St. Mary's Hospital

Also known as: St. John's Infirmary
2320 N. Lake Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Beaux Arts stone and terra cotta building, the heart of the enormous St. Mary's complex

Photos 

Old Saint Marys

This building faces south-southeast. The photo was taken from the intersection of Terrace Avenue and Water Tower Drive. The famous North Point Water Tower is to the left, out of the picture.

Photo taken by J.R. Manning in May 2016

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Map 

Description 

This five story (six if you count the raised basement) Beaux Arts structure was the new home of a hospital that traces its roots back to 1848. The building was designed by Esenwein & Johnson, a prominent architectural firm based in Buffalo, New York.

Decor is kept to a minimum except for the main entrance in the central bay of the building. The bay features two four-story fluted columns supporting an elaborate pediment.

Inside the grand lobby is a sweeping stairway with newels and railing balusters that were crafted by local artisan, Cyril ColnikĻ. Beyond the stairway is a beautiful chapel.

According to the historical markers on the property (and a well published history) St. John's Infirmary opened on May 15, 1848 in downtown Milwaukee under the guidance of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. It was the first hospital in the area to provide patient care under the watch of a physician and nursing staff. One of the physicians here was Dr. Erasmus Wolcott, a noted physician who successfully completed the first kidney removal.

As Milwaukee grew and the population increased, so did the need for expanded medical care. Three acres were set aside for a hospital, and in 1857, an 80 bed building was constructed here and the hospital was renamed St. Mary's Hospital. When this building was constructed in 1909, the capacity was raised to 200 beds.

Several expansions have come over the years, and in 1995, a joint operating agreement was reached between Columbia and St. Mary's. A huge addition was completed in 2010 and Columbia closed their campus near the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which has since absorbed the old hospital into their operation.

For some reason, this building is NOT on the NRHP. Both the North Point North and North Point South Historic Districts draw boundaries right up to, but specifically exclude, the hospital. Perhaps there have been too many "modernizations" of St. Mary's to qualify this building as a historic structure.

Just the same, it is an important location in Milwaukee history and is a beautiful building, well worthy of inclusion here.

* * *

Ļ In reality, I cannot confirm that the ironwork of St. Mary's is Colnik's because he never signed his work. If he is listed as the vendor of ironwork in any official documentation, I have not located it. That said, the intricacy of the design and the quality of the work makes it appear as Colnik's work. The similarity of the baluster designs to known Colnik balusters makes it a pretty safe bet that all the ironwork here is Colnik's.

Update Log 

  • February 16, 2021: New photo from J.R. Manning
  • May 25, 2016: New photo from J.R. Manning
  • May 24, 2016: Added by J.R. Manning

Sources 

  • J.R. Manning - Lugnuts969 [at] gmail [dot] com