In 1897, some years after the establishment of Sacred Heart and Deaconess hospitals, a new medical center called Spokane Protestant Sanitarium was established. The name reflected that the founders were Episcopalians, not Catholic nuns.
A two-story building at Sprague Avenue and Madison Street served as the first sanitarium. Seeing a shortage of hospital beds citywide, the new hospital’s board invested in a new building on a triangular lot on North Summit Boulevard, which bounded West Dean Avenue and North A Street. Early supporters included mining entrepreneurs John A. Finch and Amasa B. Campbell, as well as banker R.L. Rutter.
St. Luke’s focused on north Spokane residents, but before health insurance and government funding were common, hospital finances were tenuous. Patients struggled to pay their bills and the hospital was supported by fundraising, in-kind donations and volunteers.
There was a nursing school attached to the hospital, where student nurses lived and worked six days a week. Before the 1960s, most nurses received training and diplomas in hospitals. The first nurses’ residence, Finch Hall, is now a condominium apartment building.
The hospital specialized in areas in which the need was greatest. Until the first polio vaccine in 1950, it was the regional center for treating the virus, which crippled many of its victims. In 1932, the hospital opened a clinic for “nervous diseases,” and, eventually, a psychiatric ward. There was a recovery and rehabilitation ward for the elderly. They had one of the first physical therapy departments.
St. Luke’s welcomed the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children into its building in 1924. The group eventually built a new building next door in 1939. That building is now a low-income housing complex.
Lindsey Hall, built as a hospital annex in 1945, first housed student nurses, then became a rehabilitation ward. Today it is Anna Ogden Hall, a women’s shelter operated by Union Gospel Mission.
Holy Family Hospital opened in 1964 in north Spokane, cutting into St. Luke’s market share.
St. Luke’s built a modern complex at 711 S. Cowley St. on the South Hill and moved there in 1970. The small hospital merged with Deaconess to form Empire Health Services in 1985. In 1992, the name was changed to St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, and the focus shifted to recovery and rehabilitation.
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