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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chapleau General Hospital efficient, amenable and embraces full potential of beautiful site, according to professor of architecture


At the annual meeting of the Lady Minto Hospital in 1974, the major point of interest was the progress being made on the provision of a new hospital for Chapleau.

Harry Pellow, who was the lead architect on the project, and a Chapleau native, was at the meeting with Peter Manson-Smith of Searle Wilbee Rowlands, architects, to go over the plans in detail, and answer questions.

Although final approval had not been given by the Ministry of Health for the new hospital, Harry reported that plans had been submitted to the ministry for approval. 

Harry Pellow at CHS Reunion 2012
Maggie Costello reported that the new hospital project had been "an uphill fight since the beginning" but progress was being made.  Construction costs had been rising because of inflation and while the building fund had shown growth, it had not kept pace with the escalating cost of construction.

Back in 1968, hospital administrator Leo Walzak had told the board that a new hospital was needed to replace the Lady Minto Hospital which was opened on April 18, 1914, and was described as "a splendid institution" in a Chapleau Headlight editorial. At that time it was the only hospital between Sudbury and Fort William, now Thunder Bay.

As the hospital board moved forward with its plans for a new hospital, Ian Macdonald, now professor emeritus and former head of the department of architecture at the University of Manitoba, wrote in a monograph, Mile 615.1: Building a Northern Community that the location of the new hospital would be on former farmland donated by the Broomhead family.

Ian, who attended Chapleau Public and Chapleau High schools,  noted that the well drained gently sloping site provided excellent soil conditions for construction and generous space to accommodate an accessible single storey health care facility.


At the 1975 Lady Minto Hospital annual meeting there was an atmosphere of "mission accomplished" as board chair J.B. Walsh reported that Gennan Construction had  done initial site preparation before snow came and had been stockpiling materials there ever since.

It was hoped that the new hospital would be completed by 1976, and it was as the Chapleau General Hospital replaced the venerable Lady Minto Hospital which had served the community so well.

At the 1975 annual meeting, Alcide Small, superintendent of the CPR Schreiber division, and a Chapleau native attended to present quit claim deed on four remaining lots at the site of the Lady Minto Hospital.

Alcide explained that two of the lots were deeded by the CPR to the Lady Minto Hospital on November 24, 1913 for the sum of $1.00 and on January 6, 1926 two further lots were deeded to the hospital with the proviso that they would revert to the CPR if they ceased to be used for hospital purposes.

Also, CPR had included a covenant that the land owners could not sell liquor. This was common in those days.

Con Schmidt had initiated negotiations with the CPR to get clear title to all the property on which the old hospital stood. This was important as the lots could be sold and revenue derived added to the building fund.

Commenting on the Chapleau General Hospital more than 30 years after it was opened, Ian Macdonald said that it was "... both efficient and amenable and embraces the full potential of a beautiful site. ... the building remains an exemplary example of quality health care facility."

Harry was also the architect for the Chapleau Civic Centre, Cedar Grove Lodge, Chapleau Recreation Centre and the golf clubhouse as well as Trinity United Church renewal.

In March 1998 the Bignucolo Residence, a 25-bed long term care facility was opened, and the Chapleau Medical Centre is also on the hospital site.

It seemed somehow appropriate to do a column on the Chapleau General Hospital with the arrival of Dr. Doris Mitchell, Dr. Kendra Saari and Dr. Stephen Saari in the community, although they are really coming home.

I was so delighted to chat with "Dr. Doris' at the Chapleau High School Reunion, and thanks Doris for your kind words. I have also heard from Kendra with news about the move she and Stephen have made to Chapleau. Thanks to you too Kendra. I appreciate the commitment you have made to complete your studies in medicine, and Chapleau will be so well served by each of you. Congratulations Dr. Doris, Dr. Kendra and Dr. Stephen, and all the best! 

Thanks to Harry Pellow and Ian Macdonald for research assistance. Ian's monograph is in Chapleau retrospective on Life in an Isolated Northern Community by Bill McLeod. My email is mj.morris@live.ca



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Hospital Architect said...

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Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet

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