Efforts got underway in the late 1880’s to build a dedicated medical facility within the growing city of New Castle in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. In 1891 a group of some of the city’s most prominent businessmen and civic leaders, including Thomas W. Phillips, William Patterson, William E. Reis, George B. Berger, David Dickey, Lewis S. Hoyt, J. P. H. Cunningham, and Milton S. Marquis, banded together and formed the Shenango Valley Hospital Association with the intention of building a hospital.
Soon after state officials in Harrisburg appropriated $17,000 for the effort, provided that the citizens of New Castle raise another $10,000 on their own. That total was easily eclipsed and among the biggest monetary contributors were Thomas W. Phillips, William Patterson, R. W. Cunningham, J. P. Witherow, George W. Johnson, Crawford Iron & Steel Company, New Castle Wire & Nail Company, and the Aetna Iron Works.
In the fall of 1891 the association was able to purchase a 1.5-acre lot from the estate of I. N. Phillips at the corner of North Beaver Street and Lincoln Avenue. Local architect C. C. Thayer was soon enlisted to draw up plans for a three-story hospital to be built at that site. In June 1892 a contract for $14,679 was awarded to begin the excavation and construction, and the total cost including the grading of nearby streets would come to about $20,000. The impressive-looking hospital was completed by early April 1893, but before it was officially opened it was completely destroyed by a mysterious fire on April 8. It was a sad day as many people had labored for the last few years to see the project through to completion.
Undeterred, the Shenango Valley Hospital Association quickly cleared away the ruins and with additional funds, including the $12,500 received from the insurance company, began the process of rebuilding the hospital at the same location. The same basic architectural plan of Thayer’s was utilized, but this time much sturdier materials were used in the construction. The new 38-bed, three-story hospital was dedicated during a lavish ceremony on Thursday, April 19, 1894. Among the many distinguished guests was Pennsylvania Governor Robert E. Pattison (1850-1904), who also toured the city during an official visit. Additions to the building in 1899 and 1903 pushed the capacity to 120 beds.
Within a few years efforts got underway for a second hospital in the city. In April 1908 an agent of the Order of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Millvale (Pittsburgh) quietly purchased a home and six acres formerly belonging to Thomas W. Phillips (1835-1912), wealthy businessman and former member of the U. S. House of Representatives, along East Lutton Avenue. The large property, which was reportedly sold for $25,000, was located south of East Lutton Avenue bordered by South Mill and South Jefferson Streets. The Franciscan Sisters converted the home into a hospital that opened under the direction of Sister Cecelia Maxler, the hospital’s first administrator, on Sunday November 15, 1908.
The New Castle News of Monday, November 16, 1908, reported, “The dark robed, sweet faced Sisters of St. Francis, who will have control of the new hospital, received many felicitations on the handsomely remodeled and the general appearance of the hospital… Located on the first floor are the two wards for men, a large dining room, a drug room and the office. On the second floor are wards operating room. On the third floor are the departments of the nurses in charge of the hospital, the chapel and private rooms.”
The hospital was quickly filled to capacity and within a decade it was decided to build a large hospital on the same property. A drive was started in November 1917 that quickly raised $82,000. Construction of the five-story brick building, which would cost about $225,000, was started in March 1918 on the west side of South Mercer Street and was completed in October 1919. A public dedication was held on Sunday, October 12, 1919, and the doors were thrown open soon after. The modern hospital, with about 100 beds, had all the latest conveniences and was well received by the community. A nursing school was also built next to the hospital. The hospital would serve the south side communities of New Castle for many years and was renamed as the Saint Francis Hospital in early July 1964. (EDITOR’S NOTE: I was born at this hospital at 6:56AM on Friday, November 10, 1967.)
By the mid-1920’s the directors of the aging Shenango Valley Hospital sought to build a modern hospital of their own. A large piece of property was acquired on East Leasure Avenue off of Wilmington Avenue north of downtown New Castle. The proposed facility was named Jameson Memorial Hospital in honor of wealthy banker and businessman David Jameson (1856-1927), who donated about $1 million to build the facility as a gift to the people of New Castle.
Jameson, born near Warren, Ohio, first came to New Castle in 1893 to embark on a career as an attorney, but abandoned that endeavor to align himself with wealthy banker Thomas W. Phillips. In time he became a leading citizen of New Castle as president of the Citizen’s National Bank, an executive with several companies including National Radiator and Standard Sanitary Manufacturing, a dedicated supporter of underprivileged and crippled children, a leading advocate of automobiles and modern roads, and national president of the American Automobile Association (AAA) from 1917-1919. Jameson did not live to see his dream of a modern hospital realized as he died of a stroke at the age of seventy on Sunday, March 20, 1927. His widow and family carried on his efforts though.
A ground breaking ceremony was held on Tuesday, July 19, 1927, and construction got underway in earnest a few months later in October. A separate building housing the Jameson School of Nursing was also part of the plans. In took two years to complete the project and a private dedication ceremony took on Thursday, August 22, 1929. Mrs. David Jameson formally presented the 140-bed hospital to Mayor William Henry Gillespie (1867-1938) and afterwards a dedicatory address was delivered by the Reverend Clarence J. Williamson (1879-1956), pastor of the Highland United Presbyterian Church. On Friday and Saturday the hospital was open for public inspection and thousands of people took the opportunity to tour the facility.
On the afternoon of Saturday, September 7, 1929, the fifty-five patients at the Shenango Valley Hospital were transferred by automobiles and ambulances to officially open the new Jameson Hospital. Several funeral homes donated the use of their ambulances to assist in the move. Overseeing the effort was recently elected superintendent Carl A. Brimmer (1895-1932), a young hospital administrator from Battle Creek, Michigan. Brimmer did an exceptional job with the transition, but resigned his post in February 1930 and was succeeded by medical director and chief pathologist Wayne Bissell.
The Jameson School of Nursing opened with the sixteen returning students plus another sixteen girls that enrolled that fall. The nursing studies were under the direction Miss Prudence Anderson, who served under the direction of Miss Inze Urquart, the hospital’s director of nursing. My aunt, Charlotte Hake of Mahoningtown, attended this three-year school beginning in September 1939.
In August 1934 the hospital directors decided to raze the vacant Shenango Valley Hospital. Sealed bids were solicited and by early October the Panella Company, headed by John A. Panella, was selected for the project. Panella initially sold off the contents, including the windows, doors, furniture, plumbing fixtures, fire escapes, elevators, radiators, and boilers. He then dismantled and sold the brick and lumber from the structure as well. Work commenced in late October 1934 and took about ten months to complete.
The New Castle News of Friday, November 16, 1934, reported, “Bit by bit the old Shenango Valley hospital is being removed. Windows have been taken out, plumbing fixtures are out, boards are coming off the sides and just at present it resembles a plucked goose standing on a high hill. The halls of the hospital which once echoed to the soft tread of white clad nurses are now filled with debris of all kinds, plaster, j beams and bathtubs. The operating rooms once so spotlessly clean and smelling of ether and disinfectant are now cold and drab. The tiled walls are streaked with dirt and the floor is an inch thick with grime. It seems hard to reconcile the room with what it was and yet in the middle of it is an old emergency table, a reminder of other days. The rooms that once held patients now have the baseboards and stripping out of them. The men’s ward at the west end of the hospital has been obliterated. The sides and ceiling are gone with the exception of a few beams and scattered boards. It won’t be long until the old hospital is entirely removed. In the meantime there are a lot of memories around the old place for one who for any reason at all was ever confined in the institution as a patient.”
The New Castle News of Saturday, September 7, 1935, reported, “Nothing remains of the Shenango Valley hospital but a few scattered bricks and a yawning hole in the ground. The work of razing the huge building where so many of New Castle’s citizens were born and where care of the sick was carried on for 40 some years has just been completed. The hospital, which stood at a regal point on top of the North Beaver street hill, was abandoned when the Jameson Memorial hospital was built.”
Jameson Hospital and Saint Francis Hospital faithfully served the city of New Castle for many years. In 1947, due to severe overcrowding, wealthy banker Alex Crawford Hoyt (1881-1975) headed up an effort to raise money to undertake a major expansion of Jameson Hospital. A four-story North Wing addition built towards the rear of the hospital, part of the $1.5 million project, was dedicated during an open house and ceremony on Wednesday, June 24, 1953. The project resulted in the installation of modern equipment and added ninety-four beds to the hospital’s various wards. Further modernization and expansion efforts were undertaken over the years including a new residence for nurses built in 1962 (funded and named for Hoyt’s sister May Emma Hoyt) and an East Wing added in 1971-72.
In August 2002, after years of mounting debt, the Sisters of Saint Francis of Millvale began steps to divest themselves of their hospitals in New Castle and Pittsburgh. Saint Francis Hospital in New Castle was sold to Jameson Health System and became the south campus of Jameson Memorial Hospital. Both hospitals remain in operation and the original Jameson (Jameson North) underwent a $16 million expansion beginning in May 2011.
In late 2014 the Jameson Health System agreed in principle to merge into the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) and create UPMC Jameson. UPMC has also agreed to fund a major upgrade to the Jameson North facility. However, as of June 2015, state and federal officials have yet to approve the acquisition. In May 2015 hospital officials announced it was scaling back 24-hour operations at Jameson South, making it a dedicated weekday outpatient facility. The small but vital 24-hour operations, involving geriatric and mental health care, would be relocated elsewhere.
To read a short article mentioning the transfer of the Phillips property to the Shenango Valley Hospital Association in November 1891 click on: CONVEYANCE ARTICLE. To learn more the plans to build the Shenango Valley Hospital click on: CONTRACT LET ARTICLE. To read a lengthy article from April 1894 that talks about the upcoming dedication of the new hospital click on: A GREAT DAY ARTICLE. To read a report about the hospital’s first three months click on: HOSPITAL REPORT ARTICLE. To learn about a man who apparently suffered a horrible accident and was in the hospital in August 1894 click on: RECOVERY FROM AN ACCIDENT ARTICLE. To learn about how a Hillsville teenager died after his parents refused to allow the amputation of his severely injured leg click on: PARENTS’ SAD MISTAKE ARTICLE. To read a short article about the first few patients in the recently opened New Castle Hospital in November 1908 click on: THREE PATIENTS ARTICLE. To read a short article from June 1919 about the upcoming opening of the newer and larger New Castle Hospital click on: NEW HOSPITAL TO OPEN. To learn more about the upcoming dedication of the New Castle Hospital in October 1919 click on: FINE NEW HOSPITAL READY ARTICLE.
he Shenango Valley Hospital, the first hospital built in New Castle, was the result of the efforts of many of city’s leading businessmen. Before the original completed building could be opened it was destroyed by a raging fire in April 1893. It was rebuilt at the same location (pictured above) and opened in April 1894. (c1900) Full Size
A drawing of the proposed Shenango Valley Hospital, which was designed by architect C. C. Thayer. (c1891) Full Size
Additions to this hospital in 1899 and 1903 pushed the capacity to 120 beds. (c1910) Full Size
The Shenango Valley Hospital was in service from 1894 until 1929. (c1910)
The Shenango Valley Hospital was replaced by the modern Jameson Memorial Hospital in 1929. (c1910)
The Shenango Valley Hospital depicted here in a photo marked as “June 24, 1917.” (1917)
The second “New Castle Hospital” was opened in 1918 and was renamed as St. Francis Hospital in 1964. (c1926) Full Size
An 1940’s-era postcard of the New Castle Hospital, later renamed as St. Francis Hospital.
Another photo of the New Castle Hospital, later known as St. Francis, on S. Mercer St. (1948) Full Size
A photo of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Millvale that faithfully work at the Saint Francis Hospital in New Castle. (c1959) Full Size
My mother received these after giving birth to my older sister Carol at St. Francis Hospital in October 1966. Full Size
The architect’s rendering of the proposed new Jameson Memorial Hospital, named in honor wealthy banker and businessman David S. Jameson. Jameson, a prominent citizen who helped fund the hospital, passed away on March 20, 1927, at the age of seventy-one. A ground breaking ceremony took place in July 1927 and construction got underway a few months later. (1927) Full Size
A photo of Jameson Memorial Hospital in the 1950’s. Full Size
An overhead view of Jameson Memorial c1960’s. You can see the old Nursing School in the lower right side.
The new ER department of Jameson Memorial Hospital. (May 2013) Full Size