St. Vincent's Infirmary

This state historic marker near the northwest corner of East Vermont Street and North Park Avenue commemorates the first location of St. Vincent's Infirmary. From 1881-1889, the first location was here and, from 1889-1913, the second location was at the southeast corner of East South Street and South Delaware Street.

St. Vincent's Infirmary: First Location, 1881-1889

In the late 1880s this city block, bounded by East, Michigan, Liberty (now Park Avenue), and Vermont Streets, had a brick perimeter wall--parts of which are intact. This eastern half of the block contained the original St. Joseph Catholic Church (later moved to the southwest corner of College Avenue and North Street) and its seminary. In 1881, a vacant seminary building became St. Vincent's Infirmary when six sisters from the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul came from Maryland to establish a medical facility at the request of then-Bishop Silas Chatard.

Some city residents had deemed a hospital in a residential area a "public nuisance," with concerns such as adequacy of the city water supply and sewers for removing hospital waste: "[F]oul air constantly escaping, impregnating persons along the line of flow with the seeds of disease." Bishop Chatard, who had been a physician before his ordination, responded that hospitals needed to be located where they could serve the greatest number of people. He wrote that he intended that St. Vincent's Infirmary not be permanently located in the seminary building, stating his hope that Indianapolis citizens would "take enough interest in this work to enable those connected with it to buy a suitable site elsewhere, and there build [a larger] edifice . . . ." Just as he envisioned, St. Vincent's Infirmary outgrew its space rapidly so, between 1887 and 1889, a larger $111,000 facility was constructed about a mile to the south.

St. Vincent's Infirmary: Second Location, 1889-1913

Located at the southeast corner of East South Street and South Delaware Street, the second St. Vincent's Infirmary stood four stories high, with 38 private rooms and eight open wards providing space for 150 patients. The most famous patient was President Theodore Roosevelt, treated there on September 23, 1902, for an infected cut on his shin. Nevertheless, St. Vincent's Infirmary continued to treat patients who could not afford to pay.

In 1902, St. Vincent's Infirmary was hailed as one of the "three great hospitals of the city"--a far cry from the public nuisance that had been feared. The South and Delaware Streets region was Indianapolis's medical hub, with numerous related facilities nearby, such as Eli Lilly and Company. By the 1910s, however, it had become an industrial area: railroad tracks and train sheds had been built across the street to the north, and the dangerous acetylene-compression Prest-o-Lite factory was immediately adjacent to the south. Noise, dirt, and danger contributed to the decision to move St. Vincent's away from the city center in 1913. The old infirmary building subsequently served a variety of purposes, and was finally demolished in 1958.

St. Vincent Hospital Locations: 1913 to the Present

With a name change to St. Vincent's Hospital, a new facility was built on the north side of Fall Creek Boulevard between Capitol Avenue and Illinois Street. The hospital remained there until 1974, when it moved to its current location at 2001 West 86th Street. In 2012, the old hospital building on Fall Creek Boulevard, heavily renovated, became the headquarters of Ivy Tech Community College.