By LeAnn Lemberger
OTTUMWA — Anticipation filled the air as a time capsule, sealed in the cornerstone of Ottumwa’s St. Joseph Hospital when the building was erected in 1925, was opened earlier this month.
St. Joseph Hospital, operated by the Sisters of the Humility of Mary, closed in 1987. The building was sold to Ottumwa Regional Health Center and for years housed doctors’ offices, psychiatric services and treatment centers, and is scheduled to be demolished later this year.
The time capsule, discovered when the cornerstone was removed in May, was opened July 2 as more than 100 people looked on. About 10 members of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary attended.
Ottumwa Regional maintenance specialist Harry Williams chiseled away the last seal and removed the cover to find the capsule contents sealed in a welded copper box. Inside were newspapers, medals contributed by the Sisters, a rosary, business cards of the architect and contractors, stamps, coins and a small unidentified wooden relic.
Some of the Sisters speculated the relic might be from Tally Hospital, the first hospital in Ottumwa, founded by the Sisters in 1879. Its successor, St. Joseph Hospital, was founded in 1914 near downtown Ottumwa, remaining in that location until the new building on East Alta Vista Avenue was dedicated May 28, 1925.
The hospital trained more than 700 registered nurses and 25 X-ray technicians. At its peak, St. Joseph Hospital employed 350 staff members and offered 120 acute care beds.