OSF Saint James - John W. Albrecht Medical Center

Pontiac, Illinois



1875 - A tiny band of 25 Sisters and four postulants, led by Mother Mary Xavier, took refuge in America and settled in Iowa City, Iowa. They later established their first hospital in Peoria, Illinois.


January 29, 1907 – St. James Hospital opens in Pontiac.

January 31, 1907 - The first patient, Mrs. Mary Daldy, was admitted.

By the end of the first year, 147 patients had received care.


September 1918 - Illinois was hit with an influenza epidemic and by the first week of October, the health board closed all moving picture shows, churches and public gatherings. In the second week, schools were closed, along with all pool halls.

October 11, 1918 - Orders from Springfield prohibited St. James Hospital from admitting influenza patients and receiving visitors. The next day, the local Red Cross secured a residence and converted it into an emergency hospital for influenza patients.

November 1918 - The quarantine was lifted.

May 4, 1919 - After being struck by lightning, St. James Hospital burned, leaving only a shell. All 15 patients were moved to safety. That afternoon, $33,333 was raised at a public meeting for the hospital’s reconstruction. A.N. Smith loaned a building on North Main Street to the Sisters for six months while the hospital was rebuilt.

November 1920 - The first patients were admitted to the new hospital, rebuilt with fire precautions such as lightning rods and terrazzo floors instead of wood.


One out of 12 patients at St. James Hospital was treated in a hallway or on the sun porch because of growth in the hospital's patient census.

Meds could be obtained at St. James for $5 per day while the average cost in Illinois was $11 per day. The difference was largely due to frugal management of resources and the duties performed by the Sisters, who took no payment for their work.

An 11-member non-sectarian, non-professional group of civic leaders was formed to advise the Sister Superior of St. James Hospital on community relations and hospital services. Today, this group exists as the medical center's Community Advisory Board. Any bequests made to the St. James Hospital Advisory Board were jointly administered by the board and the hospital administrator. Its approval was necessary before any expenditure of such funds could be made. All funds were to be spent for hospital improvement.

1951 - A grant of $125,000 was made available to St. James Hospital from the estate of Fritz Bolander to improve hospital facilities. This amount was matched by The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis. Shortly afterwards, the Pontiac Lodge #1019 of the Elks began a drive to provide further funds for the improvements. Administrative costs of the drive were absorbed by the Pontiac lodge.

May 1953 - Bishop William E. Cousins dedicated a $600,000, four-story addition to St. James Hospital. Forty-six beds were added, bringing the hospital capacity to 100. The new wing added a modern kitchen and cafeteria. The original intent of the campaign was to add a kitchen, cafeteria, Sisters' dining room, and a first and second floor for medical and surgical cases. The drive was so successful that a third and fourth floor were added to the plans. They housed the obstetrical department and operating rooms.

February 1956 - The hospital announced it would use a $33,200 grant from the Ford Foundation for modernization of its maternity floor.  The Ford Foundation grant provided money for an enlarged delivery room, a modern formula room next to the new nursery and remodeled doctors' and nurses' rooms. Rooms were rearranged for a more efficient obstetrical service.


December 1979 - A second fire struck in a first-floor room of the hospital's two-story, east wing. The blaze was quickly contained; however, venting the smoke was a problem. Smoke from burning X-ray negatives spread to the second floor, forcing the evacuation of nine patients. The cause was never determined.


April 1983 – St. James Hospital closed its dedicated pediatrics unit. However, two rooms were kept open, one for a three-year old girl with an inoperable brain tumor and one for her mother. The nurses took turns staying with them until the little girl passed away a few weeks later.

May 1986 – St. James Hospital hosted a rededication ceremony, celebrating a $4.5 million remodeling of the hospital, which included a facelift for the main lobby and Emergency Department waiting area, a new intensive care unit, the addition of an ambulatory care unit and 32 patient beds, new state-of-the-art equipment for the Obstetrics Department, the addition of birthing rooms, and renovation of the Surgery Department. All of the intensive care rooms became private and the obstetrics rooms became combination labor-delivery-recovery rooms, improving the privacy and comfort of patients and their families during their hospitalizations.


2002 - An entirely new "replacement facility" now called OSF Saint James - John W. Albrecht Medical Center was completed. A large portion of the funds came from the estate of a farmer who wanted to give back to the area in which he had always lived ... John W. Albrecht. Mr. Albrecht's Last Will and Testament set aside a major portion of his estate for the purpose of building a health care facility in or near the community he loved.  Employees, physicians, area residents, organizations and businesses also donated willingly to the "Partners in Progress" campaign, along with significant support from The Sisters of The Third Order of St. Francis.