Fort Wayne’s oldest hospital came crashing to the ground Thursday, ending days of anticipation over St. Joe’s demolition.
The 153-year-old St. Joseph Hospital originally opened in 1869 and closed last year. Its owner, Lutheran Health Network, constructed a new $118 million facility, Lutheran Downtown Hospital, just across the street from the historic building.
Crews for contractor Britt Demolition and Recycling have worked all year at the site.
The final portion of the old hospital stood strong for days against all attempts to demolish it. On Oct. 28, the crew tried at least half a dozen times to pull the building down.
They added additional cables over the following days, eventually succeeding in their efforts minutes before 6 p.m. Thursday evening.
Scott Hull, who said he was born in St. Joseph Hospital in 1963, used to work for an architecture firm. Hull, who took “progress pictures” during the construction of new buildings, said he’s also photographed the demolition process – “a kind of reverse progress.”
Lutheran spokeswoman Megan Hubartt said the goal is to have the entire demolition completed and the debris removed by the end of the year.
“This project is a mechanical teardown, not an explosive teardown that people may be more familiar with,” Hubartt said in an email.
“Mechanical teardowns are a fluid process and the project remains ahead of schedule.”
The site will ultimately become “additional hospital parking and greenspace” starting next spring, Hubartt said last week.
“I’d been down here every single day before the main part collapsed,” Hull said. “That day I didn’t come, and that’s the day it went down.”
Hull’s been back every day since and said he even missed part of work Tuesday to watch.
Dozens of others also gathered on all sides of the demolition site, and drivers were kept away for much of the afternoon by barricades on neighboring streets.
Erica Pearson, who said her nephew was born at the hospital, was one of those who gathered to watch the demolition. She works in the area and said it’s been “odd” to watch the building disappear piece by piece.
“I think it’ll really hit home more Fourth of July because we always park on the roof of the parking lot for” the fireworks, Pearson said. “It’s always something you just look over and see. I think this summer it’ll hit me more than anything.”
Laura Mccue, another onlooker, had many personal connections to St. Joe, including her husband, who died at the hospital in 1993.
“My kids were born here; I was born here,” she said. “My aunt retired from here. We have too much history in this building.”
“I wanted to see the ending,” Mccue continued. “That would show me the closure that I needed.”