A History of Service
July 5, 2017 3:48 pm
In 1704, two Daughters of Charity responded to the need to minister to the sick and dying in the struggling colony on Mobile Bay. Their work early in the history of the Port City led to the founding of Providence Hospital 150 years later. Today, their legacy remains strong.
The first hospital, located on the corner of Broad and St. Anthony Streets on the western edge of town, opened its doors in 1855. It featured the two-and-a-half stories, 60 beds and a design that admitted “the free circulation of air from every quarter.”
By 1902, the hospital had outgrown its first facility and was moved to a Mediterranean-inspired stucco building on Springhill Avenue that was “modern in every respect and the pride of South Alabamians.” The continued development of the western side of Mobile created the need for further expansion, so a third Providence Hospital was built in 1952 in front of the existing facility. This $4 million modern marvel had 250 beds, a dozen operating rooms, air conditioning and fluorescent lighting. Several additions to the building were made over the years, but continued population growth, limited space and the need to accommodate the quickly changing world of therapeutic and diagnostic technology drove the decision to relocate Providence Hospital to its current 255-acre campus in West Mobile. Construction began in late 1983 and the 12-story, $64 million facility accepted its first patients on July 15, 1987.
The new hospital was one of the last major hospital complexes designed by famed Chicago architect Bertrand Goldberg of Chicago. It utilized Goldberg’s iconic circular “bed-cluster pod” that positioned groups of patient beds clustered around a central nurse’s station. By eliminating long corridors, the pod increased the ability of the nurses to see patients and get to them easily.
According to the Bertrand Goldberg and Associates website, the bed tower was built as a concrete shell, able to withstand earthquakes and hurricanes. The combination of curved shapes and the soaring structure of the tower design created unique perspectives from views on the ground level. This concept, originally explored in early concepts for Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, was only realized at Providence.
When it opened, the new Providence Hospital was the first in the area to have all private rooms – complete with free television and telephone – and was equipped with some of the most modern, technologically advanced equipment to be found along the Gulf Coast, including an innovative nurse call system that was the first of its kind in the U.S.
Services included comprehensive cardiac and pulmonary care, cardiac catheterization, MRI and CAT imaging, comprehensive cancer treatment, a psychiatric and substance abuse program, diabetes treatment center, digital angiography, orthopedic and rehabilitative services, neurological services, renal dialysis, 24-hour emergency care and surgical, medical, neurological and cardiac intensive care. Open heart surgery became available later in 1987.
Maternity services in the new facility included six innovative labor/delivery/recovery/postpartum (LDRP) suites. Each provided a comfortable, attractive, home-like setting for the entire birthing process. Several babies were born at Providence the first day of operations.
Adjacent to the new hospital and connected by a covered walkway, a new medical office plaza was opened in the weeks following the hospital opening. Touted as “the Gulf Coast’s only one-stop health care mall,” it housed the offices of more than 115 physicians along with an assembly of outpatient services.
In March 1987, a special lighting ceremony was held to transfer the flame of light from the old hospital to the new, symbolizing the spirit of caring that characterized the service of the sick at Providence since its founding. During the ceremony, the Daughters of Charity arrived in a horse-drawn carriage to place the light at the statue of St. Vincent de Paul that stands in front of the hospital. “We welcome people of all faiths and color,” said Sister Alex “It is important to keep the Catholic presence at Providence so that all people can pray here. “
On opening day, 130 patients were transferred from the Springhill Avenue location to the new hospital via seven advanced life support emergency vehicles and 10 basic life support vehicles, all provided by Lifeline.
On July 13, 2017, hospital and community leaders, current and former associates, past patients and others who support Providence Hospital will gather to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the move to the current facility. “As we gather to celebrate the first 30 years in our West Mobile location, we look forward to the years to come. Our future is bright as we strive to serve, to care and to heal those in need of quality healthcare throughout our community,” said Providence Hospital President Todd Kennedy. “This building and its additional physician practices represent our commitment to that future, but as it has always been, it’s the people working inside these walls who will guide us in our efforts and continue to make Providence successful now and in the years to come.”