Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal


Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal
c.1910
Publisher: Valentine & Sons, Montreal & Toronto

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The Royal Victoria Hospital was established in 1893 in the historic Golden Square Mile through donations by two public-spirited Scottish immigrants, the cousins Donald Smith, 1st Lord Strathcona, and George Stephen, 1st Lord Mount Stephen. In 1887, they announced a joint gift of C$1,000,000 for the construction of a free hospital in Montreal and purchased a site on Mount Royal for a further C$86,000. The site they bought was the old Frothingham estate that covered ten acres of land. During 1897 and 1898, Smith and Stephen gave another C$1,000,000 between them in Great Northern Railroad securities to establish an endowment fund to maintain the hospital. Stephen and Smith attached one caveat to their generous contribution to the City of Montreal: the hospital’s land and its buildings must only ever be used for healing. The founders intended the Royal Vic “to be for the use of the sick and ailing without distinction of race or creed,” and when it opened in 1893 it was hailed as the “finest and most perfectly equipped (hospital) on the great American continent”. The hospital originally had 150 employees, including 14 medical doctors.
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The original hospital was designed by the Scottish architect Henry Saxon Snell, who from the 1860s had made a name for himself in England and Scotland as a leading specialist in the design of hospitals, particularly in London. Constructed of Montreal limestone, the original Royal Vic is distinguished by its crenelated structures and romantic turrets framing generous sun porches at the corners of its imposing medical and surgical wards. Snell’s aesthetic plans for the Royal Vic were inspired by the Scottish baronial style of the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. From a medical perspective, his design of the Royal Vic was influenced by the ideas of Florence Nightingale as a Pavilion Hospital, in which the separation and isolation of both patients and diseases were thought to discourage the spread of infection. The original part of the building was completed in 1893. The hospital was later enlarged by the addition of new wings of the same architectural style. The H pavilion opened in 1905 as the nurses’ residence).
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