Providence Hospital

Born of an alliance of doctors, religious Sisters, and businessmen seeking to bring better medical care to Waco, Providence Hospital has been serving the community for over a century.

Prior to the twentieth century, Waco’s home-based medical system meant doctors traveled to houses or hotels to care for sick patients. However, when local facilities proved inadequate to care for a patient who later had to be transferred to New Orleans for treatment, Dr. James W. Hale lobbied for change. With the help of the Waco Business Men’s Club (precursor to the Chamber of Commerce), Hale requested aid from the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul to establish a hospital in the rapidly developing Central Texas town. Ground broke on the new facility in 1903, and in November 1904, three Sisters left their Maryland community to begin caring for the sick here locally. Waco’s first hospital opened on January 11, 1905.

Founded upon a commitment to serve the suffering, sick, and poor of society, the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul operated medical facilities, schools, orphanages, and other institutions throughout the country—including in Dallas and Austin—by the time Providence Sanitarium opened at 1700 Providence Drive (as noted on the Waco History map). Yet a barrage of anti-Catholic sentiment following the building’s dedication left the hospital bereft of private patients. The Daughters of Charity built up the hospital’s reputation in the community by caring for indigent patients through a city government contract and by treating sick employees of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad.

Providence continued to seek out new ways to serve the community. In 1906, the institution established a nursing school, and later, a soup kitchen, clothing donation center, and dispensary. The hospital cemented its reputation in the medical community when it proved to be a critical resource during a 1911 outbreak of spinal meningitis. During World War I, the Sisters set up a twenty-five-bed tent at Camp MacArthur to provide medical services to soldiers until the military could construct an infirmary. When an F5 tornado tore through downtown in 1953, Providence—the closest hospital to the disaster—admitted and cared for more than two hundred patients until they could be sent home or transferred to another facility.

To meet the needs of the growing hospital and community, Providence renovated its facilities multiple times and continually added departments, beginning in 1912 and continuing until the hospital moved to its present location in 1989. Providence remained a leader in the medical field, opening a Crippled Children’s Hospital in partnership with the McLennan County Medical Society in 1948, a heart clinic in 1950, and a psychiatric division—the first of its kind in Central Texas—two years later. Modernized facilities replaced the original hospital buildings in the 1970s, and by the early 1980s, a freestanding psychiatric hospital was constructed off of Highway 6. Just a few years later, the Daughters of Charity Health System Board of Directors approved the relocation of the hospital’s acute care and surgical facilities to a new complex on that same land near Highway 6, with plans to convert the old site into a housing complex for low-income seniors.

In the years since its move, Providence Healthcare Network has remained dedicated to improving the health of the community, constantly modernizing and expanding facilities and employing cutting edge techniques and technological innovations. To this day, the hospital remains committed to the Daughters of Charity’s mission to be a ministry to the suffering through the provision of health care.

Images

Provident Sanitarium

Provident Sanitarium

As Waco rapidly grew from a small rural town to a thriving urban center, the need for better medical care became apparent. The opening of Provident Sanitarium (later Providence Hospital) in 1905 marked the transition from home care to hospitals in Waco medicine.  | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Hospital Dedication (January 11, 1905)

Hospital Dedication (January 11, 1905)

Although the hospital was not formally dedicated until 1905, the Daughters of Charity received their first patient on December 19, 1904, when the hospital admitted and treated a young local boy for malnutrition. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Rapid Transit

Rapid Transit

A few years after Providence opened in Waco, mass production of motorized ambulances began, and their use for quick transport of patients became more common. It is likely that ambulances like the one in this picture played a significant role in Providence's efforts to provide medical aid during the 1918 influenza epidemic. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred R. Gildersleeve View File Details Page

Souvenir Postcard

Souvenir Postcard

Just one year after the dedication of the hospital, Providence opened a nursing school, and its first student graduated in 1908. The school educated nearly 750 nurses through its fifty-four years of instruction, before closing in 1960.  | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Constant Innovation

Constant Innovation

In over a century of service to the Waco community, Providence has remained dedicated to pursuing excellent health care through modern facilities and technology. This image shows one of the hospital's earliest expansion projects to the right of the original structure. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University | Creator: Fred Marlar View File Details Page

Consistent Care

Consistent Care

Initially only four sisters staffed the forty-bed facility and it is estimated that they cared for over 230 patients during the hospital's first year of service. Within a few years, as the hospital continued to grow and provide more services, it became recognized as a leader in medical care in the community. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Breaking Ground

Breaking Ground

Sister Austin breaks ground on Providence Hospital's latest construction project aimed at expanding and modernizing the medical center's facilities. During this project, Providence tore down the original hospital buildings in order to make space for the new buildings which were dedicated on June 13, 1973. | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Focus on the Future

Focus on the Future

Sister Seraphine Ferraro, the hospital's administrator in the 1970s, summed up the hospital's mision and constant focus on adaptation in an interview with The Waco Citizen when she said, "We will not be satisified with mediocre service. Medical technology is constantly improving and so must we. Providence Hospital is ready for today and preparing for a future." | Source: Image courtesy of the Texas Collection, Baylor University View File Details Page

Growing Network

Growing Network

Today, Providence Healthcare Network is a part of Ascension—the largest nonprofit health care system in the United States—and the Daughters of Charity continue to fulfill their mission through their work at the Waco institution. | Source: Waco Tribune-Herald | Creator: Rod Aydelotte View File Details Page

Audio

Love and Attention

Carol Crosthwait speaks of the start of the heart program at Providence Hospital and the attention given to patients. | Source: Crosthwait, Carol, interviewed by Skylar Ray, November 21, 2015, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

High Standards

Sister Austin Cusimano tells of the high standards for faculty members who taught in the nursing school and that the standards were another factor considered when the school closed. | Source: Cusimano, Sister Austin, interviewed by Susan Ferguson, June 26, 1975, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

The Cost of Educating Nurses

Sister Austin Cusimano speaks of how expensive it was to maintain the school of nursing at Providence Hospital, one reason for its closure in 1960. | Source: Cusimano, Sister Austin, interviewed by Susan Ferguson, June 26, 1975, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

School of Nursing Closed

Sister Austin Cusimano tells of her disbelief that the school of nursing closed in 1960, but explains the reasons why. | Source: Cusimano, Sister Austin, interviewed by Susan Ferguson, June 26, 1975, in Waco, Texas. Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Waco, TX. View the full interview View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Amanda Sawyer, “Providence Hospital,” Waco History, accessed July 22, 2017, http://wacohistory.org/items/show/158.

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