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Hospital turned into child care center serves community 100 years later

Idaho Falls

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IDAHO FALLS — One building in Idaho Falls is continuing to serve the community a century after it was built as a hospital in the first half of the 1900s.

The white building with red trim and a red rooftop located at 798 South Boulevard is home to The Small World Child Care Center and has a rich history.

“This building is a fun building. When we first went through it, it was doctor offices. It was the Idaho Falls Clinic, but before that, it was the first hospital Idaho Falls had. It was Spencer Hospital and then Sacred Heart Hospital, and it was built in 1921. This year, it’s 100 years old,” said Julie Heaton, owner and director of The Small World Child Care Center.

Heaton takes pride in the building she bought years ago. According to the Museum of Idaho, the Spencer Hospital was the first private hospital in Idaho Falls and is often considered its first real hospital.

The Small World Child Care Center is on the National Register of Historic Places. Click here to look. According to the website, in 1921 Dr. H. D. Spencer moved his hospital from 101 N. Placer to this building on Boulevard. In 1941, it was acquired by the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Order Adoration and became Sacred Heart Hospital. The Sacred Heart Hospital moved in 1949.

Most recently, it’s a daycare facility. Although altered from the original design, the building is still strongly associated with its past use as a hospital.

old history
The building at 798 South Boulevard in Idaho Falls. | Courtesy National Register of Historic Places

“All of the walls are original. We’ve painted over. We’ve done a little bit of remodeling just to make it work for us. This place operated off of coal, which has been turned into natural gas … (and) there was a caretaker who lived here and helped this function,” Heaton said.

There are several rooms inside the building that act as classrooms or playrooms now for children. The rooms used to be set up as patient and exam rooms. There are still call lights on the top of the rooms, and one room used to operate as the X-ray room.

Heaton operates the historical building as a child care center that continues to help people today. Her business offers preschool, and a full range of classes to help encourage growth for ages 6 weeks to 12 year old. She’s grown her business over the years and has a staff of 25 people.

“We established this business in 1986 in May, so 35 years,” said Heaton.

More than 200 kids are registered. The Small World Child Care Center offers services throughout Idaho Falls, Blackfoot, Pocatello, Rigby, and the surrounding areas.

Since the building was a service to so many people in the community as a hospital long ago, it’s Heaton’s hope that the tradition can be carried throughout the years.

“We hope to still be known as a safe child care center, a good place for children to be raised and still serving the local community,” she said.

Heaton’s business has won several awards including, “Best Child Care Provider” in 2021.

Get a tour of the building in the video player above.