SCN Archival Center Exhibit on Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital

Posted by Kelly McDaniels

June 17, 2024

Stop by the Archival Center at Nazareth to see our latest exhibit featuring Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital!

Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital was established in 1874. William Shakespeare Caldwell donated the hospital to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in memory of his late wife, Mary Eliza Breckinridge, who was a graduate of Nazareth Academy and a life-long friend of Mother Columba Carroll. The hospital was named Saints Mary and Elizabeth in honor of Mary Eliza.
At its opening, Saints Mary and Elizabeth had more private rooms than that of any other local hospital and attracted affluent patients. The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth were determined, however, to provide quality care for the sick poor, especially for impoverished immigrants. The hospital was located near the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. Injured passengers and personnel involved in train accidents were always readily received at Saints Mary and Elizabeth. The hospital kitchen fed indigent people including those who “rode the rails”. Through its association with the railroad, Saints Mary and Elizabeth became known in Louisville, and along the tracks of the L & N, as the Railroad Hospital. During the 1937 flood, the hospital came to the rescue of hundreds of Louisville citizens by inoculating them against typhoid. Saints Mary and Elizabeth, one of the few places that had heat and water during the flood, helped all who came to them. In addition to medical services the Hospital provided meals and beds to flood refugees. No bill was ever sent to patients or refugees cared for during the flood.

Throughout the years, to improve the hospital, Saints Mary and Elizabeth, added wings, and concrete driveways. In 1910 it boasted the first electric elevators in the city. Gradually, by the late 1950s, the hospital had become surrounded by an industrial area. Hospital administrators realized the hospital would have to relocate. A new Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital, built at Bluegrass and Churchman Avenues, became the only hospital in the southern end of Jefferson County, close to more than one-half of Louisville’s population. In August 1997, Saints Mary and Elizabeth joined other SCN hospitals and health services when the SCN health facilities consolidated with Catholic Health Initiatives. In 2019, University of Louisville Health purchased Saints Mary and Elizabeth Hospital, Our Lady of Peace Hospital, and Jewish Hospital. The name was changed to Mary and Elizabeth Hospital to reflect the new, secular ownership. Today, Mary and Elizabeth Hospital is a 298-bed full-service hospital offering advanced treatment in orthopedics, cardiology, medical imaging, surgical, and emergency services.

11 Comments

  1. Patty Kaiser

    My great aunt, Sr. Aquinata Ryan 1882-1928 was in the nursing department at St. Mary and Elizabeth. I have a painted portrait that hung in the hospital. My aunt, Sr. Anne Hagedorn, was given the painting when they were remodeling. If you would like to see it/borrow it for your exhibit I would be glad to share her.

    Reply
  2. Anne Radmacher Wunsch

    My mother, Florence Virginia Burdick Radmacher graduated from the nursing school in 1934. She was so proud of her education and remained friends with classmates throughout her life. She loved her nursing career and always wore her nursing pin on her uniform. She lived at the hospital during the 1937 flood to help and care for patients. Both my sister, Regina, (1937) and I (1939)were born there.

    I graduated from Holy Name, Presentation Academy and Nazareth College, now Spalding University. As a medical technology major, I interned in the lab at S.S. Mary and Elizabeth my senior year (1960-61). I had wonderful teachers and have always valued my education at Presentation and Spalding. My lab teachers were the best too; patient, kind and good models for life!

    I am so proud to have been a part of the hospital’s history and pleased that history is being recognized and preserved for the generations to come.

    Reply
  3. S. Kay Winfield

    Having worked at Ss Mary and Elizabeth Hospital for over 20 years my appreciation for what the SCNs built continues to grow. Although only two Sisters remain at the hospital I believe the spirit of the Sisters that ministered here is very present. Employees that served with the Sisters carry that spirit forward as well. I appreciate the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the Sisters that preceded me.

    Reply
  4. Fr. Ronald Knott

    I spent my “Deacon Semester” at Sts. Mary an Elizabeth Hospital in the spring of 1970 right before my ordination to the
    priesthood! It was yet another adventure with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth that started in 1950 when I was a first
    grader at the old St. Theresa Academy in Rhodelia. As I was working recently on the renovation of St. Theresa/Cross Roads school and helping turn it into our new St. Theresa Family Life Center, I was reminded again and again just how much I was influenced by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth!
    In this new project, I was able to help teach this present generation, and remind former generations, just how much our community owes the SCNs. 97 of them were there with us over 123 years. To teach and to remind, I was able to display lots of old pictures, a museum case of artifacts, and the names of all 97 Sisters.
    Because of this story, I am happy to have added to my file of fond memories, my time at Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital!

    Reply
  5. Bev Beckman

    I was born at SMEH in 1942. I attended the school of nursing, class of 1963.

    Reply
    • Maureen Donahue Murphy

      I would so appreciate learning more about the sisters who staffed the hospital, and what their day-to-day life was like. I have a very personal reason, as my deceased aunt, Sr Mary Alexander, SCN (formerly Josephine Donahue) was on the staff there for decades. Myself and my parents and a nephew traveled to Louisville and Nazareth to take part in her Golden Jubilee. If my memory serves me that was 1968, or possibly1966.

      Our family loved her dearly and were so proud of her very kind heart and how much she loved to help others.
      As a little girl I couldn’t wait until she came home for her visits, usually every four years, and usually with a companion sister.

      I also had the blessing of know another Sister of Charity of Nazareth. When I was in fifth grade in public school, I had a very bright and beautiful teacher who had only been out of college for two years. She had a lovely demeanor and I loved her style! The next year when I returned to school to begin sixth grade, we were told Miss Gwendolyn McMahon had left teaching and joined the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth! She later was a frequent visitor to my Aunt Josie, and until she passed away in 1986. My mother and I had the pleasure of reuniting with Sr. Gwen for lunch when she was on a visit home. She has gone home to God also.

      God bless the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, and of course all who serve God by caring for those in need.

      Reply
  6. Debra Kehl

    Oh, dem-old-memories! I Debra was born in 1954 at SME. When mom’s water broke dad was at Parkmoor Bowling Alley. Hearing his name announced on the intercom, he rushed home getting mom to the hospital. With bowling shoes still on and driving over the railroad tracks, it is said over the tracks my head popped out. 🤣 “Ha” Thanks for this history of SME and all the great work at The Archival Center. 👍💕🙏

    Reply
    • James J O'Connell

      That is a pretty funny story.

      Reply
  7. Janice Downs

    I was born at SS. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital in 1941, when it was in downtown Louisville. My aunt, Beulah Metten, used to be chair of the Ladies Auxiliary. It was she, along with Dorothy Peterson and Sally Griffin, who got my trunk ready when I was entering Nazareth in 1960. In 1968 while preparing and studying for State Boards in Nursing, I stayed at the hospital. Later I spent many hours in the hospital emergency room with my aunt, Dorothy Downs, who was a frequent patient there before she was admitted to Nazareth Home. I also served on the board of the hospital for several years. Many happy memories.

    Reply
  8. Brenda Gonzales

    As a Candidate I was a passenger in a car in Edmonton, KY involved in s bad accident. After a month in Glasgow Hospital I was transfered to SME Hospital where I stayed for a couple months until I could go to the newly built Nazareth Home for a couple more months. Good memories of all those experiences now but at the time it was challenging for a young 23 year old!

    Reply
  9. Martha Borders

    My Dad worked and died (1969) at Sts Mary & Elizabeth Hospital which was very special place to our family. I was 16 years old when my Dad died and remember how kind everyone was to me. And, in the mid-seventies , I had the the opportunity to live in the house on Huntoon with Sr Marie Viictoria, CEO .

    Thankful to the SCN Community for many blessings!

    Reply

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