In 1921, Baton Rouge was a small river town with only 22,000 residents who needed a hospital.
Monsignor Francis Leon Gassler of St. Joseph’s Cathedral and some leading physicians invited Mother de Bethanie Crowley of the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady and St. Francis Sanitarium in Monroe for a driving tour of downtown Baton Rouge. As their car approached the old Louisiana State University Campus and the adjacent university lake – now referred to as the Capitol Lake – Mother de Bethanie ordered the car to stop.
Monsignor Gassler was aghast as the Sister purposefully picked her way through a mule yard toward a briar patch at the back of the property. He thought the area, which had been a sugar mill at the turn of the century, looked like a city dump. However, Mother de Bethanie envisioned something different: a beautiful four-story brick hospital.
The hospital was built on the 17-acre site and opened on November 4, 1923. It was named Our Lady of the Lake Sanitarium because of the lake it bordered.