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The former Jeffery Hale Hospital

The former Jeffery Hale Hospital, a harmonious whole

A harmonious whole

The two stately red-brick buildings across from Grand Théâtre, set slightly back from Boulevard René-Lévesque, began their life as a hospital. Their architectural excellence and design are emblematic of the substantial resources and independent spirit of Québec City’s then-thriving Anglo-Protestant community. The buildings are a reminder of the legacy this community left behind.

Anglo-Protestant philanthropists

The hospital’s two elegant main buildings to the west are today part of the residential complex at 270–350 Boulevard René-Lévesque and classified as a cultural heritage site by the Québec government. They were built between 1900 and 1906 to house the Jeffery Hale Hospital.

The hospital was named after its patron, Jeffery Hale, a wealthy merchant who made a substantial bequest in 1864. It opened in 1867 on Rue Saint-Olivier, close to the walls in Old Québec. But by the late 19th century the hospital had outgrown its building and was no longer keeping pace with modern medical practices. Other philanthropists from Québec City’s wealthy English-speaking community, including William Price, James Gibb, and Elizabeth McKenzie, dipped into their personal fortunes to help fund a new hospital.

The project to improve hospital care for the Anglo-Protestant community began in earnest in 1895 when the Jeffery Hale Corporation purchased a huge plot of land on the outskirts of the city from the Augustinians at Hôtel-Dieu. One hundred years earlier the military had built Martello Tower No. 3 there, but it had fallen into disuse and was demolished in 1904.

A pavilion hospital

One reason Jeffery Hale was so modern in its time, and holds such heritage value today, is its pavilion design. It featured multiple buildings to separate patients based on how contagious they were, a response to the discovery that diseases were transmitted through germs and microbes. The design also reflected increasing specialization within the medical profession. A covered passage once linked the two buildings. A third building reserved for tuberculosis patients—The Douglas Building—has been demolished along with the boiler house, but the old nurses’ residence still stands behind the main buildings. The buildings have been generally well maintained.

Another distinctive feature of the Jeffery Hale Hospital is its location, set back from the road and surrounded by landscaped grounds.

Remarkable architecture

The buildings’ heritage status is justified by its outstanding architecture. The plans were drawn by two Montréal architects: Arthur Cox and Louis-Auguste Amos. The main pavilion, on the west side to the left, was built in the neo-Queen Anne style in 1900-1901. The decorative brickwork, colour scheme, Dutch-style dormer windows, and pyramid-roofed towers lend the building a touch of class and strong personality. The McKenzie Memorial Building to its right, with three stories and an imposing dome, is even more impressive. It was built between 1904 and 1906, and adds a neo-Baroque feel with its central columned avant-corps topped with a pediment and flanked by towers crowned by small domes. Thanks to their similar size, composition, and materials, the hospital’s two pavilions form a harmonious whole, and remain a Québec City architectural highlight to this day.

New uses

By the late 1940s the buildings had themselves been rendered obsolete by new advances in medical science. A new Jeffery Hale Hospital was built in the Saint-Sacrement neighbourhood and opened its doors in 1955. Québec’s public works ministry acquired the old buildings to house the offices of the provincial police force, Sûreté du Québec. Until 1979 the provincial morgue occupied the former St. Barnabas Chapel behind the main pavilion. Then the premises were sold to Société d’habitation du Québec, whose residential development was a perfect fit for the heritage buildings.

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