February 2, 1888: St. Mary’s Hospital is established

On this day in Duluth in 1888, St. Mary’s Hospital was established in Duluth’s West End at 2002 West Third Street. Monks from St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville had constructed a building at that site, next to St. Clement’s Catholic Church, intending to use it as a boys’ school and seminary. When that plan did not materialize, they rented the building to Benedictine nuns who used the handsome four-story brick building with arched windows and a Mansard roof for a hospital they named St. Mary’s. The hospital was the idea of the nuns. Duluth was in the midst of another typhoid outbreak, and while there was a hospital for those Christians of Protestant belief (St. Luke’s, founded by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church), there was none for Duluth’s growing number of Catholic immigrants. The hospital opened with one hundred beds but no running water or electricity. St. Scholastica’s Mother Alexia Kerst and six other nuns, along with surgeon Dr. William H. Magie, comprised the hospital’s staff. St. Mary’s was innovative in its early years, 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.” The cards cost seventy cents a month and guaranteed the jacks—who performed dangerous work and were rarely flush with money—medical care and a bed. Read a more complete history of St. Mary’s, part of today’s Essentia Health System, here.

3 Responses to February 2, 1888: St. Mary’s Hospital is established

  1. Friends of mine went to St. Ann’s Home to apply for jobs and said it was so creepy inside. Jeanne Hammerbeck Wagner

  2. Is it possible that patient records exist somewhere today for 1889 at either st mary or st luke hospitals?

  3. Of course the building became the first St. Ann’s Home for the aged after St. Mary’s moved downtown. It was still active in the 1950s when my young Lutheran youth group went Christmas caroling there. The place seemed kind of spooky, haunted house-like. Growing up not far away, it was the only time I was ever in there. Lutherans and Catholics didn’t mix much in those days.

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