In 1854, The Sisters of St. Joseph, a congregation of St. Joseph that traces its roots back to the 17th century in France, arrived in Buffalo. Organized as confraternities of mercy, they inspired ordinary women who lived among the people to missions of mercy and healing. The St. Joseph Orphan Boys Asylum was built in Lackawanna in 1857 and the St. Joseph Protectory in 1864. The Sisters of St. Joseph staffed these organizations and welcomed Father Nelson Baker when he came to Lackawanna in 1876.
Despite original protests against the need for a hospital, Dr. M.A. Sullivan (a Baker Boy) and the Sisters convinced Father Baker to build a facility that was completed in 1919. The hospital expanded over the years to include a school of nursing, four additional buildings and many other healthcare services. The Our Lady of Victory (OLV) Hospital and the Sisters of St. Joseph provided compassionate and high quality care to the residents of Lackawanna and the surrounding area for 80 years.
In December of 1999, Catholic Health merged inpatient Emergency and Surgical Services at Our Lady of Victory Hospital with Mercy Hospital following a comprehensive study of the two facilities. The hospital campuses are less than two miles apart.
Until 2004, the OLV facility provided community health services including Laboratory, X-Ray, Community Education, and Ambulatory Surgery. During that time, Catholic Health dedicated time and attention to create the vision to find the best use for the OLV campus, its buildings, and the community. It was determined that a multi-level care and living community for low and moderate income seniors would, given the aging population of Western New York, serve the community consistent with our Mission and Core Values.
The decision to close OLV Hospital presented an opportunity to reinvigorate and transform the former hospital into a multi-dimensional, multi-service, and multi-disciplinary facility serving seniors and their families. In 2003, the Catholic Health Board of Directors approved a new vision for OLV to transform the building into an attractive and unique senior neighborhood. This facility would reflect a national trend toward less institutional and more neighborly settings, offering a spectrum of services and amenities to seniors of all ages and conditions. As such, the Our Lady of Victory Renaissance Corporation was formed as a 501 (c)3 and received the only remaining assets from the former Our Lady of Victory Hospital Corporation of Lackawanna: the buildings.
Many ideas were considered, and it was determined that the final plans should reflect innovative and cutting-edge trends towards senior care, incorporating Green House Project concepts.
The OLV Senior Neighborhood concept was enthusiastically received by local business, political and civic leaders. The project focused not only on the reuse of the building, but the preservation of the two architecturally significant buildings that were constructed under Father Baker's direction in 1919 and 1929.
Additionally, the senior neighborhood is an economic development initiative for the City of Lackawanna; the campus employs over 235 people (in addition to the hundreds of jobs created during construction). The building and its planned Gas Light Park enhance the attractiveness and popularity of two immediately adjacent landmarks: Our Lady of Victory Basilica and the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, a Frederick Law Olmstead park.
The construction of Father Baker Gaslight Park was completed in September 2008.