. rundle ruins


 

1899

632 13 Avenue SE

   
Despite how they look, the Rundle Ruins are not the product of a lost civilization or modern warfare. These ruins are the only remains of Calgary’s first major hospital and one of the earliest examples of sandstone construction in the city. They remain standing as an inadvertent reminder of the importance of heritage preservation in this city.

In 1894, the city of Calgary was incorporated. The citizens had already realized that a new hospital was needed as the city was growing larger than the original General Hospital could accommodate. The first General Hospital had only been an old rundown house at 733 7th Ave SW. It was rented a building that was falling apart. It had come complete with bullet holes.

$10,000 was allocated by citizen's to construct a new hospital. A community endeavour, the hospital was financially supported by Calgary's establishment including A.E. Cross, William Pearce, and the tireless fund-raising of Mrs. Pinkham, wife of Calgary's Anglican Bishop.   However the first donation didn’t come from these financial tycoons of the city, the first endowment was a gift in the will of Jimmy Smith, a prominent Chinese-Christian business man who was well loved in the community. When he died of consumption (Tuberculosis) in 1890, through his will he left $1500 to build a new hospital (that’s roughly the equivalent of $35,926.87 in 2010). His contribution was remembered and honoured by the Alumnae Association of Calgary General Hospital School of Nursing in 2001, when they restored his tombstone and laid a commemorative wreath to remember his incredible gift to this city.

These ruins are the remnants of the second general Hospital that was built here in1894, from the funds donated by the citizens of Calgary. This building, the first real hospital in the area, served as a vital resource for the large numbers of poor and destitute farmers in the area who had come to Alberta in hopes of finding a future.

The new facility featured 35 beds, an operating room, and a nursing school. It even had electric lights and telephones. The hospital grew and developed with the burgeoning city.  To meet the demands of population growth, several additions were made: a maternity wing in 1899, a second two-storey ward in 1903, and another maternity wing in 1905. By 1908, the hospital had outgrown its facilities, and a new hospital was constructed across the Bow River.

When the newer third General Hospital on the other side of the Bow was built in 1910, the hospital remained in use as an isolation hospital for the chronically ill for 44 years. In 1954, when the third General Hospital opened its own isolation wing, patients were moved from this building in what was called “operation measles”.

In 1953, the building was leased to the United Church of Calgary who opened a seniors' residence two years later. In February of 1971, the property was acquired by the Metropolitan Foundation of Calgary from the City. The Province offered to erect a new building on the site recommending the demolition of the original buildings. One of Calgary's most heated heritage debates ensued. A Provincial recommendation suggested that the building was not of regional importance, and the demolition that followed despite attempts by a local protest group, led by architect Jack Long, to lobby for the rehabilitation of the building.

One of Calgary's earliest examples of formal architecture, the hospital was designed in a simplified Romanesque style typical of the late 1900s. Designed by Calgary architects Child & Wilson, it was an early use of sandstone on a large scale project. The site is a strong representation of Calgary's maturing corporation prior to the turn of the century. The new site had been officially granted by the Federal Government as a hospital property in 1883. Because the property was not in City limits, the City would not endorse the construction of the 1894 hospital north of the Bow River and, as a result, the hospital was built in Victoria Park.

. to offer comments, corrections, or improvements to this article, email:  heritage@beltline.ca

 

 

 

 

 

1895 Laundry Day

The new wings