Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Saint Mary's Infirmary

Saint Mary's Infirmary was built in 1889 and received various additions through the 1940's. The well-renowned SSM Healthcare actually began here at this location. According to the history page of SSM's own website "SSM Health Care traces its roots to 1872, when Mother Mary Odilia Berger and four other sisters came to St. Louis from Germany, after caring for sick and wounded soldiers during the Franco-Prussian War. Facing religious persecution in Germany, they came to the United States for two reasons: to preserve their call to live in religious community and to be of service to people in need. When they arrived in St. Louis on November 16, 1872, they had but $5 among them, and they began providing nursing care to people in their own homes. That winter, when a smallpox epidemic hit St. Louis, the sisters cared for the sick and dying. For a short time, people referred to them as the Smallpox Sisters. In 1874, the congregation received its formal name: the Sisters of St. Mary (SSM). They were so named because their convent shared a door with St. Mary of Victories Church in downtown St. Louis.

"In 1877, the Sisters borrowed the then enormous sum of $16,000 to open their first hospital -- St. Mary's Infirmary -- just southwest of today's downtown St. Louis. "

Saint Mary's Infirmary later saw use a nursing home, detox center and halfway house before ultimately being abandoned by SSM in 1979. Some of the newer additions were in use by other organizations until 1994.

It's always been crazy to me that the world famous SSM healthcare started HERE and they simply packed up and walked away from this hisoric and beautiful brick building. Having been admitted to an SSM hospital, it's quite ironic how many photos and references to this building specifically adorn their cafeterias, screen savers, etc. The hallway to the cafe was called "Papin Street", etc. And yet this here is what they allowed happen to the building where it all began.

Update: St Mary's Infirmary was demolished in 2016

See my previous visits here and here.

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