Nathan Miller, director of public relations and communications at St. Mark’s Hospital, removes a copy of the Salt Lake Times from a time capsule at the hospital in Millcreek on Monday. The time capsule was opened to celebrate the hospital’s 150th anniversary. (Mengshin Lin, Deseret News)
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MILLCREEK — Jeremy Bradshaw wasn’t exactly sure what to expect as a team of three construction workers chiseled around the cornerstone of St. Mark’s Hospital Monday to find a copper time capsule box hidden behind.
But Bradshaw, the hospital’s CEO, was pleasantly surprised as he lifted the box open and began to carefully unpack the contents of the box one by one. First, there was a copy of the June 6, 1971, Salt Lake Tribune newspaper — the date of when the cornerstone was laid.
Then came little bits and pieces of the 150-year-old history of St. Mark’s Hospital. He and a team of other hospital executives pulled out 1960s building designs for the current Millcreek hospital, which opened in 1973. There was a 1940 hymnal, photographs from the 1890s and even a prayer book from 1886. An 1892 edition of the Deseret News peeped outside of the open box by the time they stopped for the morning.
“This is just so cool,” Bradshaw said, explaining he had never experienced anything quite like Monday’s event. “I am surprised with some of what’s in there. Just the dates, when you go back to some of the items from there from 1886 and some of the pictures that go back to the 1800s, as well.”
The time capsule plays into the interesting history of St. Mark’s Hospital, which is essentially a standing byproduct of the transcontinental railroad.
While there were physicians in the 1847 pioneer settlement, Utah doctors would go from home to home. The territory didn’t have a hospital at all as it surpassed 10,000 residents and continued to grow from its place along the rails at the beginning of the 1870s.
It’s why Bishop Daniel S. Tuttle, with the Episcopal Church, began raising funds from local businessmen to build what would become Utah’s first hospital. It opened in the area of 400 South and 500 East in Salt Lake City on April 30, 1872, according to the hospital’s history. The small adobe building contained just six beds and one physician.
The first expansion began less than a decade later, even if it was equally modest by today’s standards, doubling its number of beds to 12 in 1879. Then, in 1893, it moved to a much larger facility that contained 35 beds, near the natural warm springs by Salt Lake City’s northern boundary. It opened the state’s first nursing school the following year.
This appears to be about the time the original capsule came into play. Documents seem to indicate the first time capsule was installed at the second location back in 1892.
While it expanded with time, it wasn’t until the 1970s that St. Mark’s Hospital ended up in its current Millcreek location. That’s also when the time capsule comes into play. Construction of the hospital on 3900 South began in 1970. By June 1971, administrators have uncovered the original capsule and padded onto it.
In addition to a newspaper from the time, new books and site plans for the Millcreek location, they put a list of every hospital employee into the box, as well as coins and other trinkets from the time before they sealed it up again. The hospital site opened its doors in 1973.
All the years later, the hospital now holds more than 300 beds and has a capacity over 50 times the capacity of the original hospital 150 years ago. As St. Mark’s Hospital’s 150th anniversary nears and it undergoes even more expansion, administrators figured Monday was the perfect time to find out exactly what was inside that box.
“Today is about celebrating history — the history of this hospital, the history of medicine and the history of our state,” said Bradshaw, standing by the capsule.
“This capsule represents 150 years in our community,” he added. “That is 150 years of babies being born and growing families here, 150 years of saving lives and saying goodbye to who we’ve lost, 150 years of medical advancements and preventive medicine.”
St. Mark’s plans to create a museum where people can see some of the contents of the time capsule. However, the plan is to keep traditions alive while crews work on a new tower that’s slated to be completed by the end of next year, which is also the 50-year celebration of the current location.
Hospital staff plan to have a similar ceremony in the near future, where they put in items representing present-day Utah.
When the box is recovered sometime in the future, Bradshaw wants people to know this updated version of St. Mark’s history.
“I hope future generations will remember that … we’re here to care for the community,” he said. “I also hope they remember the long history — being Utah’s first hospital and yet we’re still here, we’re still growing and we’re still meeting (the community’s) needs.”