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St. Michael's 160th anniversary an opportunity to celebrate St. Luke’s connection

Nurses in front of the original St. Luke's Hospital, circa 1903.
By Dave Southorn, News and Community
July 9, 2024

With its roots dating back to 1864 — just a year after the city of Boise was founded and 26 years before Idaho gained statehood — St. Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral is connected to the area’s growth since the beginning.

As part of the church’s 160-year anniversary celebrations this year, it is recognizing its history that is intertwined with major parts of Idaho’s largest city, including St. Luke’s Health System.

Bishop James Bowen Funsten dedicated St. Michael’s Cathedral at its current location on Eighth and State streets in Boise in May 1902. Six months later, he founded St. Luke’s Hospital with six beds in a two-story converted home on First and Bannock.

An early group of St. Luke's nurses, with Bishop James Bowen Funsten on the right.

When the hospital was incorporated in 1906 as St. Luke’s Hospital and Nurses’ Training School, its charter directed profits to be reinvested into facilities and charity work. St. Luke’s remains a not-for-profit organization today.

“There’s always been a great connection, obviously with how it was founded, but also through a shared mission of wanting to help people, whether they could afford it or not,” said Missy Swajkoski, the chairperson for the 160th anniversary planning committee.

Growth at St. Luke’s is hardly a new thing — the recent groundbreaking for a new hospital tower and office plaza is just the latest. The Episcopal Church oversaw multiple expansions in the early days of St. Luke’s, including a children’s hospital in 1910 and a new four-story hospital in 1928.

As St. Luke’s expanded into what is now Idaho’s largest private employer, the direct involvement of the church has decreased (St. Luke’s became a community-owned hospital in 1971), but its impact is still felt more than 100 years after St. Luke’s founding.

“It’s really a shared story of supporting a young community and it’s incredible to see both groups still vibrant today as we’ve continued to grow,” Swajkoski said.

One way St. Michael’s is recognizing the history with St. Luke’s is via a display curated by Swajkoski located in the cathedral’s entrance. It includes historical items and photos, along with a description of the connection between St. Michael’s and St. Luke’s.

The St. Luke's display inside St. Michael's Cathedral in Boise.

In turn, St. Luke’s marketing team is helping to produce a 160th anniversary booklet for members and guests, which features the church’s history and connections to other entities such as Boise State University.

Swajkoski said she has learned a few new things about her church and city through the project, including anecdotes from older members.

“They’ve told me they remember driving by St. Luke’s and seeing all these ladders outside, with parents climbing them to talk to their children that had tuberculosis through the windows,” she said.

“(The anniversary celebration is) a great opportunity for people to relive the great work done in the community and for the newer ones to learn about it.”

About The Author

Dave Southorn works in the Communications and Marketing department at St. Luke's.

Related Clinic

St. Luke's Boise Medical Center
190 E. Bannock St.
Boise, ID 83712
(208) 381-2222