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Call the Doctor! - Part I

Highlights of Healthcare in Old Town 1880-1908

Written by: Mary Bowlby

Originally published in the Eureka Times, 2013 Autumn issue

This is the first in a three-part series about healthcare and medicine in Old Town Tacoma.

The second post is available here. The third post is available here.

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Tacoma was a boom town in the 1880s. It may have started small – with Job’s cabin, then McCarver’s clapboard house and other homes being built. Hotels such as Mrs. Steele’s establishment and the Hansen & Ackerson Mill all contributed to developing an identity for the little hamlet by the Bay in the late 1860s. The railroad arrived late in 1873, but stopped south of the town. New Tacoma grew quite quickly at that terminus point. By 1880, over 1000 people called Tacoma home. Even as the town’s leadership was trying to establish a modern city, disease and danger were a constant threat. A lack of proper sewer systems and an overabundance of rain were, in part, a cause of illness that plagued Tacoma. “Small Pox, Whooping Cough, measles, malaria, typhus, pneumonia and typhoid fever hit with varying impact” (Bates, 3).

By 1880, there were a few hospitals in Washington Territory, but none of them were close enough to be of any use to the sick and injured who live in and near Tacoma. This article focuses on two institutions that were established to meet the needs of Tacoma’s population and the people who brought them into being.

House of Mercy

Fannie Paddock Memorial Hospital opened to serve Tacoma on April 29, 1882. Located in Old Town Tacoma at 2511 Starr Street, it encompassed about one-half acre of land and five buildings. The main building had served in an earlier life as a dance hall, but the spacious facility (it measured 48x28 feet) proved more than adequate for the purpose of serving the healthcare needs of Tacoma's growing population.

The people of Tacoma were threatened by outbreaks of typhus, whooping cough and other contagion -- and those logger, miners and fishers who came to town with injuries and illness. It was a vast improvement over the limitations of frontier medicine.

Bishop John A. and Fannie C. Paddock, Image courtesy of MultiCare

Bishop John A. and Fannie C. Paddock, Image courtesy of MultiCare

Her name was Frances Chester Fanning Paddock – “Fannie” to close friends and relatives. When her husband was appointed to become the first Episcopal bishop of Washington Territory, she wanted to learn all she could about her new home. Tacoma was to become the Bishop’s place of headquarters, because St. Peter’s Church here, in Old Town, was the first Episcopal church in the Territory.

Mrs. Paddock was active in the work of benevolence - as a dedicated churchwoman, she believed it was her duty to provide for the needs of those less fortunate. As she prepared to move her household to Puget Sound, she asked her husband what was the greatest need in Tacoma. “They need a hospital,” was his reply. With this in mind, she began to ask her friends to help her build a hospital in Tacoma by saying “Won’t you give me a brick?” (Bates, 4).

Unfortunately, Fannie Paddock fell ill during her trip west and died shortly after arriving in Portland. When Bishop Paddock came to Tacoma, he brought with him $500 that his wife had raised to establish a hospital here and a resolve to finish the work she had begun. “…from sympathizing Christian people in various parts of the Country, came the cheering words, ‘let not the charitable undertaking cease; let the good work go forward; and let the hospital be made a memorial of her’” (Paddock, 1885).

Exactly a year to the day after Mrs. Paddock had passed away, “her” Hospital was dedicated. It was from the beginning that which she had hoped for – a “House of Mercy.” It housed the sick and injured for seven years, until a more permanent facility was built at 312 South J St, where MultiCare’s Tacoma General Hospital now stands.

Inside Fannie Paddock Hospital, Image courtesy of MultiCare


Carl Sargent, Sargent Family Historian

Cole Cosgrove, Media Relations, MultiCare

Diane Wells, Archivist, Diocese of Olympia

Jodi Gripp, Librarian, Northwest Room

Works Cited

..., "Making His Way," San Francisco Call, Volume 76, Number 91, 30 August 1894.

...,"The Paddock Memorial Hospital," The Churchman, Diocese of Olympia, Seattle WA; March 25, 1882.

Bates, Mildred, A House of Mercy: The History of Tacoma General Hospital, the Fannie C Paddock Memorial, Warren's Printing & Graphics; Olympia WA, 1977.

Gallacci, Caroline & Tacoma Historical Society, Old Tacoma, Acadia Publishing, South Carolina; 2007.

Paddock, The Rt. Rev. John A., "Appeal," newspaper publisher unkown.

Paddock, The Rt. Rev. John A., The Fannie C. Paddock Memorial Hospital, Tacoma, Washington Terr.; July 1885.

Regos, Dr. Frank, "A History of Radiology in Pierce County," 1962.

Sargent, Carl, Dr. Spiro Sargentich: A Man of Honor, Distinction & Dedication, self-published, 2013.

Whitney, Marci; Notable Women, Tacoma News Tribune, Tacoma, WA, 1977.