Our History

We invite you to take a look at the people and events that have shaped our hospital's past.

Key Dates & Milestones
  • 1886 (April 30) – Mother Joseph leaves Vancouver, WA, for Spokane.
  • 1886 (May 14) – Sisters (in Montreal) agree to build the hospital.
  • 1886 (July 2) – Blessing of the Cornerstone on the feast of Sacred Heart, which led to the naming of the hospital.
  • 1887 (January 15) – First patient is admitted.
  • 1887 (January 27) – Sacred Heart Hospital formally opens.
  • 1887 (February 14) – The county awards the Sisters a contract to care for the poor at a rate of $1 per day.
  • 1888 – Total of 579 patients seen.
  • In 1898, Sacred Heart's Nurses Training School opens – the first in Spokane and second in Washington State.1889 – Additional wing opens.
  • 1893 – The first operating table arrives, quickly followed by two more additions to accommodate three operations per day.
  • 1892 – Electric lights replace oil lamps.
  • 1893 – First obstetrical patient delivers a baby at Sacred Heart.
  • 1898 – Nurses Training School opens–the first in Spokane and second in the state.
  • 1898 – Sacred Heart School of Nursing opens, and is the first nursing school in the Inland Northwest.
  • 1899 – Doctors pay $375 for the first X-ray machine.
Key Dates & Milestones
  • 1900 – First class of nurses graduate from the School of Nursing.
  • 1902 – A new wing allows for 17 private rooms, a new operating room and three bathrooms. The new rooms would provide an additional $12-15 of income each week.
  • 1907 – Dedication of the cornerstone of the new hospital at 8th & Browne.
  • Sacred Heart's Department of Laboratory Medicine opens in 1919.1910 (March) – Transfer of 130 patients from the riverfront location to the new building at on the South Hill. It includes a maternity ward and nursery, since women are now birthing in hospitals instead of at home. The cost of the new facility is $800,000 (four times the original estimate of six years prior).
  • 1917 – Anesthesia training program begins (later becomes the School of Anesthesia).
  • 1919 – Department of Laboratory Medicine opens.
  • 1922 – Another wing is added.
  • 1932 – Laboratory opens its School of Medical Technology.
  • 1941 – First triplets born at Sacred Heart.
  • 1946 – New Sacred Heart School of Nursing constructed to accommodate up to 300 students. (In the 80s, this building would become a nursing home; today it serves as office space.)
  • 1949 – Completion of the South Center and Southeast wings brought the bed capacity to 505. (These structures still exist today as the East and Center towers of the Sacred Heart Doctors Building.)
  • 1950s – Maternity Clinic is established as part of the Ob/Gyn residency program at Sacred Heart.
  • 1959 – Spokane’s first open-heart surgery is performed by Dr. Ralph Berg at Sacred Heart. (The nation’s first open-heart surgery was performed at the Mayo Clinic only four years earlier.)

Sacred Heart's Maternity Clinic is established as part of the Ob/Gyn residency program in the 1950s. A patient room in the old Sacred Heart Hospital, around 1945.

Key Dates & Milestones
  • In 1967, Sister Peter Claver received permission to plan the construction of a completely new facility for Sacred Heart hospital in Spokane, Washington.1960 – Sacred Heart Service League begins.
  • 1960 (October 7) – First Heart Beat newsletter is published.
  • 1960 – Entrance remodeled to accommodate curb-side admission of emergency patients arriving by ambulance.
  • 1962 – Artificial Kidney Center opens–the third in the nation!
  • 1962 – Heart Beat staff newsletter becomes regional magazine.
  • 1960s – Eight-bed intensive care unit for babies opens.
  • 1967 Sister Peter Claver receives permission to plan the construction of a completely new facility.
  • 1968 (September 10) – Cornerstone of new hospital is laid.
  • 1971 – New Sacred Heart Medical Center opens with 623 beds at a cost of $35 million. Staff and volunteers move 350 patients from the old building to the new facility via underground tunnel.
  • Sacred Heart Medical Center's main patient tower was completed and dedicated on October 21, 1971.1971 – New building designed to accommodate helicopter landings on the roof. Military personnel began carrying premature and critically ill infants from outlying areas.
  • 1971 (October 21) – New building is dedicated.
  • 1972 – Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation program opens.
  • 1973 – 1,000th open-heart surgery performed. Also, fathers are allowed to be in the delivery room!
  • 1973 – Sacred Heart School of Nursing closes after graduating more than 2,6000 students over its 75 year history.
  • 1974Educational Services develops a TV studio; closed-caption TV broadcasts educational programs to patients and staff.
  • 1976 – Computerized body scanner installed in Radiology.
  • 1977 – Master’s degree program in Anesthesia offered jointly with Sacred Heart and Gonzaga University.
  • 1975 – St. Joseph Care Center moved from Mission Ave. to the Sacred Heart campus.
  • 1981 – The maternity ward opened an antepartum unit for women in high-risk pregnancies.
  • 1981 (November 2) – The Kidney Transplant Program begins and the first patient receives a transplant
  • 1982 – Spokane’s first set of quadruplets was born at Sacred Heart.
  • Sacred Heart Educational Services develops a TV studio; closed-caption TV broadcasts educational programs to patients and staff in 1974.1982 – Sacred Heart begins its Children’s Hospital Fair for local school children to learn about health care in a hands-on environment.
  • 1982 – Cardiac Emergency Network forms to streamline the care of heart attack victims in rural areas.
  • 1983 – "Sacred Heart Air" (Adult Infant Rescue) air ambulance program begins.
  • 1984 – East Addition opens, housing psychiatry, rehabilitation and outpatient services.
  • 1984 – The Maternity Clinic formerly operated by the Ob/Gyn residency program is adopted as a Sacred Heart program.
  • 1985 – Breast Center opened to provide early screening for breast cancer.
  • 1985 (June 8) – Heartflite. a full-time, hospital-based air transport program, begins service.
  • 1986 – The Birth Place initiated its 24-hour telephone Helpline for mothers of new babies.
  • 1986Centennial celebration. Noted events include installation of Ken Spiering’s sculpture near the site of the original hospital (on Centennial Trail near today’s Convention Center) and presentation of the Heart Follies song and dance show by employees and physicians. Watch Video

Heartflite. a full-time, hospital-based air transport program in Spokane, Washington begins service in 1985.

A Long Legacy of Caring

After leaving the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence in Montreal, Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart and four sister companions arrived at Ft. Vancouver, Washington Territory on December 8, 1856 to serve where there were unmet needs, particularly among the poor. Thus began the history, heritage and legacy of the Sisters of Providence in establishing health care, educational and social service ministries for people in the Northwestern and coastal regions of the United States and Canada.

At the request of Fr. Joseph Cataldo, S.J., Mother Joseph designed and supervised the 1886 construction of a 'refuge for the homeless, poor and dying', the region's first hospital, built in the bustling frontier town of Spokane Falls. Sacred Heart Hospital, a 31 bed, wood-framed structure, soon was a landmark along the Spokane River where the Spokane Convention Center now stands. Sacred Heart was one of 29 hospitals, schools, orphanages and care centers established by Mother Joseph to care for the sick, poor, aged, homeless and children.

As Spokane became a center for commerce and trade, Sacred Heart Hospital quickly outgrew its first location. In 1910, horse-drawn wagons conveyed the hospital's contents and patients to a new location on the South Hill (the current site of the Medical Center), which was considered to be 'out of town'. The 1910 hospital had 240 rooms and could accommodate 1000 patients.

Over the years, Sacred Heart Medical Center has continued to keep pace with the changing health needs of the community and the rapid development of medical technology and health care. The present Sacred Heart Medical Center's nine-story patient tower was built in 1971. By 1984 the new East addition housed psychiatric, outpatient, radiology and pediatric surgery services. Recent campus developments include The Heart Institute (1991), the expansion of the Sacred Heart Doctor's Building (1993), and Emilie Court, an assisted living facility (2000).

Again responding to requests from the medical community, and supported by the community leaders and families, Sacred Heart Children's Hospital, the region's first full-service Children's Hospital opened in 2003. The fall of 2004 saw the opening of the Women's Health Center and Surgery Center, West Tower addition.

Following in the footsteps of our early pioneer sisters and their lay colleagues, Sacred Heart employees serve the Providence Mission and Values in providing for the contemporary health care needs of people throughout the Inland Northwest.