Husband, wife to renovate abandoned hospital

Anonymous donation matches any funds couple raises; couple plans to turn building into community center



St. Ignatius was built in 1892 and officially closed in 1962. It served as a manor hospital and saw that the general needs of the public were cared for.

MOLLY WILK, Evergreen reporter

A Colfax couple purchased the town’s abandoned St. Ignatius Hospital after a long journey negotiating with many owners.  

Local business owner Austin Storm described finding St. Ignatius as serendipity. He said it would be a tragedy if no one saved the building, and he knew he needed to fill that role.

Austin and his wife Laura Storm attempted to purchase the hospital several times over seven years. Previous owners set the building’s price too high, and some were just reluctant to sell it, Austin said. 

This year, things finally fell into place for the couple. A few months ago, they received an anonymous donation that will match whatever money is raised through the project’s Indiegogo campaign, he said.

“I don’t think you really own something this crazy,” Austin said, “you are someone who is taking care of it for the community and the next generation.”

The Storms partnered with Whitman County Historical Society and Colfax Area Chamber of Commerce to help fund the project and run community tours. The project should take around two years to complete, requiring serious work to the building’s structural integrity, he said. 

“There’s a big hole in the roof that’s been there for twenty years,” Austin said. “The rain has caused the floors to sag in one spot through all four floors. Nothing has collapsed, but if it did, it would be potentially ruinous to our ability to save the building.” 

Fifty percent of the funds generated from community tours are used to pay for the renovations, Austin said. Historical tours are available during the daytime along with ghost tours at night, WCHS director Valerie Gregory said.

Fifteen thousand visitors have come in the last seven years for tours, traveling from as far as Illinois and Tennessee, she said. 

There is no plan in place for the building’s purpose once completed. Austin said he hopes the building will serve as a community center with many functions due to its size. Among his ideas are classroom spaces, an event center, a hotel or a restaurant. 

“[I have] less plans and more dreams,” he said. “We’re open to the fact that as we get into it, we’ll have even better ideas, but we’ve always wanted it to have a community-focused feel.” 

Gregory said everyone in the project believes the goal is to preserve the building’s history. The building was built in 1892 and officially closed in 1962. It served as a manor hospital and saw that the general needs of the public were cared for. 

“Even if it takes years and years to renovate,” she said, “my vision has always been that the building needs to be preserved and saved.”