Sisters of St. Joseph took over the former Martinson Block after hospital renovation
By Father Michael Peltzer, Diocesan historian
During the boom times in the late 1880s an ornate, three-story business building was constructed at the northwest corner of Seneca and Douglas Streets at the west end of Wichita, not too far east of the original All Hallows Academy (later Mount Caramel) and the new St. Joseph Parish about to be established near Millwood and Douglas.
The large building, then called the Martinson Block, consisted of a bank, a grocery store, a jewelry shop, an insurance office, a dental clinic and various private offices, with apartments on the top floors. The real estate boom floundered after a short time, causing the building to be vacant for some years.
Meanwhile, a group of Wichita women, who founded the Wichita Hospital in 1879, calling it the Ladies’ Benevolent Home for the sick and needy, were looking for a larger facility since their original hospital at Lincoln and Market Streets, just south of downtown Wichita, was getting crowded for their charitable work. So it was arranged for them to move into the Martinson Block building, then remodeled in 1898, to serve as their new hospital. A west wing was added to the structure in 1916.
In 1925 the Sisters of St. Joseph of Wichita took over the facility while continuing the good work of the Benevolent Ladies and at the same time fulfilling the Sisters’ charism of taking care of their “dear neighbor.”
The St. Joseph sisters were already in charge of hospitals in Pittsburg, Winfield, Iola, Parsons, and Dodge City, and in Del Norte, Colorado, and Ponca City, Oklahoma. So no orientation was necessary as they took over the Wichita Hospital.
The Sisters continued to operate the west-side facility for more years to come, although they had completed the new St. Joseph Hospital by 1944 at 3400 E. Grand, near their motherhouse at Mount St. Mary’s Convent. This resulted in their healthcare apostolate being operated at two different locations at the same time in the city for 15 years.
A severe storm in the summer of 1953 caused much damage to the old Martinson Block building. For reasons of safety, it was immediately razed. Thirteen years after its use as a medical facility, it was demolished in 1972.
After 1959, the Wichita Hospital and the St. Joseph Rehabilitation Center became one location at the Grand Street address, across from All Saints parish. Many additions to the 1944 hospital followed through the years until all were replaced by the new seven-story tower dedicated as St. Joseph Medical Center in 1976 at 3600 East Harry. Today, the modern and attractive facility in southeast Wichita is known as Via Christi Hospital-St. Joseph.
The area where the old Wichita Hospital stood, remembered as the Martinson Block building at Seneca and Douglas streets, is now the site of a popular convenience store serving the historic Delano District, west of downtown Wichita.