Chapel. Photo courtesy Pamela Elbert Poland

Is Demolition the Only Option for Pendleton’s St. Anthony’s Hospital?

Pendleton is one of those storied communities that conjures up vivid images for most Oregonians. Roundup. Woolen Mill. Old West Main Street. Cowboys and girls. But few people think of St. Anthony’s Hospital as a distinguishing feature of Pendleton.

 As first reported by the East Oregonian, the 290,000 square foot hospital complex will be demolished this summer, a proposal that has been in the works since the hospital announced construction plans for a new $70 million medical center two years ago. Since the opening of the new medical center in December, the existing hospital complex just east of downtown has sat empty awaiting an almost certain fate.

St. Anthony’s has been a Pendleton institution for over a century, with the first building on the site going up in 1902. Additional buildings were built in 1922, 1962, and 1982. Although the original building was demolished fifty years ago, the 1902 chapel was saved, brick by brick, and still stands on the site attached to the rear of the 1922 building.

Despite the chapel and 1922 building exhibiting historic architectural character, neither have been formally documented or listed in a historic register. Preliminary research indicates the 1922 building was designed and constructed by the Seattle firm of P.A. Baillargeon, for a cost of $200,000. Little is known of Baillargeon’s other work, with the exception of a demolished hospital in Tacoma and the National Register-listed St. Elizabeth Nursing Home in Baker City. In 2013, a bid to move the chapel came in at $500,000, far more than the hospital was willing to pay. The stained glass, dais, and pews will be removed for potential incorporation into a replica at the new location.

While the 1922 building and chapel both have issues common to historic properties (asbestos, outdated systems, incompatible additions), there may be alternatives for adaptive reuse that have not been explored by the property’s owner. Across Oregon, similar-scaled buildings have been adaptively reused as assisted-living facilities, apartments, and offices, retaining both the embodied energy and community character that would have otherwise been lost.

But the market for adaptive reuse in Pendleton is challenging. According to City Councilor Keith May, “Pendleton has an abundance of large older buildings that are sitting vacant.” An understandable fear is that if they’re not demolished, the now-vacant properties will sit, slowing becoming an eyesore and a liability for not just the owner, but the entire community. However, as opposed to some similar projects around Oregon, St. Anthony’s has not publically entertained proposals for adaptive reuse of buildings on the site. It is rumored that a preservation-minded developer recently expressed interest in reusing the brick buildings, though it appears that the hospital is still moving towards demolition at this time.

Razing the complex is expected to cost $2.5 million, with most of the building materials being landfilled on-site. When all is said and done, the site of 112 years of Pendleton hospital history will be left as a vacant lot and marketed for new development.

Current photo of St. Anthony’s Hospital showing
1922 building slated for demolition. (Photo courtesy
E.J. Harris/ East Oregonian)

Chapel. Photo courtesy Pamela Elbert Poland

St. Anthony’s Hospital Chapel. (Photo courtesy
Pamela Elbert Poland)

Rendering of 1922 building (Image courtesy Morning Oregonian, July 3, 1921, page 8)

Rendering of 1922 building (left). With the
exception of 1960s additions, the building retains
much of its original exterior character. (Image
courtesy Morning Oregonian, July 3, 1921, page 8)

Original 1902 St. Anthony's Hosptial (Photo courtesy Keith May postcard collection)

Original St. Anthony’s Hospital building as it
appeared in about 1910. Demolished in 1962, it
would be a treasured landmark if it still stood today.
Unlike the Modern building that replaced the 1902
structure, the pending demolition of the chapel and
1922 building will make way for a vacant lot.
(Photo courtesy Keith May postcard collection)

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