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St. Joseph's History

Click here for the Centennial Video
(1908-Present)

St. Joseph's rich history has been filled with many triumphs and setbacks. However, through courage, determination and the unending spirit of staff, volunteers and community, St. Joseph's continues to fulfill its mission each and every day.

It all started in September of 1908, when the Sisters of St. Joseph of Rochester, along with several key community leaders, such as Dr. Daniel Murphy and his cousin, local attorney John Hassett saw the need for a new hospital in Elmira.

Purchased for $10,000, The Academy of Our Lady of the Angels, located at 559 East Market Street, would become St. Joseph's first home.

Sister Rose Alice Conway was selected as the Hospital's first administrator, and during her tenure, there were many "firsts" celebrated.

The early days of St. Joseph's were not easy ones for the sisters, doctors and nurses. Even though they were successful in their work, the hospital had very little money. To help during that difficult first year, the proceeds from a special baseball game were used to buy surgical instruments, as well as to make improvements.

One of St. Joseph's characteristics, which began in those early days, was to meet the growing healthcare needs of the community.

Thanks to the fund raising campaigns, led by Alexander Eustice, Daniel Kennedy, Jr., and Edward J. Dunn, St. Joseph's grew in size and stature during its first 20 years. Medical, surgical and maternity buildings, along with a nurses' residence structure were all constructed due to an outpouring of community support for St. Joseph's.

When Archbishop Thomas Hickey dedicated its new medical wing in 1931, St. Joseph's had become a 245-bed healthcare facility. From the late 1930's, into the early 1940's, the leadership at the Hospital changed hands several times. Sister Rose Miriam became Administrator, following Sister Rose Alice's death in May of 1939.

Three months later, Sister Rose was elected Reverend Mother. She therefore named Sister Valerian O'Hare to fill the position of Administrator and Superior. Then, in 1942, Sister Margaret Adelaide Owen was appointed administrator of St. Joseph's. Sister Margaret Adelaide's tenure symbolized St. Joseph's tenacity and spirit, in the face of adversity.

For example, on May 28, 1946, the Chemung River flooded the Elmira area causing nearly $350,000 in damage to the hospital. Despite a lack of heat, electricity and telephones, three successful operations were performed under these adverse conditions.

However, as Sister Margaret Adelaide pointed out at that time, the people of the Rochester Diocese stepped forward to help St. Joseph's.

St. Joseph's rebounded quickly from the disaster, as the ensuing years saw the expansion of the Physical Therapy Department. The Radiology department also became larger to accommodate a school for x-ray technologists.

The year 1954 saw the start of the Hospital's Women's Auxiliary. Organized to sponsor projects and services, for the benefit of the hospital and its patients, the Auxiliary today continues to perform a much-needed service to the Hospital.

Judge Daniel Donahoe in 1956 spearheaded a fund drive, which raised $1 million for the expansion and renovation of facilities.

A couple of years later, the Hospital's new intensive care facilities opened, while a year later, an extended care unit was added to the hospital.

Meanwhile, in 1960, a two-story addition, which contained a chapel and dining room for the sisters, connected the Hospital and Dunn Memorial. The 1960's were a decade of firsts for St. Joseph's. In 1965, Dr. Alan Mahood performed Elmira's first corneal transplant at St. Joseph's, while Elmira's first open-heart surgery also took place at St. Joseph's.

At the close of the 1960's, construction began on a Medical Arts Building, located on the St. Joseph's campus, where medical personnel and hospital service departments could house their offices.

The 1970's saw St. Joseph's start the Southern Tier Alcoholism Rehabilitation Services program, better known as STARS. Over the years, this program was not only restricted to helping individuals with a drinking problem, but also drug dependency. Therefore, STARS changed its name in the mid-1990's to Southern Tier Addiction Rehabilitation Services.

The Operation People Committee, or known to employees, as the OPPY Committee, was started in June of 1970 to promote better communication among the hospital, media and community. The OPPY Committee is just one example of employee spirit and support.

For example, the Interaction Club has made several contributions to the Hospital, as pointed out in this 1998 WENY-TV news report, "Operation Outreach," led by Clarence Brobst, also rang in the 1970's. This capital campaign generated two and a half million dollars between 1970 and 1972 for the establishment of the Twin Tiers Rehabilitation Center and the John E. Sullivan Pavilion.

However, as luck would have it, just weeks following the dedication ceremony, Hurricane Agnes forced the Chemung River to again overflow its banks.

In one of the worst natural disasters in Elmira's history, 200 patients had to be evacuated by helicopter on June 23, 1972.

Despite the devastation, Sister Margaret Adelaide again led St. Joseph's through another rebuilding project.

1973 had Sister Martha Gersbach become the fifth administrator of St. Joseph's. Sister Margaret Adelaide, meanwhile, continued in the role of President of the Board of Directors.

Sister Margaret Adelaide, meanwhile, continued in the role of President of the Board of Directors. Continued expansion and growth in late 1970's for the Hospital saw the opening of the acute care burn unit, which served six counties.

During the 1980's St. Joseph's celebrated its 75th Anniversary with a host of yearlong activities.

Quest '82, a renovation and modernization fund raising project, was launched in the early 1980's. Led by Helen McInerny, over a million dollars was raised during this campaign.

Donations, from individuals and organizations like the LPGA Corning Classic, played an integral part of St. Joseph's financial future. Therefore, in 1984, St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation became incorporated as the Hospital's fund raising vehicle.

Unfortunately in the late 1980's, babies were no longer delivered at St. Joseph's, when it closed its maternity ward. Sister Marie Castagnaro, a member of the St. Joseph Congregation, became St. Joseph's Sixth Administrator in 1988. As St. Joseph's entered the last decade of the 20th century, it continued to remain at the forefront of change and flexibility.

1992 was the year St. Joseph's became an affiliate member of Carondelet Health System, a national health system that focuses on local community oriented health care. Five years later, the Hospital became a full member of the St. Louis, Missouri based system. In 2002, St. Joseph's changed its status to an independent Catholic Hospital that provides medical care for all in need in accordance with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

Until it closed in 1988, the Dunn Building, served as the Hospital's nursing school and residence. In 1993 it was converted to a 66-unit apartment complex for low-income elderly.

In 1997, St. Joseph's Emergency Department underwent a facelift, while at the same time, construction began on the Health Services Building, located at the corner of Market Street and Madison Avenue. This three-story structure would house physician offices and hospital services.

The six million-dollar, one-stop medical office building, was officially opened in May of 1999.

In that same year, the Hospital grew in bed size to 295, thanks to the addition of 40-skilled nursing beds. To make room for the new beds, the fifth floor of the hospital was totally renovated.

Never one to standstill, St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation in 1999, under the leadership its first capital campaign project in over 15 years. The "Hand in Hand" Campaign targeted a $3 million goal for technological upgrades, the renovation of the rehabilitation center, the expanded Skilled Nursing Facility and the relocation of the chapel to the hospital's front lobby.

The 21st Century brought with it continued growth and expansion for St. Joseph's. The STARS program expanded its services in 2000 to help teenagers and parents by offering an Adolescent Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program.

In 2001 the Bishop from the Diocese of Rochester, Rev. Matthew Clark, officially dedicated the newly constructed St. Joseph's The Healer Chapel.

Two of St. Joseph's Primary Care Offices experienced various changes as well at the turn of the century. In 2003 the Hospital's physician practice in Horseheads moved to a larger and more spacious facility in Big Flats, thereby changing the practice's name to Big Flats Primary Care. Meanwhile Southport Internal Medicine completed a $400,000 expansion project at its location in 2005.

The year 2004 brought with it the opening of the Kidney Center of St. Joseph's for those patients needing dialysis. During that same year the Hospital's Gift Shop, located in the front lobby, was both renovated and expanded. A special celebration also commemorated the 50th anniversary of St. Joseph's Auxiliary in 2004.

Among other expansion efforts during the first decade of 2000 included the Hospital providing physical therapy and occupational therapy services to the Big Flats area. In 2006 St. Joseph's purchased a piece of property near the entrance to the City of Elmira for the relocation of its outpatient physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and Hand Management Center services along with the development of a wellness program for the community.

With over 100 years of service to the commuity, St. Joseph's has grown from its modest three-story building to a regional healthcare facility serving the needs of those residents living in the Southern Tier of New York and the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania.





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