967 the original portion of the 1898 hospital was torn down. Many more buildings have since been added, including a towering parking ramp that was completed in 2006.

St. Mary’s Hospital, the Duluth Clinic, and Miller-Dwan Medical Center (formerly Miller Memorial Hospital) united by 2001; three years later they merged with the Benedictine Health System to become Essentia Health. In 2018 both Essentia and St. Luke’s announced nearly $1 billion in major expansions, which will secure Duluth’s future as the region’s major medical center.