Sisters of Providence open their first Seattle hospital on August 2, 1878.

  • By Mildred Andrews
  • Posted 12/08/1998
  • Essay 461
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On August 2, 1878, the Sisters of Charity of Providence open their first Seattle hospital at 5th Avenue and Madison Street.  Known as "the Builder," Mother Joseph (1823-1902) designed and supervised construction of the three-story, wood-frame building.

The sisters purchased the property of J. J. Moss -- four lots and a dwelling -- for $5,000. The self-trained architect Mother Joseph (born Esther Pariseau) was known as "the Builder." She traveled north from the order's headquarters at Fort Vancouver to design and supervise construction of the three-story building that would serve Seattle's growing population. The structure was succeeded by a larger hospital, designed by Donald McKay (b. 1841) in 1882.

The hospital served 88 patients in the first 17 months and many more thereafter. The Sisters constructed a larger hospital at 17th Ave. and Jefferson St. in 1911, and the Federal Courthouse was later built on the 5th Avenue site.

The Sick, the Indigent, and the Affluent

The Sisters had come to Seattle at the request of the Roman Catholic priest, Father Kauten. He had contracted with County Commissioners to care for the indigent sick at the County Poor Farm, located south of Seattle on the Duwamish River.

At the time, because the city had no other hospital, affluent people also came to the Sisters for care. Some of them helped raise funds for larger quarters in downtown Seattle. Downtown, the Sisters continued to provide care for all, including the indigent.


Mildred Tanner Andrews, Woman's Place: A Guide to Seattle and King County History (Seattle: Gemil Press, 1995), 196-198; David M. Buerge and Junius Rochester, Roots and Branches (Seattle: Church Council of Greater Seattle, 1988), 72-75; Ellis Lucia, Seattle's Sisters of Providence (Seattle: Sisters of Providence, 1978); Thomas Prosch, "A Chronological History of Seattle from 1850 to 1897," typescript dated 1900-1901, Northwest Collection, University of Washington Library, Seattle, 254.
Note: This essay was revised on February 5, 2001, and corrected on August 3, 2008.

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