Did you know that Vernon’s first hospital was no more than a cottage?
Vernon was incorporated in 1892, but for the first five years of its official existence, the community did not have a hospital, with doctors instead making house calls as needed, and more severe cases being sent to the hospital in Kamloops.
However, with Vernon’s population growing, it was obvious that the city would soon need a facility of its own, and a hospital committee was formed, including such big-wigs as Price Ellison, Luc Girouard, and Cornelius O’Keefe. In 1897, it was decided the future hospital would be named the “Vernon Jubilee,” to honour Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Now all that was needed was the selection of a site.
Largely thanks to the tireless fundraising of Clara Cameron, vice-president of the National Council of Women and wife of Vernon’s first major, William Cameron, Vernon’s first hospital finally opened later that year.
It was erected in a vacant building owned by builder T. E. Crowell, and purchased for a cost of $2,000. It stood on 27th Avenue near the corner of 35th Street.
The building was actually bigger than the hospital needed at the time, but had a broad verandah around the outside for patients to get some fresh air and exercise. The Women’s Council took on the task of visiting the hospital twice a week to ensure that “the Rules for the Hospital (were) being strictly carried out and that all internal arrangements are being conducted in a satisfactory manner.”
Patients began arriving at the Cottage Hospital, as it became fondly known, in November of 1897, under the care of Matron Pratt. It had approximately 16 beds. By Spring of 1899, a contingent of new staff had been on boarded, and a few years later a maternity extension was added thanks to the securing of government grants.
By 1905, the Cottage Hospital staff consisted of five nurses, four probationers and two cooks. A nurse’s home was added to accommodate the group, and improvements to the buildings were made from time to time.
Shortly thereafter, the hospital committee initiated conversations regarding the necessity of an expanded facility, recognizing the requirement for an isolation wing to address diseases like tuberculosis; with Vernon’s expanding population, the Cottage Hospital was no longer big enough.
Samuel Polson donated property north of 21st Avenue for a new building, and in September of 1909, a hospital building with 100 beds was opened on the site still used today. As for the Cottage Hospital, the site was put up for sale in 1910, and it was later reopened as a “temperance” hotel.
Gwyn Evans is the Head of Archives with the Museum and Archives of Vernon.