One hundred years ago, 1873, there was no Hospital, strictly speaking, in the City of Reading. The present Reading Hospital was operating a dispensary downtown but was not accepting inpatients. It was becoming evident to every eon that a Hospital for inpatients, as well as outpatients, was a crying need in this growing industrial city. The Reverend Msgr. George Bornemann, Pastor of St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, had long realized the necessity of a Hospital and was encouraged by the people of Reading to build one. On this premise, Msgr. Bormann, with the permission of His Excellency, the Most Reverend James F. Wood, D.D., Archbishop of Philadelphia, set about seeking ways and means of accomplishing his purpose. Msgr. Bornemann did not spare himself to bring about a haven for sick, the injured, the medical needy and the poor. Indeed this truly Christ-like undertaking is the Philosophy of the Hospital today! To care for the sick and injured, regardless of color, creed, or race, to educate nurses and other personnel, strive to advance professionally and observe the latest methods in patient care; take an active part in all civic efforts to promote the health of the people of this city.
Msgr. Bornemann, far-s seeing man of God, lost no time in securing a suitable site for the project and in 1872 purchased a two-story building in the midst o f vineyard, known as Vollmer Estate at a cost of $10,000.
In 1873, Msgr. Bornemann had the happiness of seeing his dream come true; he approached Reverend other M. Agnes of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia to accept responsibility of the Hospital. Reverend Mother Agnes, as eager as he to aid in this great charity, sent three Sisters to Reading, Sister M. Walburga, Sister M. Margaret ad Sister M. Paul, with Sister Walburga as Superior of this courageous group. The small building accommodated twelve patients, six male and six female. The Hospital was dedicated to S. Joseph, whose statue was blessed years later by the Archbishop Patrick J. Ryan of Philadelphia and was placed over the entrance of a later building facing City Park and is there at the present time.
A short time after the opening of the small Hospital, the Pathological Society of Berks County offered its services as a Medical Board. This truly was a wonderful gesture of of immense help to the “infant” Hospital and their services were greatly appreciated and welcomed by the Sisters. These devoted men were the predecessors of our Staff of today and their loyalty to St. Joseph Hospital is a tradition with our Medical Staff of the present. On the first Medical Board were the names of Drs. Martin Luther, D. L. Beaver, Jeremiah Breintenbach, Henry Landis, H. M. Nagle, J. G. Kalbach, Samuel Ermentrout and M. A. Rhoades, later supplemented by Drs. James M. Hoffman and A. J. Cressman.