A History of Caring

Sponsorship of the Sisters of Mercy

Catherine McAuley StatueOn a chilly November 11, 1874, six Sisters of Mercy arrived in Baltimore to take charge of a health dispensary called the Baltimore City Hospital.

Catherine McAuley Statue

Catherine McAuley Establishes the Sisters of Mercy

The Sisters of Mercy were founded by Catherine McAuley in 1824. She had used a large inheritance to build a refuge for homeless and abused women on Baggot Street in Dublin, Ireland. Through prayerful deliberation and consultation with other women who had joined in her cause, Catherine would agree to found a new religious congregation. In 1831, along with two of her associates, Catherine McAuley took religious vows to become a Sister of Mercy. The group of Catholic women was the first order to leave their cloistered convent to walk the streets of Ireland, becoming known as the “walking nuns.”

Upon Catherine’s death in 1841, there were as many as 150 Sisters of Mercy, and shortly thereafter, small groups of Sisters left Ireland to serve the needs of those in various other countries, including the United States.

The Sisters Arrive in Baltimore

On a chilly day in November 11, 1874, six Sisters of Mercy led by Sister Mary Augustine Gwynne arrived in Baltimore to take charge of a health dispensary named Baltimore City Hospital. City Hospital, established four years prior by the Washington University School of Medicine, was located in a former schoolhouse at the corner of Calvert and Saratoga Streets. It was a meager establishment whose purpose was to care for the poor patients in Downtown Baltimore.

At that time, participating doctors received clinical experience to supplement their medical education. However, not long after opening, it became apparent that the dispensary needed effective nursing care and leadership and the doctors invited the Sisters of Mercy to take over the facility.

The Influence of the Sisters Continues

Sister FranIn 1909, the hospital's name changed from Baltimore City Hospital to Mercy Hospital. Since that time, 16 Sisters of Mercy have served as President of what is now known as Mercy Medical Center, and many more have offered their caring and devoted touch to families in and around the City of Baltimore with the expansion of the hospital. Mercy Medical Center, with its expansive primary care doctors and physician specialists, renowned reputation in Women’s Health, Orthopedics, Cancer and Digestive Health and long-standing reputation for quality nursing care, continues to thrive through the influence of the Sisters of Mercy.

Heritage of Mercy's Academic Affiliation

Institute for Gynecologic Care at MercyMercy Medical Center has cherished its legacy as a teaching hospital for physicians and continues to serve as a host site for a number of college nurse training programs and their clinical hospital training.

Institute for Gynecologic Care at Mercy

Mercy’s Heritage of Medical Education

Since the beginning, Mercy has cherished its legacy as a teaching hospital for physicians. Prior to the Civil War, actual hands-on clinical training for physicians was not standardized. So when a handful of medical colleges began partnerships with hospitals to ensure student doctors received quality clinical training, Washington University School of Medicine joined forces to improve standardized care.

Washington University School of Medicine was founded in 1827 and eventually the physician leadership opened a hospital in Downtown Baltimore to care for the poor. It was in 1874 when the university’s faculty invited the Sisters of Mercy to join the Washington University Hospital, also known as City Hospital, and so began a long history of physician training at our downtown site. 

In 1878, Washington University was absorbed by the College of Physicians and Surgeons and ownership of the hospital was transferred to the Sisters of Mercy. The College of Physicians and Surgeons also opened a second hospital on this campus known as Maryland Women’s Hospital. The College’s teaching partnership with the Sisters of Mercy lasted until 1916, when the College of Physicians and Surgeons was absorbed by the University of Maryland School of Medicine and ultimately created a new partnership - a treasured relationship which continues today.

Mercy’s School of Nursing

Mercy NursesThe Sisters of Mercy established the Baltimore City Hospital School of Nursing on this campus in 1899. The school trained hundreds of students to become professional nurses, including many Sisters of Mercy.  The vigorous training program required that students live on campus throughout their training.

When the Sisters of Mercy officially changed the hospital’s name to Mercy in 1909, the school became known as the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing.  The nursing school continued to operate on this campus until 1974.

Sister Annella Martin, RSM, holds the distinction of serving as the last Director of the Mercy Hospital School of Nursing. Upon the school’s closing, Sister Damian Faller, RSM, helped establish the new School of Nursing at the Community College of Baltimore which continued the mission of training student nurses.   Mercy continues to serve as a host site for a number of college nurse training programs and their clinical hospital training.

Commitment and Relationship to the City of Baltimore

Preston Gardens CelebrationMercy’s future remains the same, focused on the same goal, the same mission—to care for Baltimore's sick, no matter their economic or social condition.

Preston Gardens Celebration

While it’s the Sisters of Mercy and the hospital’s heritage of medical education that have helped make Mercy Medical Center a leading regional medical institution, it’s the relationship with the community in which it serves that has made Mercy’s success possible for more than 135 years.

The Sisters of Mercy Provide Aid During the Great Baltimore Fire

Since the day the Sisters arrived in Baltimore, Mercy Medical Center has been caring for the needs of the city. A favorite story recounts this dedication to serving the community during the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 that destroyed most of the city. As firefighters worked hard to fight the flames, the Sisters of Mercy cared for the injured men and served them coffee and sandwiches around the clock. When flames threatened to destroy the hospital itself, the Sisters resorted to group prayer. Legend has it that soon after their prayers began a sudden and fortunate change in the prevailing wind ultimately diverted flames away from Mercy. This dedication and commitment helped to develop a relationship with Baltimore Ciity that continues to this day.

Economic Development in the Heart of Baltimore

Tom MullenThe city of Baltimore has certainly seen a lot of change over the decades, but one thing that has remained constant is Mercy Medical Center.

While caring for the needs of the people within the community, the hospital has remained an anchor for the city of Baltimore, providing valuable jobs for employees, continually investing in the local economy and shining a positive light on the city’s image.

In the 1940s, Mercy’s Advisory Board made a critical decision to keep the hospital downtown citing its allegiance to the city of Baltimore and since that day, Mercy has continued to invest and grow. Physically, the hospital has seen the addition of numerous projects, including the opening of our Patient Tower in the 1960s, our Professional Office Building in the 1990s and The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center in 2003. Perhaps Mercy’s most important project to date and its biggest investment in the community is the state-of-the-art Main Hospital, The Mary Catherine Bunting Center, which opened in 2010. Mercy continues to make dramatic improvements, including renovations of McAuley Tower. The former inpatient hospital now offers Mercy updated and refreshed office space, allowing Mercy to relocate as many as 150 employees back to the Downtown Baltimore campus.

Throughout the years, as Mercy has grown, so has Baltimore. Mercy was part of the downtown renaissance which saw the creation of the Charles Center and the Inner Harbor. Through organizations like the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) and the Downtown Partnership, and through strong relationships with government officials and business and civic leaders, Mercy has expanded, becoming a regional medical center with physicians and staff boasting national and international reputations in fields ranging from women’s health to cancer surgery to orthopedics to digestive health. 

Mercy Positioned for a Bright Future in Baltimore

Mercy’s future remains the same, focused on the same goal, the same mission—to care for the sick, no matter their economic or social condition. With continued investment in first-rate programs and services for the people of Baltimore, we are poised to carry on that mission for today, tomorrow and for many, many years to come.


The Mercy CrossA detailed timeline of Mercy Medical Center's founding and history.

Key dates in Mercy Medical Center's history:

1874 Sisters of Mercy assume control of the Baltimore City Hospital, also known as Washington University Hospital
1878 Washington University and College of Physicians and Surgeons merge; Hospital control goes to Sisters of Mercy
1880s John Philip Sousa plays benefit concert to fund new Mercy buildings
1897 Hospital establishes City's first Pasteur Institute to treat rabies
1899 Mercy School of Nursing opens its doors and enrolls first class
1904 Sisters tend to injured firefighters during Great Baltimore Fire
1909 Hospital changes its name to Mercy Hospital
1916 Physician medical education affiliation begins with University of Maryland School of Medicine
1920 Mercy opens area's first Brochoscopic Clinic
1930s Sisters feed homeless in breadlines behind hospital during Great Depression
1940s Sisters recommit to Baltimore City, decide to remain downtown
1943 Baltimore's first Anticoagulant Clinic opens at Mercy
1947 Mercy makes key decision to stay in downtown Baltimore
1958 Mercy breaks ground for inpatient Tower Building
1963 Construction of Mercy's Tower Building complete
1968 Mercy opens Coronary Intensive Care Unit
1975 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) opens
1979 Hospital opens one of the first Birthing Rooms with homelike décor
1984 WomanCare, providing women access to full spectrum of services begins
1988 Mercy Hospital changes name to Mercy Medical Center
1991 Professional Office Building /Sr. Mary Thomas Conference Center opens
1992 Sr. Helen Amos, RSM, appointed Mercy President and CEO
1994 Center for Women's Health and Medicine at Mercy opens now featuring The Gynecology Center, The Breast Center, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery and Women's Imaging

Internationally renowned surgeon Dr. Neil B. Rosenshein joins Mercy as Director of The Gynecologic Oncology Center at Mercy
1996 Mercy named among Top 100 Hospitals in the nation
1997 Stella Maris, Maryland's largest long term care facility, becomes part of Mercy family

Mercy named One of America's 10 Best Women's Centers
  Worthington Personal Physicians joins as a primary care satellite of Mercy
1998 The Vascular Center at Mercy opens
1999 Mercy celebrates 125 years of providing service at same location in downtown Baltimore

Thomas R. Mullen becomes Mercy's first lay President and CEO as Sr. Helen Amos is appointed Executive Chair of Mercy Health Services
2001 Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation gives Mercy $10 million for the construction of a new, signature building in the downtown campus

Senior living campus Mercy Ridge opens in Timonium
2002 Mary Catherine Bunting gives Mercy $5 million for Pastoral Care and spiritual services for patients

The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital at Mercy opens featuring The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction and The Maryland Spine Center

Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery at Mercy opens
2003 The new Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center and Saratoga Parking Center (Weinberg Garage) open. The Weinberg Center houses Mercy's Women's Specialty Programs, the Surgery Center at Weinberg, Radiation Oncology Department and Cancer Services.
2004 Overlea Personal Physicians, a major primary care satellite of Mercy opens new facility
2005 The Heart Center at Overlea opens at Overlea Personal Physicians
2006 The Institute for Cancer Care at Mercy opens under the medical expertise of Dr. Armando Sardi
2007 Mercy Medical Center receives its largest ever philanthropic gift to construct a new, 20-story hospital on its campus

Mercy opens a new 1,300-space parking garage (The Bunting Garage) which will provide all-weather access to the new hospital upon its completion
2008 The Institute for Digestive Health & Liver Disease opens under the leadership of Drs. David Posner and Paul Thuluvath
2010 Mercy opens its new hospital, The Mary Catherine Bunting Center, featuring all private patient rooms and 15 new state-of-the-art operating rooms

The Center for Endocrinology at Mercy opens featuring The Bone Health Center at Mercy, The Diabetes Center at Mercy and The Thyroid Center at Mercy
2011  Lutherville Personal Physicians, Mercy's third satellite primary care location, opens 
2012 Mercy officially opens its new Family Childbirth and Children’s Center in The Mary Catherine Bunting Center
2013 Dr. Dwight Im, Director of Mercy's Center for Gynecologic Oncology, forms the National Institute of Robotic Surgery at Mercy

Renovations in McAuley Tower offer new and updated office space, allowing Mercy to relocate 150 employees back to the Downtown Baltimore campus
  Mercy opens its fourth primary care location, Glen Burnie Personal Physicians 
 2014 Under the leadership of Dr. Neil Rosenshein, Mercy opens The Lya Segall Ovarian Cancer Institute
 2016 Mercy opens The Crane Surgery Suite, located in The Mary Catherine Bunting Center
  Mercy rebrands its Community Physician Sites to Mercy Personal Physicians 
About Mercy
The Sisters of Mercy
Sister Helen Amos
Sister Helen Amos

Sister Helen Amos, RSM was named Executive Chair of the Board of Trustees of Mercy Health Services, Inc. in 1999.

Learn More about The Sisters of Mercy ›
Patient Story:
The Institute for Foot and Ankle Reconstruction at Mercy - Baltimore, MD

Inspiring stories of Mercy Medical Center patients overcoming tough diagnoses and beating the odds.

See all Patient Stories ›