For more than a century, Norton Healthcare’s faith heritage has guided its mission of caring for the sick and injured in the Louisville community. Hospitals that are now part of Norton Healthcare were established by local members of the Episcopal Church, The United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church. Volunteers from a Presbyterian church, a number of community-minded physicians and citizens, and community charities created what is now Norton Children’s Hospital.
After the Civil War, a small group of women called the Home Mission Society of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church began raising money to build a hospital in Louisville. In 1881, Mary Louise Sutton Norton gave her elaborate home to the hospital project organizers. They sold the home and used the money to create a hospital that was then named in her husband’s memory. The John N. Norton Memorial Infirmary opened in 1886. The Rev. John Norton was associate rector of Christ Church Cathedral and was considered by many to be a good Samaritan because of his strong values and devotion to the poor. Originally located at Third and Oak streets, the hospital, now at 200 E. Chestnut St., continues to provide health care in the same caring spirit of its namesake.
Leaders from The United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Church (now United Church of Christ) joined together to fulfill their health care missions by opening Methodist Evangelical Hospital in 1960. The hospital was well known for its excellent nursing practices and for its loyal “army” of volunteers. More than 1,200 volunteers from local churches supported staff in the care of patients and families. These values and commitment to excellence continue today in the facility that is now the Norton Healthcare Pavilion.
In 1926, members of a Louisville Catholic community opened St. Joseph Infirmary, the largest private hospital in Kentucky at that time. In 1970, a for-profit company purchased the hospital and 10 years later built a new facility that is now Norton Audubon Hospital. It became part of the Norton Healthcare family in 1998 with the Alliant Health System purchase of Audubon and Suburban hospitals. Shortly after the purchase, Alliant became Norton Healthcare, and Norton was added to the hospitals’ names.
Children’s Free Hospital opened in 1892 when civic activist Mary Lafon and two physicians were determined to create a hospital devoted to children with any illness or injury. A small group of women from Warren Memorial Presbyterian Church, where Lafon was a member, also was instrumental in establishing and running the hospital with a 99 percent volunteer workforce. The hospital moved to its current location at 231 E. Chestnut St. in 1986 and today is Kentucky’s only full-service, free-standing pediatric hospital.
“Norton Hospital: The First Hundred Years 1886-1986” by Gail McGowan Mellor
“The Mission: The History of Methodist Evangelical Hospital 1960-1993” by Betty Lou Amster, APR, and Barbara Zingman, Ph.D.
Children’s Hospital: A History 1892-1992” by Gail McGowan Mellor
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