St. Mary's Hospital

St Mary's Hospital was famously founded in the aftermath of the 1883 tornado which devastated Rochester. Nuns of the Order of St Francis of Assissi set up a temporary hospital and helped care for the injured. After the temporary hospital was no longer needed, Mother Alfred Moes approached Dr W.W. Mayo with the proposal to build a permanant hospital. She and her sisters, although teachers by trade and not formally medically trained, would provide the nursing staff if Dr Mayo and his sons provided the medical expertise. After some convincing, Dr Mayo agreed, and the new hospital opened with 27 beds in 1889. The endeavor almost ended before it began when the building contractor skipped town during the night with the hospital half-completed.

The nuns on staff were taught basic nursing skills by the only trained nurse in Rochester, Miss Edith Graham, daughter of Dr Christopher Graham and future wife of Dr Charlie Mayo. They would often hold 24-hour bedside vigils until a patient recovered sufficiently to assure survival.

In the late 1980s, the hospital was integrated with Mayo Clinic. Today, it is the largest privately-operated hospital in the world, with over 1,000 beds and 58 operating suites, including 200 ICU beds, the nations largest.

These two postcards depict St Mary's Hospital as it originally looked, plus its additional west wing. In 1956, the oldest portion of the hospital and four of its additions were razed and replaced by the complex's Domitilla Building.

The chapel at St Mary's Hospital, shown here in 1909, was built in 1904. It was designed by Victor Cordolla and constructed by Italian masons who were in America to work on the 1904 St Louis World's Fair. In 1932, the chapel was expanded, and what you see here became part of the narthex.


The Francis building was added to the hospital in 1922, giving St Mary's its first dedicated surgical pavilion.

St Mary's as it looked in the 1930s. Note the farm in the upper left. The hosptial used to have its own farm to provide its patients with fresh milk, eggs, and vegetables.