Our History 

The Brockville General Hospital (BGH) has a proud history of innovation and community service since 1885. The history of the Brockville General Hospital can be traced back to March 16, 1881, when Dr. J.E. Brouse wrote a letter to the editor of the Evening Recorder in which he addressed the need for a medical facility in Brockville. The idea first occurred to him on a visit to New York City, where Brouse observed the operation of several facilities known as dispensaries and clinics. On reflection, he recognized the need for a similar service in Brockville to supply advice and treatment to the poor. Brouse also believed that if such an institution was to be established, it would prove to be the nucleus for a hospital.

Dispensary on Church Street

The story of Brockville General Hospital begins here, at 35 and 37 Church Street, with the founding of the Brockville Free Medical Dispensary June 15, 1881 under the direction of Dr. J.E. Brouse. The dispensary was open every week from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m., providing treatment and medicine for those who could not afford a physician. Brockville General Hospital incorporated from the dispensary in 1885.

Nurses’ Residence Church Street

The original Nurses’ Residence stood at 39 Church Street. In the early days, nurses were expected to work 12-hour shifts (7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. or vice versa) six days a week. Duties included bringing in the coal, filling kerosene lamps, cleaning chimneys, and attending to vessels or utensils as often as necessary—in addition to actual nursing work. This building, along with that of the dispensary, has since been demolished.

Original Three-Story Building 1889

The Brockville General Hospital meeting for incorporation was held March 26, 1885, in the Council Chamber of the municipal building with Samuel Keefer as President. The Act of Incorporation was filed with Judge Hubert S. MacDonald on April 10. For several years after, the dispensary continued as it had under its new name though the facilities were inadequate and outdated. A one-and-a-half acre parcel of land was purchased from the Ford family in 1887, and construction began in the fall of 1888. In a brick building with four floors including the basement and 42 in-patient beds, the Brockville General Hospital opened its doors at the present Charles Street Site location on March 7, 1889.

The Original Three-Story Building Plus Wings 1905

The turn of the century saw growth in Brockville and, consequently, the General Hospital followed suit. With a $10,000 donation from Mr. George T. Fulford in 1895 and another $10,000 from Mr. William H. Comstock in 1901, the North and South Wings (respectively) were added. This would triple the size and accommodation of the building to a total of 82 patient beds, new nurses’ quarters with private entrance, and a new children’s ward.

Three Hospitals

The three hospitals in Brockville, approximately 1910. Left is the Brockville General Hospital; right is St. Vincent de Paul’s Hospital (now BGH Garden Street Site). At top is the former “Eastern Hospital for the Insane” that became the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital, now operating as the Brockville Mental Health Centre under the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group.

Surgery circa 1915

Surgery, circa 1915, at the Brockville General Hospital. The first medical staff members of BGH were Drs. Moore, Giles, Horton, Vaux, Jackson and Forrester. Missing from this list is Dr. J.E. Brouse, driving force behind the establishment of the Brockville Free Medical Dispensary and the building of the first Brockville General Hospital. Dr. Brouse lived to see the completion of his dream but died shortly thereafter.

BGH School of Nursing

A graduating class from the Brockville General Hospital School of Nursing, circa 1916. The school began with the building of the new hospital on Ormond Street in 1889, and saw its first graduate—a Miss Isabella Thomas of Brooklyn, NY—in 1893. For over 80 years, the nursing school was an integral part of the BGH community, producing 1189 graduates before nursing programs became part of community college curriculum in 1974.

BGH on Ormond Street 1930

Brockville General Hospital on Ormond Street facing south, circa 1930. The three houses on the right-hand side of the picture look rather different now, but still stand today. The building in the centre, the Cornell Graduate Nursing Residence, was demolished in the early 1980s to make way for the former Ambulance building.

Front of BGH 1935

In 1910, Mrs. Charles Edward Fulford made a gift as a memorial of her late husband to the Brockville General Hospital. This was the construction of two large sun parlours at the front of the building, including furnishings and a separate furnace to heat them in winter. At the same time, the roof was raised to create a large attic housing a new public ward for men, a diet kitchen and two smaller rooms. BGH now accommodated over 90 patients.

Comstock Residence

The Comstock Memorial Home for Nurses (here, circa 1971) was built in 1930 by William H. Comstock in memory of his son Edwin Perkins Comstock. The residence was central to nursing life at BGH for decades, expanding several times along with the hospital. It was demolished in 2000 to make way for the 2003 expansion.

BGH Nursing Alumnae

Nursing students at BGH take a tea break in the Comstock Residence, circa 1940. The Alumnae Association of the BGH School of Nursing was formed in 1923 by Miss Maude Arnold and is still active today with over 290 members. Graduates of the school live worldwide and gather each June for their respective reunions.

Sod-turning, South Wing May 12, 1949

Post-war growth demanded yet another addition to the hospital. With plans approved for a new South Wing, a community campaign for funds began in 1945. After four years of fundraising, the sod is officially turned to begin construction of the new South Wing. The construction contract was awarded to M. Sullivan & Son from Arnprior, Canada’s oldest family-owned construction business that still exists today. In attendance are (extreme left) Miss Gertrude Gibson, Assistant Director of Nursing and Miss Geneva Purcell, Director of Nursing for the BGH School of Nursing. Making a speech is Brockville Mayor W. F. Reynolds, who was mayor of Brockville from 1947 to 1953. Holding the microphone is Jack Radford, owner of CFJM-AM Brockville at the time (the station became CFJR-AM in 1950).

Brockville General Volunteer Association

Pictured is the volunteer-run BGH Wagon Gift Shop, circa 1950s. “Wagon” began as W.A.G.O.N. (Women’s Auxiliary Gifts Or Notions), and is still run by the Brockville General Volunteer Association today. The Association started as the BGH Women’s Auxiliary on November 11, 1889. On this date, the first annual meeting was held and the first executive was elected. As the first president, Mrs. Thomas Gilmour oversaw the philanthropic activities organized by the Auxiliary’s fifty-nine original members. One of the first tasks taken on by the auxiliary (only the fourth in Ontario at that time) was sewing extra linens and fundraising for sewing materials for the newly opened hospital in Brockville. To raise money for the hospital, the Auxiliary accepted donations from townspeople and held numerous teas, luncheons and concerts.

New South Wing 1951

Construction was underway in the spring of 1949, with completion in January, 1951. The new three-story South Wing provided 61 more beds, 23 nursery bassinettes in the new Obstetrics Unit on the top floor, a children’s ward and additional patient rooms on the second floor, administration on the main floor, and the badly-needed new kitchen and dining room in the basement.

1964 BGH and BCI

An aerial shot of BGH in 1964. On the right-hand side of the hospital is the East Wing, opened November, 1959. On the left is the new West Wing with the new Emergency entrance, opened in 1961. Between these, behind the South Wing, you can see the roof of the original hospital (see Photo Front of BGH 1935). The beds in this old section were closed with the openings of the new wings; still, patient capacity in the hospital rose from 161 to 221. Behind the hospital, to the north, is the Comstock Nurses’ Residence—expanded at the same time to 71 rooms in order to house the extra student nurses that Brockville General Hospital could now accommodate and, in fact, needed for its extra patients and services.

In the lower left is Brockville Collegiate Institute.

New West Wing Opens 1961

The official opening of the new West Wing in 1961 was hosted by BGH CEO R. Allan Hay (left) with special guest Ontario Premier Leslie Frost (right) cutting the ribbon. It was an event well attended by both public and staff. By this time, both the East and West Wings were in full use and all patient services moved to the new buildings. The old turn-of the-century operating rooms were now out of business and replaced with a modern OR suite with four rooms and a recovery room. The X-Ray Department in the old building had been so small that some equipment purchased for it had to stay in crates until the new West Wing provided the larger space for the department. The ground floor of the West Wing became the new Radiology Department. It is now the new BGH Orthopedics Department.

BGH New North Wing 1970

The new North Wing of the hospital, built on the grounds of the original hospital building, was officially opened October 15, 1969 with the Hon. Thomas Wells, Ontario Minister of Health, officiating. The logistics of tearing down the old hospital and housing the affected services and storage elsewhere until completion of construction were formidable. New construction was used as soon as it was available. At the 1969 Annual General Meeting for BGH, Board Chair Dean Seaton described “cramped quarters, absolutely no storage space and stairs that didn’t go anywhere” as some of the challenges that tried both patients and staff through this expansion.

Solarium

The Ross McNeil Solarium was built in 1983, added on to the front doors of the South Wing. It was dedicated to the memory of Mr. Ross McNeil, a “friend and former patient” of BGH, and partially funded by his widow, Mrs. J. Latta. The solarium offered patients an attractive access to the outdoors, and its basement offered badly needed storage space for X-ray film.

New Hospital Expansion 2003

After much planning, discussion and a few false starts, the proposed $32 million expansion to Brockville General Hospital was underway. In March of 2000, the City of Brockville sold part of Emma Street to BGH for $1.00. The street was officially closed and absorbed by the expansion in June the following year. Start of demolition of the Comstock Nurses’ Residence in May 2000 was attended by many nursing alumnae, including the legendary Vera Preston, Director of Nursing at the BGH School of Nursing for over 30 years. Sod was turned March 10, 2001, to begin construction of the 75,000 square foot expansion to the BGH site that would house new operating rooms, Diagnostic Imaging, Emergency and ICU. This latest addition to BGH was officially opened on October 3, 2003.

Program Transfer, 2006

In order to continue providing a sustainable and seamless continuum of high-quality hospital service, Brockville General Hospital and St. Vincent de Paul’s Hospital agreed to transfer services. For 19 months, preparations were carried out between the two hospitals, with the main focus on patient well-being through the process. It was the end of an era in this community. After 119 years of service from the Sisters of Providence facility, St. Vincent de Paul Hospital (pictured here circa 1970) became the BGH Garden Street Site on the stroke of midnight October 1, 2006.

BGH Assumes Governance of Acute Care Mental Health Services 2012

On April 1st, 2012, Brockville General Hospital (BGH) assumed governance of mental health acute care services for Leeds, Grenville and South Lanark from the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group (The Royal). These services include the BGH Elmgrove Site (formerly Elmgrove Unit) on the grounds of the Brockville Mental Health Centre (BMHC), the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Team of Leeds, Grenville & South Lanark, and the Mental Health Crisis Team of Leeds & Grenville. Pictured are George Weber (left), President & CEO of The Royal, handing the keys for Elmgrove over to Ray Marshall, former President & CEO of Brockville General Hospital.

BGH Reinstates MacLean Name to mark Maternity Centennial August 2012

On August 17th, 2012, Brockville General Hospital’s Maternity department celebrated 100 years of community service by reinstating the original name to the unit—becoming the new MacLean Maternal Child Unit. The BGH maternity unit was created in 1912 as the MacLean Memorial Maternity Ward by a generous donation from then-mayor of Brockville Charles MacLean in memory of his wife Martha Fulford MacLean, who had died in childbirth in 1910. Since then, the maternity unit has provided decades of quality obstetrical care and support to generations of Leeds and Grenville families.

The new signage was sponsored by the descendants of Charles MacLean, and was unveiled August 17th by one of his grandchildren—Charles MacLean Cochand of Salisbury, England. After the official unveiling of the new name, the Brockville General Volunteer Association sponsored and hosted a Centennial Tea. Both the unveiling and the tea were attended by representatives from across Leeds and Grenville, the Maternal Child department, and many partners within the hospital organization. Pictured with the new unit signage are (l – r) Ray Marshall, BGH President and CEO; Jennifer Torode, Unit Director; Charles Cochand, grandson of Charles MacLean; Mel Campbell, Warden of Leeds/ Grenville; Maggie Wheeler, BGH Communications Officer; and David Henderson, Mayor of Brockville.