Providence Builds Guest Housing

By Nancy Tannler


Providence Portland Medical Center on NE Glisan held its annual meeting with the community recently and presented plans for the Providence Guest House to be built at 44th & NE Glisan.

Rendering for Providence Guest House, 44th & NE Glisan
Rendering for Providence Guest House, 44th & NE Glisan

These units are intended for patients and family members needing a place close to the hospital to live in during treatment. The amount of time anyone can stay can range from one week to seven months depending on the situation. Rates will be determined according to need on a sliding scale.

The project is scheduled to begin in March 2014 and will be completed in a year and a half. The existing Moore Lithograph building will be completely torn down. Contractors will remove asbestos and grind up the old concrete to use in the new cement.

Providence Guest House will be like a residency hotel. There will be beds, bathrooms and mini-kitchenettes in the rooms, but the rooms are not apartments. There will be common seating areas and a common kitchen, laundry facilities etc. The rooms will accommodate a variety of sleeping arrangements.

There will be 29 onsite parking spaces, 4 handicapped spaces and 10 bicycle spots. Rick Sanders, Construction Project Manager, said, “Before designing the guest housing, the design firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects LLP, researched neighborhood architecture and took pictures of the surrounding houses incorporating certain aspects into the plans.”

Representatives from North Tabor and Laurelhurst were okay with the design although they expressed concern about what would be happening during the building and how it will effect the immediate neighbors.

Jean Marks, Manager for Public Relations, said,  “There will be minimal construction disruptions to neighbors as it will all be on Providence property. We will notify neighbors of anything that affects them, as we do now with construction projects.”

Marks gave a report on Providence’s acts of charity in 2012. Providence in Oregon (eight hospitals including Providence Portland and more than 90 clinics) provided $237 million in community benefits in 2012. Their charitable contribution is up 88% since 2006. This is an act of charity their founders would be proud of.

Placards on the walls depict the history of  the Sisters of Providence, the first nuns who came here from Montreal to build schools and hospitals to serve the poor. Providence Academy in Vancouver was one of the first schools the Sisters owned. The school closed in 1968, but the accomplishments of these five women lives on in the hospitals and schools they established.


History of Providence

The Sisters of Providence were founded in Montreal in 1843 by Emilie Gamelin, a young widow inspired by her love of Christ to serve those in need: the poor, hungry and sick. The people were so grateful for her help that they referred to her work as “Providence”.

In 1856 Augustin-Magloire Blanchet, was the bishop of the new Diocese of Nesqually (now the Archdiocese of Seattle). He approached Mother Émilie to help in his diocese in the Pacific Northwest. Mother Joseph was chosen to lead four companions as missionaries to that region.

Mother Joseph was born Esther Pariseau in Saint-Elzéar, Quebec, Canada. She entered the convent of Sisters of Providence at the age of 20. The oldest daughter of a large family, she was adept at reading, writing, accounting, sewing, cooking, spinning and all types of housework.

She was also an excellent carpenter. Learning from her father who was a carriage-maker. When he left her at the convent, he said to Mother Gamelin…“She succeeds in anything she undertakes. I assure you, Madame, that she will make a good Superior some day.”

The nuns accompanied Bishop Blanchet to the Pacific Northwest Territories traveling by train for over a month before arriving in Vancouver, Washington on December 8. The Vicar General had not made arrangements for their housing, so their first days were spent sleeping in the attic of the bishop’s small home.

Within a few months, the Sisters had made their home in a small cabin that served as both their convent and first school. It opened April 14, 1857.

They cared for several orphans and an elderly man who was homeless. Eventually Blanchet gave them two acres on the St. James Mission Claim, where they built a small group of multi-purpose buildings. The Sisters named their new home Providence of the Holy Angels.

Over the next few years, it housed the convent, novitiate and infirmary, an orphanage for both boys and girls, a boarding and day school, rooms for the elderly and insane and the first St. Joseph Hospital. The Sisters cared for the clergy of St. James Cathedral, as well as visiting the poor and sick in their homes.

The diocese became involved in a long dispute over ownership of the St. James Mission Claim, so it was not to become the Sisters’ permanent mission site. Instead, Mother Joseph purchased property away from the disputed area and protected the Sisters’ interests through incorporation as the “Sisters of Charity of the House of Providence in the Territory of Washington” on January 28, 1859.

It remains one of Washington State’s oldest corporations and the parent corporation for the Providence Health System.

Mother Joseph designed and supervised construction of Providence Academy and would often be found inspecting the work, jumping on crossbeams, making sure everything was plum.

The local Hidden Brick Company supplied the bricks for the four-story structure and the sisters and their orphans and boarders moved into the Academy on 7 September 1874.

In 1980, the state of Washington recognized her many talents and contributions by naming her as one of the state’s two representatives to the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall Collection.

A bronze statue of Mother Joseph, created by Felix W. de Weldon, sculptor of the USMC War Memorial commemorating the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima, was given to the collection of the Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. Additionally, the State of Washington celebrates her birthday as an official state holiday.

She was also inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame!

Mother Joseph died of a brain tumor on January 19, 1902, at Providence Academy in Vancouver, Washington, leaving a legacy of humanitarian service.

She was responsible for the completion of eleven hospitals, seven academies, five schools for Native American children, and two orphanages throughout an area that now encompasses Washington, northern Oregon, Idaho, and Montana.

Today the Province of Mother Joseph, which covers the Sisters of Providence of that region, honors her faith and pioneering spirit.


Providence Builds Guest Housing

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