St. Joseph Hospital, Houston's first general hospital, opened in 1887 as St. Joseph's Infirmary. Six sisters from the congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word, who came to Houston from St. Mary's Infirmary in Galveston, established the facility. Two years after its opening, Harris County officials asked the sisters to care for the county's indigent sick, which they continued to do until 1919. A new hospital built in 1894 accommodated the growing number of patients. Several months after opening, however, fire destroyed the new structure, killing two of the sisters. Another hospital, built on the present site, provided new facilities.
During the twentieth century, St. Joseph Hospital established its reputation as a leader in Texas health care. As a pioneer in the medical field, the hospital was among the earliest in the county or the state to: introduce pathology laboratory and x-ray equipment (1912); build a facility devoted to care for women and infants (1936); open a premature infant nursery (1943), coronary intensive care unit (1965) and community mental health center (1966); provide a neonatal transport service (1984); and offer laser lithotripsy for removal of ureteral stones (1987). The hospital has also made important contributions to education by opening the city's first school of nursing (1905) and
a large surgical training laboratory (1980). The center was also noteworthy for its research and treatment of cancer.
St. Joseph Hospital served as a leader in the medical field by providing quality treatment for its patients. It also served as an important reminder of Houston's early role as a medical center.