|Address:||117 East High Street|
|Architectural Style:||Eclectic; Georgianesque|
|Year Built:||c. 1918, c. 1940, 1949|
The former Mercy Hospital building resembles nothing like its humble beginnings in 1919, when the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky bought the property form the Honorable H. H. Greer, a locally prominent lawyer. It is unknown what the house looked like or when it was originally constructed, but the house remains as the nucleus of the entire complex, hidden within the center. The Sisters were able to convert Greer's former two-story brick residence into a small hospital through a generous donation from Mary Hinde Ball, whose deceased husband, John, was a banker in the city. In addition to monetary funds needed to establish the hospital, Ball also gave the Sisters the family farm at Ball's Crossing. While this proved to be a very welcome gift in the continual support of the hospital, it was later decided that the farm was more of a burden than an asset, and it was eventually sold. Because of Ball's extremely generous gift, the hospital was originally named the Hinde-Ball Mercy Hospital. This name was shortened to Mercy Hospital sometime after 1950.
When the Sisters of Charity first bought Greer's house, it was able to hold approximately twenty beds altogether, with the Sisters using the attic for living quarters. The nuns typically served an average of three years at the hospital before returning to the the Mother House in Nazareth. They were the only full-time staff at that time, and continued to come to Mount Vernon to serve the hospital until 1962. By 1926, an addition nearly 1.5 times the size of the original home was added to the rear to provide space for more beds. Over time, as the population of Mount Vernon grew and as more people took advantage of the hospital, two major additions were constructed to accommodate the increased medical assistance that the hospital provided. the first of these additions, built in 1929, was an extension of the western portion of the earlier wing. The second addition, built in 1938, was an extension of the eastern part of that wing, with a small chapel extending perpendicular to it. Mercy Hospital finally achieved accreditation in 1949, which helped the Sisters raise $1,500,000 for further alterations that same year. It was decided that two additional wings were to be constructed to accommodate more surgical rooms, offices, patient rooms, and better power units and laundry service. These additions were completed by 1953.
Great progress was made at the hospital as a result, but as science continued to make great strides in medical care and diagnostics, the outmoded hospital quickly began to lag, leading to the formation of a 10-year modernization plan in 1964. Included in the plan was to outfit the entire complex with central air, provide the most up-to-ate laboratory and x-ray department, increase the number and size of surgical rooms and outfit them with the best equipment, add an intensive care unit, and even to develop a dietary sector. Sister Philip Maria Fuhs, direct from the Mother House in Nazareth, Kentucky, took charge of overseeing the fulfillment of the many radical changes afforded by this 10-year plan. As the plan came to fruition in 1973, a total of 125 beds were available to overnight patients, as well as a new maternity ward that accommodated 17 bassinets. It was at this time that Sister Fuhs stepped down from her position and handed operations over to a newly designated Board of Directors. For the first time in over fifty years, the hospital was supervised by not only the first lay person, but also the first male administrator, James parson from Nelsonville, Ohio.
On July 1, 1978, Mercy Hospital merged with the Martin Memorial Hospital (established 1909) to form the Knox Community Hospital. Both hospitals were struggling to meet necessary healthcare requirements, threatening their accreditation. When all of their assets were transferred to the new hospital on the far east end of Coshocton Avenue, the problem of duplicated services was eliminated, making for a more cost-effective operation. That same year, the former Mercy Hospital became the Knox Community Hospital-East, servicing the citizens residing in central Mount Vernon until 1983, at which time the extension offices were consolidated into the Knox Community Hospital complex proper. The building was bought by KDRP on July 31, 1984, who turned it into a center for the Knox County Health Department, the Department of Human Services, and various other public and private offices. It was finally sold to the Knox County Commissioners in 1996, and has served as offices for the Commissioners, Treasurer, Auditor, Board of Elections, Parks Department, and other county offices since that time.
This building has seen drastic changes over the years, giving it a very eclectic appearance. Many of its features are vaguely Neo-Classical in nature, perhaps to help it blend with the other non-residential buildings located within the East High Street Historic District. A small portico, reached by a series of stone steps, is supported by six square stone columns. Above the cornice of this portico is a false balcony with a wrought-iron balustrade. Further accenting the central portion of this building is a small pediment with an elaborate arched statuary niche in the center. This niche once contained a statue of the Virgin Mary, now standing on the southern lawn of Saint Vincent de Paul's Catholic Church. Other classical detailing includes stone quoins and spandrels between the 1st and 2nd-story windows.