History of Port Hope’s Cottage Hospital

Port Hope’s first private hospital, managed by Dr. W. McKinley was opened in 1911. A public meeting was held in the town hall in April, 1911 to discuss plans for a new public hospital. An executive committee was appointed to handle subscriptions to a hospital fund, members were Port Hope’s Mayor R. A. Mulholland (President), John Hume, John H. Helm, H.T. Bush, A.H.C. Long, Colonel H.A. Ward, J.L. Schwartz, E.J.W. Burton (Secretary), E.M. Thurber (Vice President), G.H. Ralston, H.H. Burnham, A.E. Pipher, Barlow Cumberland, R. Grandy, C.C. Mann and J. Stephenson. A group of local women who were to become the Women’s Hospital Mission through the efforts of Mrs. E.J.B. Burton, wife of the Canadian National Railway agent established a goal of $20,000 which was soon reached thanks to local residents.

John Hume offered a site at the Corner of the Base Line and Hope Street as the new hospital site which Dr. Bruce Smith, Inspector of Public Relations, Toronto highly approved. By May 1911, the Port Hope Hospital Trust was incorporated as a Private Liability Company under “The Ontario Companies Act” for the purpose of erecting and maintaining a Hospital in the town of Port Hope to be known as “The Port Hope Hospital.”  Architects were consulted to obtain plans for the hospital building, costs stipulated not to exceed $15,000.

Soon after at a public meeting in the Town Hall, it was announced that the late John Helm had provided in his Will, $100,000 for construction of a Counties Hospital on the property recently occupied by him (Belgrave/Greenwood Tower) on the Cobourg Road. The meeting resolved that if the United Counties (Northumberland & Durham) accepted the conditions stated in the Will and erected a Hospital, the Port Hope Hospital Trust would pay $10,000 to the authorities in charge of the United Counties Hospital. Two days later the Counties Council voted against acceptance of the $100,000 bequest. Mr. Helms Will, also included a bequest of $20,000 for the Hospital in Port Hope if it were in “active and successful” operation two years after his death, which occurred in January, 1912. Mr. John Helm again offered his lot to the Trust or the value in cash. The use of the lot for hospital purposes was precluded due to the decision of the Canadian Pacific Railway to build a railway in the vicinity.

Of all other sites inspected, the favoured was the Janes lot at the corner of Hope and Ward Streets, with approximately two and a half acres of land, the west boundary was Princess Street and to the south private property. The purchase price of $5,000 included the two-storey brick house (circa 1865) on Hope Street, once owned by Colonel William McLean who owned a piano and organ business adjoining the fire hall on Walton Street.   J. Stanley McLean later donated $25,000 to the Port Hope Hospital. After inspecting the property, the architect, Mr. Burry had a great idea, the house could serve as a temporary “Cottage” Hospital until the new one was completed and the Janes family graciously returned $1,000 of the purchase price of the lot as a donation to the hospital. By now with bequests and the prospect of $20,000 from the Helm estate, funds now collected totaled more than $50,000 before the first annual meeting.

At the Trust meeting in June, 1912, approval was granted to proceed building the new cottage hospital on the agreed site at a cost of $30,000, leaving a balance of $20,000 for expected maintenance. A tender was accepted from Thomas Garnett and Sons for improvements to the property house and work began on the new hospital with 9 beds opened in January, 1913. The Port Hope Hospital was soon officially recognized as a public hospital and placed on the list of general hospitals and entitled to Government and Municipal Grants. At the annual meeting, a new building was discussed, but it was decided to wait until the success of the present Hospital was assured. From January, 1913 to 1914 the hospital had cared for 620 patients and the Helm Will bequest was paid. In the winter of 1915, the 136th Battalion requested the hospital to care for sick soldiers from the Great War. Surgical cases were cared for by the hospital and a regulation hospital tent was erected for medical cases, by the summer of 1915 over 200 soldiers were cared for here.

October 8, 1915 the cornerstone of the new hospital took place. At a cost of $31,500 to build, only $2,000 had to be borrowed.   The Nurses Training School opened in the “Cottage Hospital” soon after. The new classic revival hospital was now underway, official opening in June 1916. By 1929 the new West Wing of the hospital was completed providing 25 additional beds, an X-ray and laundry room included.

In 1964 for many years, the old hospital was modified as a retirement facility. The former hospital on Wellington Street was opened in the 1960’s and was closed in 1999 and consolidated with the new Northumberland Hills Hospital in Cobourg.

Regards, Ranger

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