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Reader’s Question:

My 92-year-old neighbor told me that she was born in Deaconess Hospital.  I had never heard of this institution before.  I’m wondering if it still exists today but is known by a different name?  ~ Kathy Z., Indianapolis 

HI’s Answer:

The full name of the institution commonly referred to as Deaconess Hospital was Protestant Deaconess Hospital and Home for the Aged.  The hospital was established in 1895 in a former residence, the address of which was 118 North Mississippi Street at the time it was built.  After the renaming of Mississippi Street and the renumbering of out-of-sync properties, the address became 202 North Senate Avenue.  The property was on the northwest corner of West Ohio Street and North Senate Avenue and catty-corner from the Indiana State House.

The original location of Protestant Deaconess Hospital was in the former residence of Mayor Thomas Taggart at 118 N. Mississippi Street (now Senate Avenue (1887 Sanborn map courtesy of IU Digital Archives) .

The original location of Protestant Deaconess Hospital was in a former residence at 118 North Mississippi Street  (1887 Sanborn map courtesy of IU Digital Archives)             CLICK TO ENLARGE

The eighteen-room, two-story frame house had for many years been the home of Samuel and Mary Ann (Warner) Taggart.  Samuel and Mary Ann were born in Erie County, New York, in 1817 and 1819 respectively and came to Indianapolis in the early 1860s.  Samuel was a millwright until his death in 1876.  His widow remained in the family home until her death in 1894.  Both are buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.

Indianapolis City Directory ad for Samuel Taggart (scan courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)

An 1865 Indianapolis City Directory ad for mill wright Samuel Taggart (scan courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)    CLICK TO ENLARGE

The Deaconess Hospital Society purchased the home the year after Mary Ann Taggart’s passing.  The house was intended by the society to be only a starting point.  Actual hospital buildings were planned for the future.   After the new facilities were erected four years later, the erstwhile home and initial hospital then became a residence hall for deaconesses.

Plans to provide a hospital made (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)

Plans to provide a hospital were made by the Indianapolis Protestant Deaconess Society        CLICK TO ENLARGE

The Protestant Deaconess concept was a form of Christian service that was brought to the United States from Germany in 1849.  Societies and orders of deaconesses committed themselves to working among the poor and sick, treating both their physical and spiritual needs.  In addition to Indianapolis, deaconess hospitals were established in Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, Dayton, Detroit, and Evansville.  Unmarried women volunteered to be trained as deaconesses.  They took no vows and wore no crucifixes, but they functioned in similar roles as medically trained Roman Catholic nuns.  The deaconesses received no pay for their labors, but they were housed, fed, and clothed by the hospital.  After a period of service, they sometimes received small stipends.

Indianapolis News article

  CLICK TO ENLARGE

Among the local congregations that joined together to establish Deaconess Hospital were First German Methodist Episcopal Church at the southwest corner of New York and New Jersey Streets, Third German Methodist Episcopal Church at the southwest corner of Morris and Church Streets, First Church of the Evangelical Association at the southeast corner of New York and East Streets, and German Evangelical Zion Church at 22 West Ohio Street.  To raise the money to fund the new Deaconess Hospital, a number of events were held between 1895 and 1899 at which admission was charged or items were sold.

1898.12.5.Indianapolis_News.Deaconess.Ad

In 1899, a four-story brick facility designed as a hospital was constructed on the northwest corner of West Ohio Street and North Senate Avenue, immediately south of the frame residential property that had served as the hospital for its first four years of operation.  From that time forward, patients were cared for in the new hospital facilities built specifically for treating the ill.  Although the hospital’s founders and primary financial and volunteer supporters were members of local German Protestant churches, the hospital was open to the public without regard to a patient’s religion or creed.

A photo of Protestant Deaconess Hospital appeared in Hyman's 1907 Handbook of Indianapolis (scan courtesy of archive.org)

A photo of the Protestant Deaconess Hospital appeared in Max R. Hyman’s Hand Book of Indianapolis in 1907   (archive.org).

1895 Indianapolis News article explains the deaconess philosophy (scan courtesy of newspapers.com)

Indianapolis News article explained the deaconess philosophy        CLICK TO ENLARGE

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1907 photo of the Protestant Deaconess Hospital, located on the northwest corner of West Ohio Street and N. Senate Avenue (W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)

1907 photo of the Protestant Deaconess Hospital, located on the northwest corner of West Ohio Street and N. Senate Avenue (W. H. Bass Photo Company Collection, courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society)

(postcard courtesy of e-bay.com)

Colorized postcard of Protestant Deaconess Hospital and Home for the Aged at Ohio Street and Senate Avenue circa 1910  (eBay)

The Protestant Deaconess Hospital The last R. L. Polk Indianapolis City Directory in which there was a listing for Protestant Deaconess Hospital was the 1934 edition.  In the 1935 directory, the Indiana State Purchasing Agency and the Center Township Trustee had offices in the former hospital building.  In 1936, the United States Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Center Township Trustee’s Office each occupied a portion of the building.  The building’s final use before it was demolished was as the Salvation Army Men’s Hotel.

By 1949, the buildings had all been razed, and most of that city block became an Indiana State House parking lot.  It remained a surface parking lot for about four decades, until the present 4-story Indiana Government Center Parking Garage was erected.

The corner of Ohio and Senate on which Deaconess Hospital once stood is now an Indiana Givernment Center Parking Garage (photo by Tiffany Benedict Berkson)

The corner of Ohio and Senate, where Deaconess Hospital once stood, is now an Indiana Government Center Parking Garage (photo: Tiffany Benedict Browne)

If any HI readers have memories of Protestant Deaconess Hospital and Home for the Aged or knew people who were born there or were treated there, please share your stories below.

 

9 responses to “HI Mailbag: Deaconess Hospital”

  1. donna mikels shea says:

    Sharon does an absolutely stunning job of research–I am in awe and would love to learn her system–but even a better job of writing …..

  2. Richard M Simpson says:

    Great research on the hospital. One thing, though. The renumbering of the address was a city wide thing. Until 1897, all the blocks in Indianapolis were numbered by 50s, not 100s. Ohio Street WAS 100 North, not 200 like it is now. Market was 50 North. Along with the renumbering of the block numbers, the entire city was renumbered from Meridian and Washington Streets. To that point, the numbering on the street was where it started, not from a central point. The only ones that referenced either Meridian or Washington Streets were those that crossed those streets.

    So, 118 N. Mississippi St. was the correct address with the blocks numbered the way they were. It got really confusing when the numbered streets were renumbered in 1894. First St., which became 10th St., was at 500 North…not 1000 like we expect now.

  3. ChristopHER KUTZ says:

    I recently purchased some old books in Vincennes, Indiana. One of the books was “Elements of General Method” by Charles McMurray (1909). Inside of it, the name Nellie Dunn is written along with notes. There is a letter inside the book folded up written to Nell Dunn, and it is signed Ruby Jeannette Dobson, eare of Deaconess Hospital, Indianapolis. The date written on the letter is April 18, 1909.

  4. Brad jackson says:

    I found a postcard from a Barbara and (her mother?) Ida in Traverse City Michigan which is addressed to “Miss Carrie Cox, Prot. Deaconess Hospital, Indianapolis, Indiana”. I do not know if Carrie was an unmarried woman who worked at the hospital or a young patient. My guess is the latter, as Barbara asks Carrie to be her valentine. The postmark date is February 14, 1910.

  5. Beth waltz says:

    I’ve very few memories or photos of my grandmother, Anna Conrad. Family stories state that she trained at the Deaconess Hospital. I do know that in the early 20th century she worked as a midwife assisting the practice in Indianapolis of a Dr. Hughes. Are there any records available of the women who trained there in the latter part of the 19th Century (1890s)?

  6. Tiffany Benedict Browne says:

    Not sure if anything like that exists. I know we do not possess any such thing.

  7. Phyllis Compton says:

    We have uncovered some postcards from 1909 addressed to our grandmother who was a patient at Deaconess Hospital, Ward 310. Her name was Jennie Marcus. The they are postmarked May 17, 1909. Are there any records available of her stay and what she was admitted for?

  8. Susan Scown says:

    Beth, my mother told me that her mother, Jeanette E. Bailey, trained as a nurse there, too. I have her nursing pin. Does anyone have information on what certification or license the training there provided?

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