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Archives Spotlight: St. Anthony’s Hospital

Wheaton Franciscan History

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The first St. Anthony’s Hospital at Grand Avenue and Chippewa Street (circa 1895).

On a warm summer’s day in June of 1894, Franciscan Sisters gathered for a celebratory dedication at Grand Avenue and Chippewa Street in St. Louis, Missouri. Before them stood St. Anthony’s Hospital, a place of healing as well as the Sisters’ new home. Soon after the ceremony concluded, the first patients were admitted, and from there the ministry grew rapidly. Within six years, a much larger hospital and motherhouse were constructed on the site to meet the needs of a growing order and changing community.

By the late 19th and early 20th Centuries the population of St. Louis had surged to more than 500,000 residents, ranking it among America’s largest cities. The Franciscan Sisters, who left Germany and arrived in Missouri in late 1872, quickly established ministries to care for the city’s residents, many of whom were immigrants. Opened in April of 1900, the new St. Anthony’s Hospital was the embodiment of three decades of commitment, love, and sacrifice by the Sisters.

The second St. Anthony’s Hospital as it looked around 1910. This complex opened in 1900 and was expanded many times in the following decades.

In the coming years, St. Anthony’s underwent numerous additions which included a chapel, novitiate, boiler, laundry, and patient rooms. From 1901 – 1935, the hospital was home to a nursing school, and in 1947, the Sisters relocated their motherhouse from St. Louis to Wheaton, Illinois. That same year, St. Anthony’s began caring for patients stricken by Polio. This feared disease, with an unknown origin and no cure, had seen repeated outbreaks in the United States since 1900. Until widely available vaccines eradicated much of the illness, St. Anthony’s Hospital was a cornerstone in the national battle against Polio.

St. Anthony’s Hospital shortly before its demolition (April of 1975).

During the 1960s, shifting trends led to changes in how the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters managed several of their ministries. In 1967, a new board was formed to direct the growth and future of St. Anthony’s Hospital. While Sisters continued to serve there for many years, governance was handed over to lay people from within the nearby community. By the late 1960s, the hospital could no longer meet the needs of the city’s residents, and in 1975 a new structure was completed at 10010 Kennerly Road. Initially called St. Francis Medical Center, the institution is currently known as Mercy Hospital South.

For more than 100 years, the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters served the people of St. Louis with love, justice, and compassion. From its humble beginnings in a converted private home, St. Anthony’s Hospital grew into a state-of-the-art medical facility that treated thousands of patients each year. Although the Sisters’ sponsorship of the hospital ended long ago, the enduring foundation they constructed and their legacy within the community remains. 


1 thought on “Archives Spotlight: St. Anthony’s Hospital”

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    S. Diane Przyborowski

    This was a very good article on St. Anthony’s and our ministry in St. Louis. Very positive in its tone. I know there were issues in the later years of our sponsorship but you emphasized the positive. Thank you!

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