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.