In the late 1870s through the late 1880s, surgeries ranging from amputations of limbs to emergency tracheotomies were performed in either the patient’s home or the doctor’s office. Known as “kitchen table surgeries,” these prodedures often led to secondary infections and death. Non-surgical patients who required extended care from diseases such as typhoid fever, diphtheria, and pneumonia were also treated at home. As the population of early Spokane grew, a hospital was needed, and the Sisters of Charity filled the need.
On April 13, 1886, Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart, along with Sister Joseph Arimathea arrived in Spokane Falls. Mother Joseph served as the organization’s architect and project manager. They purchased a piece of land between Front Avenue and Bernard Street where the Convention Center stands today, for $2000. Construction soon began, and by July 2, 1886, the cornerstone of the building was set. The two-story, brick-faced building, included indoor plumbing with hot and cold running water.
Even before completion, the new hospital admitted its first patient on January 15, 1887. A homeless man named John Cox was brought in with pneumonia. In poor condition, he expired just a few days later.
Sacred Heart admitted a total of 579 patients in 1888. During the 1888 epidemic of typhoid fever, the hospital served as the center of care. The majority of the sixteen deaths from this disease occurred within its walls. Surgeries continued to be done in doctors’ offices or homes for a few years. In 1893, the hospital received their first operating table, which enabled doctors to perform up to three surgeries a day. With a continued rise in population, in 1907 plans for a new location began. By March of 1910, the new facility located on Eighth and Browne opened with a cost of $800,000, and the old hospital was torn down soon after.