Dempsey Mercy Nurse College
Instead of demolishing a vacant historic structure built nearly a century ago used to train nurses, the building is taking on a new purpose.
The recently rehabilitated Woltman Family College Building at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego has opened its doors for cancer support services for patients and families.
Built in 1926, the Italian Renaissance-style building once known as the Mercy College of Nursing carries on.
After the college closed in 1970, the building was used for various purposes until the San Diego Historical Resources Board designated it a historic site in 1999.
Since then, it has stood mostly vacant until rehabilitation work started in 2020. The rehabilitated building also currently houses various Scripps administrative departments, as well as temporary space for contractors and consultants while they work on the hospital’s ongoing master plan development.
The building, a four-story reinforced concrete structure with approximately 42,000 square feet of space, is renamed the Woltman Family College Building in honor of their philanthropic gift for the project.
Charm and More
On entering the building, visitors will encounter a variety of distinctive design features. On the first floor just beyond the main entrance are three decorative fireplaces, located in the former living room, library, and study (now part of cancer support services). Each fireplace features original tiles created by Ernest Batchelder, considered an important contributor to the American Arts and Crafts movement of the early 1900s.
Other interior building features that have been restored include French and single-panel doors with transom windows, arched corridor passageways, door and window casings, crown molding, and built-in cabinetry.
The building’s exterior evokes an air of charm, warmth, and character, with its pale peach-colored stucco walls, ornamental cast stone embellishments, wrought iron accent railings, wood-framed windows, and mission clay tile roof.
A decorative concrete facade frames the building’s main entrance, which is accessible through a recessed space adorned with ceramic tile wall treatment, hand-painted tile trim, and a terra cotta tile floor. Affixed directly above the original front doors is a historic sign announcing the building’s earlier function: “Mercy College of Nursing.”
Updated and Better than Ever
The rehabilitation began with a detailed adaptive reuse plan to restore the building’s utility in a way that allows an efficient contemporary use, while also preserving its significant historic features. Efforts focused on restoring existing building materials wherever possible and refabricating deteriorated elements to match original specifications as needed.
Rehabilitation work also included modern upgrades to meet current functional and regulatory requirements. This included the installation of new mechanical systems, such as plumbing, electrical, fire protection and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. The building also incorporates several new features to ensure accessibility for the disabled, including an exterior wheelchair lift, an interior elevator, interior ramps, and accessible restroom facilities.
“The Mercy College of Nursing is an important link to the histories of both Scripps and San Diego, so we’re thrilled to preserve its legacy for future generations,” said Scripps Health President and CEO Chris Van Gorder. “This is an example of smart adaptive use planning that blends the past with the present, enabling us to utilize the space for new purposes as we upgrade the Scripps Mercy San Diego hospital campus. It’s both a window to the past and a lookout to the future.”
Now the structure is home to cancer support services for patients receiving care at Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center locations, including Prebys Cancer Center located nearby on the Scripps Mercy San Diego campus. Services include patient navigation, pastoral counseling, family consultation, fitness classes, yoga, meditation, a patient resource library, a wig boutique and more.
Scripps Mercy San Diego is currently in the early stages of master plan development that will involve the construction of a new replacement hospital tower and support buildings. The new Prebys Cancer Center, a comprehensive outpatient facility, opened on the campus last fall.
“Philanthropy has been at the heart of Scripps since its founding by Ellen Browning Scripps and Mother Mary Michael Cummings, who dedicated themselves to providing high-quality and socially responsible health care to the San Diego community,” said John Engle, corporate senior vice president, and chief development officer with Scripps Health. “The generosity of donors has been critical to the growth and success of Scripps Mercy Hospital for more than a century and we need continued philanthropic support to make future expansion a reality.”
Those interested in visiting the patient resource library and wig boutique at the Woltman Family College Building should make an appointment by contacting [email protected] and people interested in fitness classes can call 1-800-SCRIPPS.