Passavant History

Passavant Area Hospital has at its foundation a philosophy of service to the community and generosity of spirit. That foundation was laid in 1875, when Jacksonville widow Eliza Freytag Ayers donated five acres of land along State Street to the Rev. William Passavant, a Lutheran minister with a national reputation for founding hospitals and orphanages. This transfer of property enabled the establishment of Jacksonville Hospital—the fourth hospital to be founded under the reverend’s direction and the 149th hospital established in the United States.

From its early days, the hospital was deeply rooted in the community. In 1895, the Ladies Aid Society—an organization that is known today as the Passavant Hospital Auxiliary—was formed at the home of Mrs. Joseph Capps. In the years since its formation, Auxiliary members have provided unwavering support of the hospital’s mission. Many purchases of medical equipment and expansions of the facility and patient services over the past century have been made possible by the dedicated work of the Passavant Hospital Auxiliary.


Passavant established its School of Nursing in 1902, further strengthening the hospital’s relationship with the community it serves. The school graduated 949 nurses before the program closed in 1982. Hundreds of those graduates continued their nursing careers at Passavant, totaling many decades of service to local patients and the community of Jacksonville.


Support from local residents helped Passavant thrive in the decades that followed. An effort to renovate and modernize the hospital in 1945, buoyed by a community fundraising campaign that netted almost $320,000, was put on hold due to wartime material shortages and high costs. But within four years, the donated funds—now totaling nearly $1 million—were given a boost by government grants, allowing leaders to expand the scope of the project. On November 23, 1950, the cornerstone of a new 140-bed facility was laid at Passavant’s current location on West Walnut Street. By June 1953, the new hospital was ready to welcome its first patients.


In 1968, Passavant merged with Jacksonville’s Holy Cross Hospital to create a unified community hospital system. Like Passavant, Holy Cross—which was founded by the Seven Sisters of the Holy Cross in 1896—had faithfully served the people of Jacksonville for many decades, expanding several times to accommodate the needs of a growing population and innovations in the medical field.

During this era, as Passavant celebrated its 100th anniversary, expansion projects enlarged the facility and created new opportunities for patient care. In 1979, leaders broke ground on a $10.2 million addition that included a new surgical suite, intensive and coronary care units and two new nursing units that equipped Passavant to better adapt to a rapidly changing healthcare landscape. 

In the years that followed, Passavant continued to grow both in size and in its ability to meet the needs of its patients. In 2014, the hospital became an affiliate of Memorial Health System, bringing its strengths to a healthcare organization with a commitment to serving the community that mirrors Passavant’s own.

With each passing decade, with every advancement in patient care and services, with each outreach to the community, Passavant Area Hospital builds on this founding mission: to improve the health of the people and communities we serve.