St. Joseph’s Health Hospital Center’s Unique 150 Year History


Over 150 years ago, one of the largest medical facilities in Central New York was founded. But its beginning may be a bit surprising.

In 1869, the Sisters of St. Francis bought an old saloon on Prospect Hill and founded St. Joseph’s Hospital. The original founders were a group from the religious and medical fields and they are responsbile for the hospitals early beginnings Onondaga Historical Association’s Executive Director Gregg Tripoli said.

“These were nuns who were administering to the German Immigrant population so this was a natural move for them,” he added.

There were many interesting stories that came out of the 150 year history that inlcuded some interesting tenants who once lived at the hospital and also an interesting story about an important ‘member’ of the ambulance corp.

“In 1875 the census shows that there were 11 people living at the hopsitals, nine nuns, one physician Dr. Henry Crouse and an old Irish woman who’s occupation was said to be a fortune teller.” Tripoli said.

“…And In 1910 there was insurance coverage taken out for a horse who worked as part of the ambulance,” he added.

Many local medical breakthroughs took place at St. Joseph’s, including the very first open heart surgery in 1958. That surgery, among others, really put St. Joseph’s on the map in terms of cardiac care. 

The Onondaga Historical Association is located at 321 Montgomery Street in Downtown Syracuse. To learn more about history that happened in Central New York visit

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