Abandoned but not forgotten, St. Ignatius Hospital provided healthcare to the Palouse region from 1893-1964.
In 1892 Rev. Jachern, a Roman Catholic priest, recognized the need for improved healthcare in this area. He traveled to Portland, OR and invited the Sisters of Charity to build a hospital on the Palouse. In order to build hospitals, religious orders across the United States relied on private donations or sponsors for funding. Colfax, Pullman and Palouse City all made competitive offers for the new hospital to be built in their town. With an offer of free water, land, an interest free loan of $3000 and another $5000 promised from the Chamber of Commerce, the town of Colfax won the bid.
On April 17 1893, construction of St. Ignatius Hospital began while three Sisters of Charity provided care in a wooden building located on the site. Their first patient was treated for pneumonia. Construction of the new hospital was completed and opened in 1894, additions were added in 1917 and 1928. The St. Ignatius School of Nursing was established and in 1911 graduated its first class of nurses. By 1936 a separate dormitory for nursing students was opened. Washington State’s first two male nurses, Philip Kromm and Archie McClintic, earned their nursing degree from St. Ignatius School of Nursing in 1941.
Without government assistance, relying on donations and what patients could afford to pay made it difficult for hospitals like St. Ignatius make needed upgrades. The Sisters of Charity were unable to keep up with the expense of maintaining and modernizing the hospital. Facing closure by the state and a declining population, in August of 1964 it was decided to close St. Ignatius Hospital and build a new facility. St. Ignatius Hospital became an assisted living facility until it was closed in 2000. In 2015 the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation added St. Ignatius Hospital to their 2015 Most Endangered Properties list.
Ghosts of patient’s past now roam the halls of St. Ignatius Hospital. Every October small groups of people gather with flashlights and ghost hunting supplies for the annual St. Ignatius Haunted Hospital Tour. F. E. Martin, the hospital’s first fatality, died in 1893. Crushed to death between two railroad cars, his restless spirit reportedly haunts the halls of St. Ignatius Hospital. Filmmakers also visit the hospital in search of ghosts. Despite the hauntings, St. Ignatius Hospital is vacant and in serious need to salvation. Efforts are underway to try and save not only a piece of Colfax’s history, but the history of frontier health care in the United States.