St. Luke’s Hospital (1881)

The 1881 St. Luke’s Hospital. (Image: Duluth Public Library)
12 North 3rd Avenue East | Architect: Unknown | Built: Unknown | Lost: Unknown

When an outbreak of typhoid fever threatened Duluth in 1881, Reverend J. A. Cummings of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church responded by furnishing an abandoned blacksmith shop along Third Avenue East with a few chairs, three beds, and a stove donated by British officials at the Duluth emigrant station. Church leaders chose St. Luke’s as the hospital’s name because they first met to plan the facility on October 18, 1881, St. Luke’s Day (in his letter to the Colossians, the apostle Paul calls Luke “our beloved physician”). Cummings’ first patients were a railroad worker with a broken leg and a destitute old man who received typhoid treatment without charge. Cummings placed an ad in local papers and within a week the tiny hospital had filled its twelve beds. Records do not indicate when the hospital was demolished; the Hotel Duluth now stands over its location.

Typhoid would also prompt the creation of St. Mary’s Hospital and remained a problem until the creation of the Lakewood Pump House in 1897. The bacteria that cause typhoid, typhus bacillus, develops in tainted water supplies, and before the Pump House Duluth used a very primitive system to deliver fresh water to its residents: a hogshead barrel filled with Lake Superior water and transported to homes and businesses in a horse-drawn cart.