More than a century ago, when the people of Pensacola asked for better healthcare and a more modern hospital, their prayers were answered by the Daughters of Charity. The Daughters comprise a religious order that was founded in 1633 in France by St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac with the mission of caring for the poor and the sick. The Daughters came to Pensacola not only to build a hospital, but to carry out their charitable mission of providing excellent healthcare to all persons, with special attention to the poor and vulnerable.
Today, the hospital built in Pensacola by the Sisters continues that same mission. Pensacola remains the hub of what has become a truly regional Health System with three hospital campuses, as well as outpatient facilities, physician offices and other services spanning 200 miles of the Gulf Coast from Gulf Shores, Ala. to Apalachicola, Fla.
Sacred Heart is now part of Ascension, the largest non-profit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system. Ascension was formed in 1999 when the Daughters of Charity National Health System joined with the Sisters of St. Joseph to create a new faith-based healthcare ministry. Today, Ascension operates 2,500 sites of care – including 141 hospitals and more than 30 senior living facilities – in 24 states and the District of Columbia. For the past 17 years, Sacred Heart has come together with our sister facilities in Ascension in order to combine new technologies and innovative treatments with a compassionate, healing environment.
The Pensacola community first asked the Daughters of Charity to serve our region in 1913. A local businessman ran an ad in the newspaper stating that he would donate $500 if 19 other people would do the same. The goal was to accumulate $10,000 towards building a hospital. The idea drew support from a local rabbi, the Rev. Dr. William Ackerman, and from the pastor of Sacred Heart Church, the Rev. Thomas H. Kennedy. Father Kennedy worked through Bishop Edward Allen in Mobile, who contacted the Daughters of Charity in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
The eventual cost of the hospital was more than $400,000. For the construction of the magnificent structure, train loads of Alabama sandstone, Indiana limestone, several million bricks and thousands of barrels of concrete and marble were shipped to Pensacola. The outer walls were made of massive blocks of sandstone trimmed with limestone.
In October 1914, the cornerstone was placed, and Bishop Allen announced the Sisters' wish that "this hospital is for all, without distinction to creed, race or color." Father Patrick Turner also spoke on behalf of the Sisters when he said "their work is to alleviate the sufferings of mankind ... with no other thought than their duty to humanity and to God." Sister Veronica Reilly was chosen as the first administrator of what was initially called "Pensacola Hospital" when its doors opened officially on Sept. 1, 1915.
Growing with Our Community
After 50 years in its original stone structure on 12th Avenue, the hospital relocated in 1965 to a new hospital off Ninth Avenue in Pensacola, across from Cordova Mall.
Since then, Sacred Heart has continued to advance its technology and expand its services. In August of 1996, Sacred Heart Children's Hospital - Northwest Florida's first and only children's hospital - opened on the Pensacola campus.
In 2000, Sacred Heart completed major expansion projects that added new wings for surgical suites, a Regional Heart and Vascular Institute and a new center for emergency/trauma services. Sacred Heart teamed up with Methodist Homes to open the new Haven of Our Lady of Peace nursing home off Summit Boulevard in November 2001.
Sacred Heart’s regional plans took a huge step forward in January 2003. In response to requests from residents of Okaloosa and Walton County who wanted their own community hospital, the system extended its mission and opened a second hospital. Since then, Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast has enjoyed great community support and steady growth. In January 2017, the Miramar Beach campus completed a $30 million expansion that grew its total number of inpatient beds to 76.
In 2010, Sacred Heart extended its regional mission again in response to community needs, this time in the rural, medically underserved Gulf County. Sacred Heart built a small community hospital on land donated by the St. Joe Co. Since then, the 19-bed hospital, located in Port St. Joe, has provided first-class healthcare to a county that previously had no hospital and no emergency department.
Sacred Heart completed the largest expansion of its Pensacola campus in 2014 with the construction of the Bayou Tower, which added 112 private rooms to the hospital. In 2016, Sacred Heart broke ground on a new four-story Children's Hospital -- the Studer Family Children's Hospital at Sacred Heart -- set to open in 2019.
Today, Sacred Heart continues its legacy of serving individuals, families and communities as part of Ascension, the largest Catholic nonprofit health system in the U.S. Together, our caregivers strive to bring you coordinated, compassionate care that is personalized to your individual needs.