“Cornerstones” were articles that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Calgary Herald between 1997 and 2000. The following article appeared May 24, 1998.
• Bullet holes in the doors, a dining area that doubled as an operating room and donated bottles of whisky stored away in the kitchen. It doesn't sound like your typical hospital, but over a century the Calgary General Hospital -- which underwent four relocations as it grew to keep pace with the city's burgeoning population -- adapted to the times in its fight to survive. By the time it settled in its final spot in Bridgeland, the hospital had become an integral part of the community.
Last spring, the General lost that fight, when it was officially closed as part of the Calgary Regional Health Authority's hospital restructuring plan. By fall of this year, most of the physical evidence of the General will be wiped out, when demolition experts complete the implosion of the CGH #4 buildings constructed between 1949 and 1977.
Still, for many Calgarians, the memories will live on. The General remains an important part of our city's history, whether it was the hospital's first incarnation -- a two-storey frame house which held only four beds -- or the big hospital at the base of Memorial Drive N.E. In honor of the venerable hospital's past glory, here's a look back at the different lives of the General.
Calgarians first recognized the need for a public hospital in the late 1880s when it became apparent that the North West Mounted Police Fort infirmary wasn't equipped to handle the needs of the newly incorporated town.
On July 2, 1884 the Calgary Herald reported, "Benevolence is the handmaid of religion. A public hospital is a necessity where the majority of a community are single men. Lacking the care bestowed on the sick at home, an institution is needed that will as nearly as possible supply this. At present the only place for the sick is the Police Hospital. Kindly have patients been cared for while there, but we know not how soon an order may be issued by the authorities in Ottawa for the non-admission of civilians. It is well to prepare for such an emergency."
The Hospital Committee, formed in 1886, obtained a 4.5-acre land grant from the territorial government on the current demolition site of Calgary General Hospital #4 in Bridgeland. The land was not within Calgary town limits and couldn't be used for a municipally-supported hospital. Instead, a "cottage hospital" was opened in a 7th Avenue S.W. residence. In November 1890, Calgary General Hospital was incorporated by order-in-council of the lieutenant-governor and the council of the North West Territories.
It was initially funded by a $300 grant from the territorial government, private subscriptions and patients' fees. Financial difficulties plagued the early years and donations of vegetable, wine and whisky were gratefully accepted.
In spite of the fact that the Women's Hospital Aid Society, organized by Mrs. Pinkham, raised most of the funds to establish and maintain the hospital, subscribers didn't elect any women to the board.
Many of Calgary's businessmen and politicians were among the charter board members: Daniel Webster Marsh, George Clift King, James Walker, Charles B. Rouleau, Cyprian Pinkham and James A. Lougheed. Thirteen men were appointed to the first board of directors in 1890 including William Pearce, Amos Rowe, Thomas Underwood and Alfred E Cross.
All four main buildings or complexes which have accommodated Calgary General Hospital -- from its opening in 1890 to the closure of CGH #4 in 1997 -- have been demolished.
Calgary General Hospital #1: 7th Street and 7th Avenue S.W.
• The first Calgary General Hospital opened in October 1890 in a two-storey frame house under the direction of superintendent Amos Rowe and the first matron and cook, Mrs. Nelson Hoad.
• In 1891, 127 patients were treated for colds, alcoholism, pneumonia and typhoid. Miss Marion Moodie, Calgary General's first student nurse, arrived at the "cottage hospital" in the spring of 1895, just weeks before it was abandoned for more substantial quarters. She wrote: "The building had seen the earlier and rougher days of the town, and when taken over as a hospital had bullet holes through some of the doors. On the ground floor there was one ward holding four beds, an office and a dining room which was converted into an operating room when necessary, and a kitchen.
• "Upstairs there were four small rooms, each holding one bed, and over the kitchen two small rooms for the staff and the cook. I occupied the cook's room by day while the cook had it at night."
• The house eventually reverted to residential use and was demolished in the late 1960s.
Calgary General Hospital #2 ("Rundle Ruins"): 6th Street and 12th Avenue S.E.
• Built: 1894-1895
• Demolished: 1973
• The cornerstone of the new sandstone hospital, designed by Calgary architects Child and Wilson and built by Thomas Underwood, was laid September 1, 1894, by the Hon. T. Mayne Daly, Minister of the Interior. The 35-bed hospital officially opened May 22, 1895.
• The Women's Hospital Aid Society furnished the beds, linen, furniture and even outfitted the operating room. The modern new facility had five private wards, a signal bell system, electric lights and one telephone.
• A nurses' training school was established and the first student, Miss Marion Moodie, graduated in 1898.
• Maternity wings were added in 1899 and 1905 and a second two- storey ward in 1903. When CGH #3 was opened north of the Bow River in 1910, the old sandstone quarters became an Isolation Hospital. In July 1954, when the Isolation Ward of CGH #4 opened, the residents were transferred to the new facility in a move dubbed "Operation Measles." Between 1954 and 1971 the former hospital housed the United Church's seniors home, called Rundle Lodge.
• The building was demolished in 1973 and a portion of the structure incorporated into a park scheme which was dedicated in 1974 as "Rundle Ruins" by Premier Peter Lougheed.
Calgary General Hospital #3: 841 Centre Avenue S.E.
• Built: 1908-1910
• Demolished: 1959
• On February 1, 1910, Calgary General Hospital north of the Bow River was officially opened by Alberta Lieutenant-Governor Bulyea. The $150,000, four-storey brick and sandstone building with a bed capacity of 160 had a large central unit with east and west wings. The "most modern hospital in Alberta" included all the conveniences: elevator, telephones, patient call bells and running water. Daily rates: $1 in general ward, $1.50 for maternity and $3 to $5 for private ward.
• Almost as soon as Calgary General Hospital #3 opened in 1910, there were complaints that it was too small and obsolete. By 1939 Calgary's population had reached 83,000 and the situation was critical. Numerous additions were built as the hospital tried to keep pace with community need. Nurses' residences were built in 1919, 1939 and 1943. Building throughout the 1940s included a lecture hall, a practice ward for students and a maternity wing.
• Although a firm of architects was hired to study alternate sites, including the Lougheed Mansion property on 13th Avenue, the public supported the construction of a new $4.5-million facility to be built immediately west of the 1910 hospital.
• CGH #3 was razed in 1959 to make way for the Convalescent- Rehabilitation Building, built in 1962.
Calgary General Hospital #4: 841 Centre Avenue S. E.
• Built: 1949-1953
• Demolished: 1998
• Calgary General Hospital #4 opened May 3, 1953, with 626 beds and 110 bassinets. Expansion of the facility began almost immediately with a building program: the psychiatric ward (1954); nurses' residence (1956); a north wing including radiology and administration and a south wing including the pediatric unit (1958); the eight-storey rehabilitation wing (1962); the service wing (1967); the Gertrude M. Hall education wing, to accommodate the General's role as a teaching hospital for the University of Calgary's Faculty of Medicine (1970); a three-storey addition to the service wing (1973); and the Centennial Wing, which included Canada's first forensic psychiatric unit in a general hospital (1977).
• In July 1988, the new 500-bed Peter Lougheed Centre opened in northeast Calgary. CGH # 4, renamed the Bow Valley Centre, officially closed in April 1997 as part of the Calgary Regional Health Authority's hospital restructuring plan "to build a better system at a lower cost."
• Many of the programs, functions and staff of the 107-year-old institution known as the Calgary General Hospital were integrated into newer hospital facilities.
• Demolition of CGH #4 buildings constructed between 1949 and 1977 will be completed in the fall of 1998.