In the mid-19th century, Mother Catherine Spalding traversed from Nazareth, Kentucky and founded a school to teach Kentucky children. An epidemic of cholera resulted in a number of those children becoming orphans. This encouraged Mother Catherine to start a children’s home. The children’s home would soon become far too overcrowded and as a result, she moved the home to a new location on Jefferson Street in what used to be a tavern. This facility had a few extra rooms and so she decided to use them for a hospital.
In 1836, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth announced their intention to open a “spacious and accommodating” building for the purpose of an infirmary. The building, once owned by James Marshall, was located on Jefferson Street in Louisville. The infirmary, St. Vincent’s Infirmary, was to be headed by Mother Catherine Spalding with her fellow sisters acting as associate nurses in caring for patients. The foundation of St. Vincent’s Infirmary was to treat the infirm with kindness as the Sisters of Charity had long done throughout Europe and the United States. Additionally, the Sisters noted that for patrons choosing St. Vincent’s would help “contribute to the maintenance of the female orphans under the care of the same Sisters of Charity.” Two physicians were attending the infirmary at all times. The Sisters insisted that a committee of gentlemen visit the infirmary from time to time to inspect.
By 1853, St. Vincent’s Infirmary had grown large enough that it needed to expand yet again. Approvals were provided for the infirmary to move to Fourth Street in Louisville. However, St. Vincent’s Infirmary would then be known as St. Joseph’s Infirmary. Between 1856 and 1926, St. Joseph’s infirmary continued to grow as a hospital and as a charitable organization. Incremental growth spurts added state of the art equipment to treat sick patients. By 1919, St. Joseph’s Infirmary added the St. Joseph Infirmary School of Nursing where it began training and graduation nurses until 1971. In 1926, St. Joseph’s Infirmary made yet another move to the Eastern Parkway. The new facility was capable of housing more than 300 patients and was, at the time, the largest hospital facility in the area. An additional wing, which included the new School of Nursing, was added later along with a gymnasium and auditorium. The Sisters dedicated a grotto in the rear of the hospital in 1927 for Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
The decades began to stack up and time took its toll on St. Joseph’s Infirmary. By the early 1970s, The Sisters made the difficult decision to sell the Infirmary. Humana acquired the infirmary and a decade later, the infirmary was closed and relocated as Audubon Hospital. The infirmary buildings were razed and later the University Park Apartments were built to help out University of Louisville students find affordable housing. The nursing wing and dormitory were later converted into Lourdes Hall and the remaining property donated to the University of Louisville.
Contributed by Shawn L.
- McGill, A. B. (1917). The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (1st ed.). New York, NY: The Encyclopedia Press.
- The Courier Journal (Louisville, Kentucky), 12 November 1961, pp. 60-64.
- [ULPA CS 089274], Caufield & Shook Collection, Photographic Archives, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.
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