Guelph's White Elephant - Redeemed

Author: Unknown

Publication Date: 1965

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"'White elephant': a possession entailing great expense out of proportion to its usefulness or value to the owner"


Contributed by Mrs. M. O. Jackson:


"Infectious Hospital
Erected 1911 A.D.
Ald. H. C. McLean Ald. J. E. Carter
Ald. R. C. Nelson Ald. H. Occomore
Mayor G. J. Thorp
P. H. Second Son Ltd. Contractors
W. C. Tanner Architect Guelph"


A cement 'plaque' between the two front verandahs of our Recreation Building bears the above inscription.

Notwithstanding much protest from Guelph citizens and nearby property owners, the project for a spacious Infectious Hospital on Delhi Street was realized.

Ald. H. C. McLean was also a surgeon at the Guelph General Hospital who was the forceful promoter of this project. He resided at the corner of Norfolk and Suffolk Streets, the present home of Dr. Parker.

With the progress in medicine, the control and elimination of communicable diseases was marked, resulting in fewer cases for admissions to this large edifice. Graduate nurses can relate experiences as student nurses of lone night vigilances with one, possibly two patients. Over the years, however, students from Mac Hall and O.A.C. were patients here until there was a 'sick bay' provided at the College.

Also, when the Department of Veterans’ Affairs took over the [Ontario] Reformatory, which was renamed Speedwell, for the duration, men with infectious diseases were cared for in this building. During the tragic Spanish Influenza of 1918, beds were at a premium. Among the many victims were four G.G.H. nurses who responded to the call to duty. Miss Mary Ottie was a third-year student and the other three nurses were graduate of whom two were of Guelph. Miss Ella Ziegler and Mrs. E. W. Hugill nee – Nellie Mackenzie. Miss Pearl Taloot was the fourth nurse. Due to the initiative of Miss Lillian Ferguson, then president of Nurses’ Alumnae, this association became responsible for the tablet to the memory of these four nurses with the help of Mr. J. M. Taylor, Chairman of the Board of Directors. This tablet was unveiled by Miss Ferguson in the then existing hospital. Presently it hangs in the Nurses’ Residence.

Being only fairly active and because of the great decrease in number of patients, permission was obtained from the Public Health Board in October 1930 to open one half of the building, following renovations, as an annex to Nurses’ residence. This continued in use until the present fine School of Nursing was built in 1958.

The present new General Hospital was opened in 1951 and small quarters on the ground floor were provided for infectious cases.

Thus, for five years, from 1958 until 1963 this entire building was unoccupied. In October of 1963, the Guelph Recreation Committee took possession and Guelph’s White Elephant, one may consider, has been admirably redeemed.

I wish to acknowledge very gratefully, data and information from:
Miss Lois Campbell
Miss Lillian Ferguson
Miss Esther Donellan
Mrs. E. W. Hugill – nee Nellie Mackenzie, was my sister.