St. Mary’s Hospital (1888)

The 1888 St. Mary’s Hospital ca. 1935, photographer unknown. [Image: College of St. Scholastica]

2002 West 3rd Street | Architect: Father Gregory Steil | Built: 1888 | Lost: 1958

In 1887, Benedictine monks from St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, helped build the original St. Clement’s Church, parish house, and school. They also constructed a seminary in Duluth’s West End at the southwest corner of Third Street and Twentieth Avenue West that Abbot Alexius Edelbrock hoped would eventually become a new abbey. The buildings were designed by the abbey’s own Father Gregory Steil. Faced with bricks made by monks at St. John’s, the Second Empire French seminary was capped with a mansard roof and stood four stories tall (including its attic) along Third Street. The building featured Roman-arch windows, decorative brickwork, and dormers peaking out of the attic level.

But before the building opened as a seminary, Edelbrock had a change of heart. He offered the building to Mother Scholastica Kerst, prioress of St. Benedict’s convent in St. Joseph, Minnesota, to establish a Catholic hospital. At the time, Duluth had one hospital, St. Luke’s, then located at 232 Second Avenue West—a Protestant facility created by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church during a typhoid outbreak in 1881. The timing was good: in 1888 the city was in the grips of another typhoid epidemic while its Catholic population was exploding with immigrants.

Kerst, nine other nuns, and staff physician Dr. William Magie opened the building as St. Mary’s Hospital in 1888. It included a chapel that sat 150 and rooms for 100 patients, but no running water or electricity. Long before medical insurance, St. Mary’s own Sister Amata sold itinerant lumber camp employees “lumberjack hospital tickets.” The cards cost seventy cents a month and guaranteed the jacks medical care and a bed. It was one of the first plans of its kind in the nation and helped the young hospital stay financially afloat. Magie served as the hospital’s surgeon for twenty-two years, and in 1895 performed Minnesota’s first gastroenteroscopy in the attic’s surgical ward, illuminated with the help of skylights.

When a new St. Mary’s Hospital opened along East Third Street, the former hospital became Duluth’s Catholic orphanage, serving as such until St. James Orphanage opened in Woodland in 1910. The building was then used as the St. Anne’s Home for the Aged until 1957, when St. Anne’s temporarily relocated to 429 East Third before moving into a new facility at 330 East Third Street, now called St. Anne’s Residence. The 1888 building was demolished in 1958 and the lot it sat on is now a parking lot.