It was the height of World War II when Providence Saint John’s Health Center opened its doors in Santa Monica, a coastal city whose claim to fame was the legendary Muscle Beach.
The former Saint John’s Hospital was founded by the Catholic Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, a religious community of Catholic women deeply rooted in their dedication to health care, education, social services and pastoral ministry.
In 1939, the year war broke out in Europe, the Sisters brought their devotion and extensive healthcare experience to Santa Monica, and began raising money to build and administer a much-needed community hospital.
Construction on Saint John’s started in 1941. The project pulled together the entire community. Everyone, from the chief of surgery to the Sisters themselves, helped build, paint and even haul the furniture into the new hospital. One of the Sisters, Sister Hypatia, was a trained engineer who took it upon herself to study the construction blueprints daily. If something did not meet her high standards, she made the workers redo the work until she was satisfied.
Finally, Saint John’s opened its doors to patients on Oct. 25, 1942, nearly a year after the attack on Pearl Harbor. To keep the hospital functioning in those early days during the wartime effort, everyone connected with Saint John’s had to take on new roles. The Sisters worked as nurses, X-ray technicians and medical technologists. In no time, all 89 beds and 35 bassinets in the new hospital were full.
At the same time the community was growing. The war brought a population surge as military personnel and workers came to Douglas Aircraft, working around-the-clock to build military aircraft. Following the war, the community saw a housing boom as the Baby Boom generation settled in. Two large employers – a Sears-Roebuck store and the Rand Corporation, opened in 1947.
In 1994, the hospital was severely damaged by the Northridge Earthquake. A newly rebuilt wing opened in 2009, funded by donors in the community. In the following years, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System found it difficult to continue operating a stand-alone health care ministry in Southern California and urged Providence Health & Services, with five hospitals in the region, to assume Saint John’s sponsorship. The change in sponsorship was finalized in March 2014.
Since its founding, Providence Saint John’s Health Center has developed a national reputation as an exceptional place for health and healing. Through the dedication and collaborative efforts of community friends, patrons, physicians, nurses, staff and volunteers, Providence Saint John’s has continued the world-class tradition established by the Sisters of providing breakthrough medicine in an environment of inspired healing.