The Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre

The Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre as seen from Central Memorial Park.

 

The Sheldon Chumir Centre site was formally occupied by the Colonel Belcher, a building rich in history that dated back to the 1940’s and beyond.The hospital was originally constructed in 1919 on the former Penny Lane Mall site before relocating a few buildings east before finally setting on 1213, 4 street sw.  Although some heritage proponents would have preferred to retain the Colonel Belcher hospital, historical elements have remained and will be highlighted on the site. These will be part of a historic walkway display along the corner of 13 avenue and 4 street which is currently under construction. The historical display will include: The Lapoint Cornerstone, the MacKenzie Cornerstone, The Veteran’s Burns Plaque, The Veteran’s Affairs Plaque, and The Burns’s Family Stone.The Burns home originally occupied the site of the Sheldon M. Chumir Centre, and was constructed between 1900 and 1903 for Patrick Burns and his wife, Eileen. The property boasted a low stone wall with an English country garden. William Reader provided gardening services on the property until he became Calgary’s Superintendent of Parks in 1912. Over the years, the Burns’ entertained members of the royal family, aristocrats, authors and politicians – including Sir Wilfrid Laurier.Senator Patrick Burns was a successful rancher, businessman and philanthropist, and was one of the four ranchers who organized the first Calgary Stampede. He passed away in 1937.The federal government purchased the house and property in 1941. Construction of the hospital, named for Colonel Robert Belcher who was a cavalry officer and charter member of the Northwest Mounted Police, began in the spring of 1942. The Burns mansion was incorporated into the grounds as a convalescent hospital.  According to Calgary Public Library’s online cornerstones column, The Honourable Ian Mackenzie, Minister of Pensions and National Health, laid the cornerstone of the new Belcher hospital "in the name of humanity and the men of the armed services."  
Mackenzie officially opened the 250-bed facility on December 9, 1943 with the words " may this fine hospital be a lasting memory to those whose courage, sacrifice and devotion enable us to remain in freedom. Here may we be privileged to give a helping hand, a kindly word and guiding inspiration to those young heroes who shall, in the inevitable destiny of battle, have to sojourn here awhile."
In 1956, the Burns home was demolished to accommodate a new hospital entrance. For years, the only remaining evidence of the estate’s former grandeur was the original fence that surrounded the Burns property. The fence has been removed but pieces of the sandstone wall may be used as a bench along the proposed historical walkway at 13 avenue and 4 street.In 1979, ownership of the hospital transferred from the federal government to the province. In 1991, the Colonel Belcher was designated a long-term care facility exclusively for Canada's World War I, World War II, and Korean war veterans. In 1997 the Veterans' Health Task Force, composed of members of veterans' organizations, Colonel Belcher residents and families, the Calgary Regional Health Authority and health care providers, recommended that the existing hospital be replaced with a new facility. Sixty pallets of the red brick and tyndall stone from the old Colonel Belcher facility were salvaged. This historical display will utilize the tyndall stone from the front entrance of the former hospital while the brick will be embedded into the walkway, to serve as a reminder to everyone of the old Colonel Belcher building. The Alberta Coat of Arms from the upper east wall and the white veterans dedication stone from the garden have also been preserved.

Main entrance on 4 Street SW