As Sacred Heart Health System moves into its second century of operation, we wanted to take a look back at Sacred Heart’s first facilities, which began with the original Pensacola Hospital on 12th Avenue near downtown Pensacola.
Before the hospital was built in 1915, medical care in Northwest Florida was basic. With the exception of temporary military medical facilities at the former Pensacola Navy Yard, the Pensacola Sanitarium, located on W. Garden and DeVilliers streets, was the only permanent medical facility in the city. For what was considered modern healthcare, Pensacola residents had to travel to New Orleans to be treated.
It was until the Daughters of Charity, a religious order dating back to 1633, responded to Pensacola’s need, opening the first Catholic hospital in Florida in September 1915.
The hospital was built at a cost of more than $400,000. For the construction of the magnificent structure, train loads of Alabama sandstone, Indiana limestone, several million bricks, and thousands of barrels of concrete and marble were shipped to Pensacola. The outer walls were made of massive blocks of sandstone with trimmings of limestone. The inner walls and foundation were made of reinforced concrete and brick.
The new Pensacola Hospital was outfitted with the most modern technology in 1915.
When the hospital opened, a bed in a ward cost $1 a day. A small room without a connecting bath was $3, and a small room with a connecting bath was $5 a day. The hospital never turned people away because they could not pay.
The first baby, Janice Gundersheimer, was born on September 7, 1915. When mother and daughter left the hospital 11 days later, the total bill was $47.57.
There was once a small farm behind the hospital that was a source for milk, cream, chickens, eggs, fruits and vegetables.
“Pensacola Hospital” was renamed “Sacred Heart” in 1948.
Pensacola residents had to travel to Mobile or New Orleans for “modern” healthcare before Pensacola Hospital was built in 1915.
The only medical facility in Pensacola before the hospital was built was Pensacola Sanitarium.
The deadly Spanish Flu hit Pensacola in 1918, only three years after Pensacola Hospital opened.
The hospital had been in operation just three years when the worldwide influenza pandemic reached the city.
In 1982, the old Sacred Heart Hospital on 12th Avenue was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
A 1932 newspaper article described Sacred Heart’s operating rooms and indicated that the hospital was especially proud to own the most recent General Electric X-ray machine.
While magnificent on the outside, the old hospital was deteriorating, overcrowded, and it lacked room to expand.
A new hospital was to be built north of the city on 9th Avenue, where the current Sacred Heart Hospital stands today.
The former hospital is now home to various businesses, including O’Zone Pizza Pub, the Montessori School of Pensacola, and The Vineyard at 12th Avenue, a beer and wine bistro set to open in May.
The public areas of the building are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, for touring. The upper levels have been in disuse since the removal of Sacred Heart Hospital to N. Ninth Avenue, and are closed to the public.