St. Francis Hospital “Nun Circus”

Brad Elfrink in his workshop

Cape is a place that overlaps and interlocks. My friend and former co-worker, Jan Norris, asked me if I’d meet up with Brad Elfrink while I was in Cape. He does beautiful “whimsical hand crafted collectibles” that she wanted photographed for her button site.

Brad and his wife live on Sprigg St., just down from William, which is why I photographed that corner for a recent page.

He and I talked about local landmarks that have quietly disappeared. I told him I had been looking in vain for a unique house in the neighborhood that I photographed in the 60s. He broke the news that it had been torn down, but that he had some of the decorative bricks from it in his back yard. (More about Brad and that on that another day.)

I prowled St. Francis Hospital

I mentioned that I sort of “found a way” into the nearby boarded-up St. Francis Hospital just before it was torn down. I wanted photos of the interior (and to make off with the room number tag off  the room my mother was assigned after I was born).

“Do you recognize these rocks?”

“Do you recognize these rocks?” he asked me.

I took a wild stab and said, “Did they come out of the grotto in the gardens behind the hospital? I always thought that was neat.”

St. Francis Hospital Grotto

Yep, Brad saw it being torn down and scavenged a few rocks for future use.

Nun Circus

The photo above of the grotto was in a film sleeve slugged Nun Circus, with no date or other info. From a technical standpoint, the frames were overexposed and overdeveloped, which caused the whites to block up to the point they were almost unprintable.

I’m going to put up a photo gallery of the “Nun Circus” and some of Brad’s recovered Grotto rocks. I apologize for the quality of the black and whites. I rationalize that their historical value may outweigh their poor quality.

St. Francis Photo Gallery

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left of right side of the image to move through the gallery.

Typical Cape serendipity

Friend in Florida with no connection to Cape puts me in contact with an artist who just happens to have salvaged pieces of two buildings I had photographed in the 1960s. Things related to Cape don’t have Six Degrees of Separation. You can make the connections in no more than two or three.

10 Replies to “St. Francis Hospital “Nun Circus””

  1. Loved this, Ken. St. Francis was always a fascinating building to me. I wasn’t there often: at birth, for x-rays when I was around five and sprained my ankle, when Mother had gallbladder surgery, and when my first nephew was born in 1957. I loved walking and riding by the hospital and I was always in awe of the nuns. I was raised in First Baptist Church on Broadway and the nuns were a bit scary. The rocks are wonderful. I’m sorry I was never in the grotto.

  2. i was born at st.francis.worked for them briefly in the mid 70’s,at the time they moved off of good hope and moved to their present site. i remember the grotto.i didn’t know what that word meant or why it was was on the back of the place over to the left? is the name of the street that ran behind st.francis morgan oak? i thought it was a tragic when it was torn would have made a nice senoir citizen housing. st.louis has a old hat factory in soulard that was coverted to senior housing. it is still in business.there were discussions about the old shoe factory downtown to be converted..but like everything else in cape…a choice few had the say in how things were going to be…

  3. Ken,the pictures of St. Francis brought many memories to mind. Grandmaw Campbell took us to the hospital many times to run errands for te nuns.We were always treated very special. AT Halloween We were given special treats made by the nuns, popcorn balls special cookies sometimes a candy apple. We were always told how great our costumes were, evenif they were awful.As I got older I volunteered many asa candy striper. I think the Missourin ran a small piec with a picturh.
    The grotto stones should have many little rolled up papers asking for help with one thing ooranother.
    Thanks again

  4. My future husband, Dale DeJournett, was taken to the emergency room at the old St. Francis in 1964 or 65, when he cut off his finger in a power saw at Southeast Lumber Company, which was close by. He spent several days there, while the doctors tried unsuccessfully to re-attach the finger. He & three other guys with hand injuries played cards together, with a foot injuring patient shuffling the cards. When the foot patient was released, they had to have one of the nuns shuffle the cards.
    The nurses told them to hide their cigarettes, because the nuns would confiscate them. Can you believe they allowed smoking in the hospital in those days?? That smoking contributed to Dale’s death of pancreatic cancer 48 years later…

  5. I was born in St Francis Hospital in 1953 and grew up in South Cape. I remember when my aunt was in St Francis when I was about 6 years old. I had to sit in the hallway by what I believe was the nurse’s station. I remember the Nuns and nurses walking around and I didn’t dare move. When I was young Goodhope, Morgan Oak and Sprigg Street near the hospital was busy. You had a bank, ice plant, Dr office’s, drug stores, hardware and further down the notorious Corner Travern. The Cape Police station was in an old church at the corner of Sprigg and Indepence. I return to Cape from time to time and it’s amazing howmuch it has changed.

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