Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital was founded by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1873 and is the oldest private teaching hospital in Denver. In January of 1998 Saint Joseph Hospital joined Lutheran Medical Center and Exempla Medical Group to form Exempla Healthcare, a not-for-profit, community-based organization.
Founded in 1873 by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas
In 1873, while Denver was still struggling to become the Territorial Capital, Mother Xavier Ross of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, Kansas, sent four Sisters to the establishment of hospital work with nine dollars and the challenge: "Look forward for what good there is yet to be."
The Sisters opened their hospital in a cottage at 14th and Arapahoe, but soon moved to a brick building at 26th and Holladay, later renamed Market Street. Since this was a short distance from Denver's red light district, someone mentioned that it was a questionable neighborhood for a hospital. "We'll take the question out of the neighborhood," replied one of the Sisters.
During the early years, the hospital was known as Saint Vincent's. This was changed to Saint Joseph in 1876 when the Sisters began construction at 18th and Humboldt on land donated to them by territorial Governor William Gilpin. This site was directly adjacent to the hospital's present location at 1835 Franklin Street.
Hospital growth aided by "the Unsinkable" Molly Brown
Construction of the administration building with its famous twin towers began in 1899. Led by flour baron John K. Mullen, the people of Denver raised $10,000.00 for this building with a "gigantic city-wide bazaar," and a "monster" euchre (whist) party, planned by none other than Mrs. J. J. "the Unsinkable Molly" Brown.
The March 22, 1899 issue of the Denver Times wrote "The success of the hospital and its rapid growth is due in large measure to the non-sectarian character of the charity, to the high efficiency of the medical staff, and the keen interest which the Sisters take in the work to which they have devoted their lives."
Extensive equipment was installed during these years, including a brass sterilizing machine, reputed to be the first of its size west of the Mississippi. X-ray equipment was also added, a remarkable accomplishment since the procedure had just been discovered in 1895.
Decades of construction to meet patient care needs
Ground was broken in 1961 for the hospital's current twin tower structures, which were dedicated May 31, 1964. Construction was accomplished in two phases. First the present towers were built, then the old twin towers were demolished. More recent additions of the old building were remodeled and utilized as part of the new structure.
A new surgery was added in 1972 and in 1977 the Radiology/Cardiovascular annex was completed.
The latest addition, completed in 1997, is the Russell Pavilion. Named for benefactors Maxine and Sam Russell, it provides better access to Emergency Services and Radiation Oncology, as well as a state of the art conference center and libraries for health care professionals and the community.