Board members open time capsule from old St. Francis Hospital in Beech Grove

BEECH GROVE, Ind. – So much has changed in 106 years, including the price of building a hospital.

During a Feb. 26 board meeting at Franciscan Health Indianapolis, board members stepped back in time to 1913, when a container about the size of a shoebox was placed in the cornerstone of the under-construction St. Francis Hospital in Beech Grove.

The hospital, a visionary product of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, would serve the needy and sick. The cornerstone was placed on July 16, 1913, the small box carefully sealed inside. The cornerstone was inscribed with the words, “St. Francis Hospital 1913 A.D.”

In 2019, after the board convened prayers and tackled a few items on the agenda, President and CEO Dr. James Callaghan invited others in the group to open the box.

They carefully pored over the contents, which included:

  • A proclamation written in Latin
  • A penny and 1905 dime
  • Biennial report from St. Elizabeth Hospital in Lafayette
  • A prayer card bearing the title “Prayer to St. Anthony For The Things Lost Or Stolen” – another with handwritten cursive notes and petitions
  • A remnant of a palm leaf, presumably from the previous Palm Sunday of that year
  • A small, intricately carved crucifix
  • A document written in German
  • A back page of a local newspaper with ads boasting $3 partial dental plates, Borden’s Malted Milk, Coca-Cola (“Drink the drink the Nation drinks!”)
  • Page 3 of the July 17 Indianapolis Star, which carried a story with the headline “Laying Stone of Beech Grove Hospital”

The newspaper article noted that the cost of the hospital was estimated at $200,000. At the time of the article’s writing, completion of the facility was still about a year away.

“Total cost to be $200,000. My, that that sounds like quite a bargain to me when you think about the price to build a hospital these days!” observed Sr. Jane Marie to laughter from others.

The Beech Grove hospital inpatient and clinical operations were closed in early 2012 and consolidated with the Indianapolis campus. Franciscan Health unsuccessfully looked for a suitable use for the property.

In 2016, the board decided to raze most of the facility; the limestone-encased time capsule was removed and stored by Tonn and Blank Construction in the interim.

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