The History of Mercy Hospital in Flagstaff, Arizona

Flagstaff ca. 1899; view of Post Office and other buildings on Terrace Street

Mercy Hospital was established in Flagstaff, Arizona by the Arizona Lumber and Timber Company for use by company workers and other community members.

In the late 1800s the Arizona Lumber and Timber Company, under the leadership of the Riordans and Fred Sisson, dominated the west side of Flagstaff. The mill stood in the vicinity of today’s Days Inn and the company’s offices would be located in the Riordan Building at the corner of today’s Riordan Road and West Route 66. Brothers Timothy and Michael Riordan later built a house their families shared which today is the centerpiece of Riordan Mansion State Historic Park.

Milton Hospital is Established in Flagstaff

In 1888 Flagstaff nurse Mary Carroll opened the company’s first medical facility, eventually called Milton Hospital. Mrs. Carroll operated the facility out of her boarding house and the operation was funded by monthly employee fees ranging from 50 cents to $1.

Eleven years later the company built a house for general manager Sisson at the corner of today’s Riordan Road and Metz Walk, just east of the Riordan Building. Sisson lived in the house until his untimely death in 1908. Two years later the company moved the Milton Hospital from Mary Carroll’s cramped boarding house to Sisson’s house. In 1921 it was renamed Mercy Hospital and served not only company workers but also other community members.

By the 1930s the medical needs of Flagstaff were outgrowing the small hospital and a larger, more modern facility was needed. Charles Sechrist built the Flagstaff Hospital and on January 1, 1936, patients from Mercy Hospital were moved over and Mercy was closed.

Mercy Hospital Reopens Briefly as the Doctors’ Hospital

By the 1950s dissension about the operation of the Flagstaff Hospital had grown between staff members and administrator Sechrist. A group of doctors split off from the hospital to form a second one, which they named Doctors’ Hospital. They set up operations in the old Mercy Hospital building and opened doors on January 1, 1954.

Over the next several months the internal problems of the Flagstaff Hospital were worked out; Sechrist turned over operations to a board of trustees, which worked to mend fences with the unhappy doctors who had broken away. By the summer of 1955 this was accomplished and the two groups decided to rejoin forces.

On August 1 Doctor’s Hospital was closed and the building was never again used as a hospital. Equipment was moved to the Flagstaff Hospital, renamed Flagstaff Community Hospital; in 1983 it was again renamed Flagstaff Medical Center.

Mercy Hospital Building Burns Down

The old Mercy Hospital building, which remained under the ownership of the Arizona Lumber and Timber Company, stood vacant for years. It was known by some youth as the haunted house and was commonly broken into by trespassers.

On the evening of October 23, 1979 a fire broke out in the building. Despite the efforts of 15 firemen the building was destroyed. For the next quarter of a century the empty lot was an eyesore; overgrown weeds and trash dominated the landscape, and the land was commonly occupied by transients. The only reminder that a structure once stood there was the malpais rock wall that ran along Riordan Road.

In recent years the wall was removed and an office building was constructed on the site. Though the physical reminders are all gone, the legacy of the site is preserved in the new building’s name, the Riordan Mills Center.


  1. Arizona Daily Sun, October 24, 1979 edition.
  2. Cline, Platt. 1994. Mountain Town: Flagstaff’s First Century. Northland Publishing.