On December 7, 1869 the first patient entered the new Mercy Hospital situated on the outskirts of Davenport. Started by the Order of the Sisters of Mercy , the hospital and its grounds would play a pivotal role in the physical and mental health of the local community.
Before it became a hospital, the grounds once housed the Academy of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, run by the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This private school for young ladies opened in July 1859 in a beautiful brick building on land surrounded by fruit trees.
However lovely the grounds, the effort to transport their children to the edge of the city and back seems to have been a deterrent to parents. By 1861 the Sisters of Charity moved the school to a more central location on Brady Street, where the school flourished.
An advertisement in the Davenport Daily Gazette, March 7, 1865 describes the 10 acres and main building for sale for the “bargain price” of $9,000 (roughly $130,000 in today’s dollars).
It wasn’t until 1869 that the property was given to the Sisters of Mercy to start a hospital. Ten additional acres were donated by a neighbor and the Scott County Board also provided a loan of $2,000 to remodel and make necessary improvements to the building.
The December 7, 1869 Davenport Daily Gazette described the large brick building and the twenty acre grounds. The Sisters had also created a medical board of local physicians and surgeons to staff the hospital.
Patients were either private, paying for their own rooms, or county patients, who were cared for in a dormitory environment. It was noted in the December 7th article that private and county patients were to be kept separate, but provided equal care. It was estimated 200 patients could be cared for at one time.
At the time, Mercy Hospital was unique. Not only were patients treated for physical ailments, but the building housed psychiatric patients as well. Later, two dedicated psychiatric buildings would be added to the growing Mercy Hospital complex: St. Joseph’s for men and St. Elizabeth’s for women.
Mercy Hospital grew quickly over the years, providing both physical and psychiatric care. In 1994, Mercy and St. Luke’s Hospital merged to form the Genesis Health System. Mercy Hospital was renamed Genesis West.
145 years later, the land on which Mercy Hospital began is surrounded by local neighborhoods and schools and it is difficult to imagine it as twenty acres of trees and gardens.
Yet the hospital continues to be a place of healing—a fine legacy for the Sisters who offered Mercy to those in need.