Presence Saint Francis Hospital

History - More Than a Century of Caring

The Early Years

Kirk Mansion

The year was 1900. The growing needs of Evanston's Catholic community greatly concerned Monsignor Peter Biermann, pastor of Saint Nicholas Church. He was familiar with the hospital work of the Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration in Lafayette, Indiana, through his sister, Sister M. Jacobina. He invited the community to come to Evanston to establish a Catholic hospital, and was joined in his efforts by Father H.J. Smyth, pastor of Saint Mary's Church. Arrangements were made, and on Dec. 3, 1900, Monsignor Biermann bought the Old Kirk Homestead and grounds for $35,000, acting on behalf of the Sisters.

The site had once been home to the Potawatami Indians, who found in the forested shores abundant game and easy access to Lake Michigan for their hunting and fur-trading activities. In the 1800s, the Old Mulford Tavern was built there, which later housed the first post office in the city. In 1867, John Kirk, founder of the Proctor and Gamble Company built the "Kirk Mansion" which later became the first hospital.

The doors of Saint Francis Hospital opened on Jan. 1, 1901. Two patients were treated. By the end of the first year, 70 patients had been admitted. The five sisters who renovated the house into a 25-bed hospital performed all the nursing care and general maintenance of the property. More of the surrounding property was purchased as a farm, where cows and chickens supplied milk and eggs and vegetables were grown for hospital use.

As the number of patients grew, it became evident that more room was needed. In 1909, ground was broken for the central section of the permanent hospital and the cornerstone was laid. The new building was erected at a cost of $150,000 and dedicated on May 28, 1910. An enclosed passageway connected the new structure with the old Kirk house.

During the scarlet fever and diphtheria epidemics in 1914, the Kirk building became a contagious ward. As many as 40 patients at a time were cared for by the four sisters who took charge. For 12 months the building was in "isolation."

Saint Francis Hospital Nurses

By 1917, the 225-bed hospital had two operating rooms in constant use and treated 115 patients. The Presence Saint Francis School of Nursing was established in 1919 with its first class of eight students (it closed in 1998, having graduated more than 3100 nurses). Also in 1919, the Medical Staff was formally organized.

As the hospital continued to grow, construction continued. The south wing was added in 1924, a nurses' residence in 1925 (accommodating 170 students) and the north wing, chapel and convent in 1928.

The Growing Years

toddler receiving attention

In 1950, a four-story building for interns and residents was opened. A major construction and renovation program increased the hospital's capacity to 459 beds by 1958.

The Heart Center opened in 1957. The following year Presence Saint Francis Hospital became a pioneer in the treatment of heart disease when the first open heart surgery was performed. The first cardiac catheterization laboratory was opened years ahead of many Chicago hospitals. In 1972, the new surgical heart unit provided the most complete program of cardiac care and Presence Saint Francis Hospital soon became known as "The Heart Hospital."


Construction was completed for a new Professional Office Building adjacent to the hospital in 1975. South and north additions were completed during 1979, and in 1982 the east addition tied the hospital's new parking structure to its new main entrance and lobby.

Demonstrating its commitment to the community, Presence Saint Francis Hospital opened its Community Health Center in 1986 and continues to provide high-quality, low-cost health care for uninsured and underinsured families living in Evanston and Chicago's Roger Park neighborhood.

A second Professional Office Building opened in 1991 and a new Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) unit opened in 1992. The Paul V. Galvin Coronary Care Unit and the three cardiac catheterization laboratories received a three million dollar upgrade in 1993.

The Resurrection Years (or Today)

Saint Francis Hospital entrance

The Sisters of Saint Francis transferred their ministry at Presence Saint Francis Hospital to the Sisters of the Resurrection, and in December 1997 Presence Saint Francis Hospital became part of Presence Resurrection Health Care. In March 2001, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth were welcomed as the new co-sponsors of Chicago's largest Catholic health care system.

In 2001, Presence Saint Francis Hospital celebrated its 100th anniversary and continued its tradition as "The Heart Hospital" when it was named one of Solucient's 100 Top Hospitals for cardiovascular care in the nation.


The hospital underwent a major renovation project in 2003 when a new Chapel and Prayer Room and a newly consolidated Outpatient Rehabilitation Services department were opened on the ground floor. A new Family Birthplace area was also opened that year, complete with private labor/delivery/recovery/postpartum (LDRP) suites, a Level II Nursery with Exception, and relaxing hydrotherapy tub.

Presence Saint Francis Hospital was named the first accredited Chest Pain Center in Illinois in 2003 after meeting strict criteria based on its ability to assess, diagnose and treat chest pain patients quickly and effectively. The establishment of the Chest Pain Center is a natural extension of the hospital's Level I Trauma Center designation, which was awarded in 1989. As a state-designated Level I Trauma Center, Presence Saint Francis Hospital continues to treat the most serious illnesses and life-threatening injuries to patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Saint Francis Hospital chapelPresence Saint Francis Hospital remains at the forefront of cardiac medicine and continues its legacy of excellence in heart care today by performing thousands of cardiac procedures and hundreds of open-heart surgeries each year. The new Galvin Heart Center opened in 2007 on the main floor, adjacent to the Emergency/Trauma Center and Chest Pain Center. The Heart Center houses two state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization suites and centralizes other services such as Non-Invasive Cardiology and Nuclear Medicine in the same area.

For more than 100 years, Presence Saint Francis Hospital has been providing high-quality, compassionate, family-centered care to the residents of Evanston, north Chicago and its surrounding communities. Today, the 375-licensed bed teaching facility offers a full range of diagnostic, medical, surgical and therapeutic services in virtually every medical specialty such as  cardiology, neurosciences,  oncology, orthopedics, women's and children's health, and imaging services.

The hospital's 1,000 employees, nearly 500 physicians on staff, and hundreds of volunteers stand ready to serve you and your family with excellent quality of care and exceptional customer service.

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