Development of the Catholic Faith in Berks County
St. Joseph's Hospital
In 1872 Right Rev. Monsignor Bornemann, who in his fatherly sympathy had ever been most eager to relieve the wants of poor suffering humanity, purchased a suitable site for a hospital, a two-story brick building, surrounded by a vineyard and fruit trees known as the Vollmer Estate at a cost of $10,000. The site was ideal, located on the mountain for breezes, with its own vineyard, fruit orchard, and spring.
In 1873 he founded St. Joseph’s Hospital, the first institution of its kind in Reading. Upon his request and with the consent of Most Rev. A. Wood, D.D., the Sisters of St. Francis assumed charge of this institution. The hospital accommodated six female and six male patients, with men on the first floor, and women on the second, and was dedicated to St. Joseph.
What follows is an excerpt from a news article in the Reading paper, dated August 26, 1873:
"St. Joseph Hospital, this institution, located in Walnut Street above Twelfth, formerly Vollmer's property, is now open and ready for the reception of all classes of patients, rich or poor, and of whatever sex, nationality or faith. Cases of accident will be admitted on application at the Hospital. All other cases must obtain a permit from Father Bornemann, Dr. M. Luther or the attending medical staff. Persons who are able to pay will be charged only at the absolute cost of boarding. Poor out-door patients will be prescribed for and furnished with medicine gratuitously on days to be hereafter designated. The Hospital is supplied with a corps of skilled and experienced female nurses, and medical attendants."
Ere the lapse of many years the home proved inadequate for its purpose. A new building was then erected on the northwest corner of Birch and Walnut Streets. In 1882 Rt. Rev. Monsignor Bornemann laid the cornerstone of this grand edifice and two years later it was dedicated by his Grace, Most. Rev. P. Ryan, D.D., Archbishop of Philadelphia. It was in this year also on the 19th of March, the feast of St. Joseph, that Rt. Rev. Monsignor Bornemann blessed the statue of St. Joseph and placed it in the nich above the entrance at the Hospital.
In but a few years its constantly increasing demands necessitated an addition. With God’s help it was undertaken, completed, and in 1893, dedicated by Most Rev. P. Ryan, D.D. Among the apartments added, is the beautiful chapel, most artistically wrought, which now graces the institution, a lasting memorial of good Father Bornemann, whose works of charity will ever remain written in unperishable characters, not only on the tablets of the institution, but also in the memories of Christ’s Brethren, the poor and suffering.
St. Joseph's Chapel, Hospital
and Nurses' Home - 1915
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Interior of Chapel of Chapel
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In 1904 the cradle of St. Joseph’s Hospital was replaced by a Nurses’ Home, dedicated by his Grace, Arch-bishop Prendergast, in 1905.
In the prime of St. Joseph’s Hospital, Rt. Rev. Monsignor Bornemann toiled untiringly in the vineyard. He assisted in preparing casks, and the making of wine in order to realize funds for the great work now in progress.
During the smallpox epidemic in 1893, Monsignor Bornemann, at the request of the City Board of Health, at a weighty expense, converted the stable on the Hospital ground into a place of refuge for the poor sufferers stricken with this loath some disease. With his own hands he assisted the carpenters and plumbers and in three days the place was ready for occupancy. When the neighbors, fearing the spread of the malady complained, Monsignor Bornemann advised the County officials to build a pest house at the County Home. Here, as at the former place Monsignor Bornemann was a daily visitor admin istering to the wants of the sufferers, never weary of giving every possible assistance, consolation and comfort not only to the sick but also to the good sisters in attendance upon them.
The hospital grew steadily through the years, adding buildings and services to meet the growing community's needs. In 1997 St. Joseph bought Community General Hospital and the 6th and Walnut campus occupied by Community General now stands as an important family practice clinic.
A $150 million, 40-acre hospital and medical office building in Bern Township opened in November of 2006. The property at 12th and Walnut Streets was donated to the Reading School District for the creation of a Junior High School, called the Citadel, which is currently under construction.