Providence St. Joseph Hospital

Located at 501 S. Buena Vista St. in Burbank, directly across the street from the Walt Disney Studios, Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center is the San Fernando Valley's largest hospital. Founded in 1943 by the Sisters of Providence Health System, Providence Saint Joseph is known for its state-of-the-art technology and the high quality, compassionate care provided. Disneyphiles also know it as the place where Walt Disney plotted out designs for his property in Florida on acoustical ceiling tiles before succumbing to acute circulartory collapse on December 15, 1966.

While hospitals may not be the cheeriest places in the world -- and not necessarily someplace one would think to seek out as part of Disney's True-Life California Adventure -- Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center has many ties to both the Walt Disney Company and the Disney family, past and present. My wife, Kathy, and I got to check out some of the more interesting Disney-related things on display at the hospital during the birth of our first child April 18.

The Northeast Building, the newest wing of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center and home to Disney-sponsored maternity floors, as seen from Buena Vista Street.

When plans for the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center were being developed by the Sisters of Charity of the House of Providence in the early 1940s, one of their earliest supporters was entertainment legend Walt Disney, whose successful film and animation studio was located just across the street.

Walt not only lent his enthusiastic public support to the Saint Joseph Hospital project, he served on the Advisory Board during the hospital's development and early years. In 1943, he enlisted the help of animators from The Walt Disney Studios to provide art for the new hospital, including pieces from Disney Legend Mary Blair.

The strong bonds developed during those early years continued after Walt's death in 1966. Today, both The Walt Disney Company and the Disney Family continue their legacy of loyal support for Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center.

- from signage describing Walt Disney's legacy with the hospital

Mickey Mouse presents a check from The Walt Disney Studios to Sister Zephirin of the Sisters of Charity of the House of Providence to aid in the construction of Saint Joseph Hospital in 1943.

Entertainment legend Walt Disney turns over the first piece of sod during the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in 1943. Archbishop J.F.A. McIntyre officiated at the event, which was attended by church officials, the Sisters of Charity of the House of Providence, and invited guests.

Entering into the front driveway of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, visitors will drive into Disney Plaza. The Walt Disney Company, members of the Disney family and notable employees are among the donors listed on a board inside the lobby area of the hospital. The terra cotta-colored building in the background is part of the Disney Studios across the street from the hospital.

The Walt Disney Company Foundation sponsors the Labor and Delivery floor at St. Joseph Hospital. Just outside the nursery is this statue of Dumbo and Mr. Stork. Throughout the Labor and Delivery floor, artwork themed to Dumbo adorns the walls. Roy E. and Patricia A. Disney sponsor the guest waiting room on this floor.

Some of the artwork inside the Labor and Delivery area feature pencil sketches and storyboards from the film Dumbo. Particularly appropriate for the venue is the drawing of Mr. Stork asking, "Which one of you ladies is expectin' ......"

Much of the rest of the floor has colorful, framed images from the film, like this scene featuring Casey Jr., along the hallway walls just outside each patient's room.

After a short recovery period on the Labor and Delivery floor, patients are transported up to the women's pavilion on the fourth floor where they stay in a postpartum suite until discharged from the hospital. This is a view of the Team Disney building at the Walt Disney Studios as seen from our suite's window.

Whereas the entire third floor has artwork from Dumbo, the fourth floor is adorned with images by Disney artist Mary Blair. The pictures feature images that inspired it's a small world, a mural once displayed in Disneyland's Tomorrowland and the South American "package films" -- Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. Here's Kathy and Chelsea during one of our evening walks around the floor. One of the nurses saw us taking pictures and commented how "ugly" the artwork was.

Disney artist Mary Blair presents an original mural inspired by the Disney animated film Dumbo to Mother Marcien and Sister Flora Mary in 1943. The mural was a familiar sight in the hospital's nursery for many years.

I didn't notice the above mural on display but below are some of the images from around the recovery floor. Click on each image for a larger view ...

While it's probably not possible to simply show up at the hospital and expect to check out the various Dumbo and Mary Blair artwork on display, Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center does offer free tours of the maternity units to parents-to-be and their families. Those interested may want to make their request known to Mr. Stork, as we did, so that they can visit themselves in nine months time.

- Story and Photos by Matthew Walker
Posted May 19, 2006

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