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The History of Deaconess

Evansville was a flourishing river city with a population of more than 50,000, and a new hospital was badly needed. At that time, an amazing discovery called electricity was promising a better way of life, and the country was enjoying an era that would later be known as the "Gay Nineties."

Following the tradition of the Deaconess Movement, the Protestant Deaconess Association called on Bethesda Deaconess Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, for the guidance it needed to plan a new hospital. One year later, a nurse arrived from Chicago, and four Evansville physicians were appointed as Deaconess staff members. The hospital's first work was restricted to private medical care, but in June 1893, the Association bought a home on the corner of Mary and Iowa streets which was converted to a 19-bed hospital. It was a crude beginning for an institution that would become the largest hospital in Southern Indiana.

A three-story brick hospital was completed in 1899 and was celebrated as one of the most impressive Deaconess institutions in the country. The new Deaconess Hospital had beds for more than 60 patients. It boasted three operating rooms with hot and cold sterilized water and "good lighting, so that operations could be performed with the same degree of safety day or night."

In the 1920s, Deaconess added a fourth floor and a new wing to the original building. Further construction in 1948 provided administrative offices, two nursing units and a new entrance for the growing hospital. When the Hahn Building was completed in 1960, Deaconess became the second largest general nonvoluntary, nongovernmental hospital in Indiana.

During the years that followed, the hospital of the past yielded to the modern, ever-changing Deaconess of today. The original hospital was demolished in the early 1970s. Major construction throughout the last twenty years has resulted in a campus which now encompasses 20 city blocks.

In 1999 Deaconess Cross Pointe opened, providing mental health services for children, youth, adults and their families. Two years later, Deaconess partnered with private investors to open The Women’s Hospital, the Tri-State’s only free-standing hospital devoted solely to women’s health. The Health System continued to grow and in 2006, Deaconess opened the Deaconess Gateway Hospital, a 116-bed hospital on the Deaconess Gateway Medical campus.

Deaconess Clinic, made up of primary physicians and specialists was formed in 2008 when Deaconess merged their Medical Group with Welborn Clinic. Today we have more than 100 physicians and medical professionals providing care to Tri-State families.  

Modern health care has undoubtedly reached levels of sophistication only dreamed of by the men and women who founded Deaconess Hospital more than a century ago. But the convictions on which the hospital was built - compassionate care, quality caregivers and commitment to service and medical science - remain the same.