St. Luke’s Hospital (1902)

The 1902 St. Luke’s Hospital. (Image: Duluth Public Library)
9th Avenue East & 1st Street | Architect: Unknown | Built: 1902 | Extant

Prior to 1902, St. Luke’s Hospital operated out of two other facilities. The first, built in 1881, was at 12 North 3rd Avenue East. The second was at 323 2nd Avenue East and was built in 1883.

The hospital’s present Ninth Avenue East and First Street location first opened in 1902 with ninety-five beds. Its expansion has been ongoing. In 1926, five years after the hospital’s management changed hands from St. Paul’s to a nonsectarian board, a second wing was added and a nurse’s dormitory went up on the upper side of the block. The hospital campus grew again in 1950, and in the late 1960s the original 1902 section, sometimes called the “old west building,” was replaced with a new wing. Since then there has been so much development the old building is hardly recognizable behind layers of new construction.

Why was typhoid such a problem in Duluth that it prompted the start of the town’s two major hospitals? Because typhus bacillus develops in tainted water supplies, and until nearly 1900 Duluth used a very primitive system to deliver fresh water to its residents: a hog’s head filled with Lake Superior water and transported in a horse-drawn cart.