Saint Francis Hospital for the Insane

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Saint Francis Hospital for the Insane
Established 1865
Opened 1876
Closed 2002
Demolished 2008
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Rambling Plan
Location Pittsburgh, PA
Alternate Names
  • Saint Francis Hospital


The St. Francis Health Center began as a small construction in November 1865 when friends of Mother Mary Margaret, the Superioress of the Franciscan Sisters in Buffalo, petitioned her to send her coworkers to Pittsburgh to establish a hospital. She sent Sister Mary Elizabeth, Sister Magdalen, and Sister Stephen to Pittsburgh where they obtained a house on 37th Street in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood with 15 beds for the sick. In May of the following year, they obtained a six acre plot on 44th Street where they set up a hospital with enough room for 30 patients, later adding a chapel to the building over Thanksgiving. The hospital saw its first influx of patients during the Pittsburgh smallpox epidemic that lasted from 1866 to 1872. During that time, the hospital was granted a charter by the state of Pennsylvania and by 1871 the hospital was expanded to three stories.

After the city experienced another bout of smallpox in 1876, the hospital was further expanded to accommodate the mentally ill. Several remodels and expansions took place from 1890 until 1910 and in 1919 the Sisters of Saint Francis of Millvale, now separate from their Buffalo community, established the St. Francis Hospital Training School of Nurses. In 1984, the Sisters expanded their health system to Cranberry Township, Butler County, which included a hospital, heliport, and administrative offices.

By August 2002, the St. Francis Health System was experiencing financial difficulties and ownership was eventually transferred to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh as part of a contract between Highmark, Inc. and UPMC Health System. St. Francis complex was demolished to make rooom for the new site for the UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (CHP).