Editor's note: This is the 209th in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON - In June 1924, Bishop John S. Swint of Wheeling invited the Pallottine Missionary Sisters to open a hospital in Huntington. To house the new hospital, the Sisters were offered the building that then housed St. Edward's Preparatory School of Boys. The building at 3rd Avenue and 29th Street had been built in 1905 as an orphanage, conducted for a time by a group of French nuns.
The orphanage proved unsuccessful, and in 1909 the building became the Preparatory School for Boys. It was under the care of the secular clergy of the diocese, with Rev. John W. Werninger serving as the first president. In the 1910 Census Rev. John P. White was listed as an assistant and teacher. The school had 24 students. Like the orphanage, the boys' school ultimately failed.
There were actually two buildings on the property at the time. The Sisters chose the larger structure for their hospital, and the gymnasium was remodeled to serve as a convent for the Sisters.
The first sisters to arrive were two teachers - Srs. Kostka Hansen and Ludwiga Adler. They worked hard to clean and repair the rundown buildings. This was a huge undertaking, as windows had been knocked out, the wallpaper was hanging from the walls, and the buildings were infested with rats and roaches. By November the entire staff of Sisters was in residence in the old gym.
On November 6, 1924, the 35-bed hospital welcomed its first patients. Fittingly the first patient was a charity case.
What's known today as St. Mary's Medical Center has grown dramatically since it first opened its doors. Today, it's the largest medical facility in Huntington, Cabell County's largest private employer (more than 2,600 employees) and, at 393 beds, is among the largest health care facilities in West Virginia.
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