Rehabilitated Historic College Building Opens at Scripps Mercy Hospital

Note to Patients: The following news is posted for archival purposes only. Scripps no longer has a formal partnership with MD Anderson Cancer Center. We currently provide comprehensive cancer care through Scripps Cancer Center.

After nearly 100 years, former nursing college has new role

Exterior of the Woltman Family College Building now open at Scripps Mercy Hospital San Diego following its rehabilitation.

After nearly 100 years, former nursing college has new role

A historic structure built nearly a century ago to train nurses is now taking on a new purpose, as 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 was previously known as the Mercy College of Nursing. 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 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.”

"We’re thrilled to preserve its legacy for future generations."

Chris Van Gorder, Scripps Health president and CEO

The building is renamed the Woltman Family College Building in honor of their philanthropic gift for the project. 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.

Today, 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. 

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 Woltman Family College Building is a four-story reinforced concrete structure with approximately 42,000-square feet of space. 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.”

Upon 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. 

Rehabilitation work also included modern upgrades to meet current functional and regulatory requirements. This included 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. 

Scripps Mercy San Diego is currently in the early stages of master plan development that will involve 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.

Scripps Health’s facilities design and construction department oversaw all aspects of the building rehabilitation work. Heritage Architecture & Planning prepared the project’s adaptive reuse analysis and planning, while Dempsey Construction served as general contractor and Spectra Company handled specialty historical restoration and fabrication work.

“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 and people interested in fitness classes can call 800-727-4777. Information about ways to support Scripps Mercy Hospital’s master plan development is available via the Here for Good campaign.

Learn more about Scripps Health, a nonprofit integrated health system in San Diego, Calif.

Media Contact

Steve Carpowich

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