Parallels from the Past in Peterborough

Sometimes history eerily mirrors the present. Case in point, the St. Joseph’s Hospital Redevelopment project in Peterborough, ON – one of our favourite projects, not just because of the interesting adaptive reuse aspects of the site, or opportunities for new development like East City Condos, but also because of the history of the place.

The site has featured prominently in Peterborough’s past, and was once the primary health care centre for the area. Specifically, it played a huge role in combating the Spanish Flu pandemic a hundred years ago. This excerpt from the archives of the Sisters of St. Joseph paints a picture of that we can all (too easily) relate to as we battle our own pandemic.

The deadly Spanish Influenza which ravaged Europe after the first world war, and spread across North America, hit Peterborough in the fall of 1918.

The epidemic was so sudden and so intense that city hospitals were quickly overcrowded. For some unknown reason, persons in the twenty to thirty age bracket seemed most susceptible to fatal complications. The victims were stricken suddenly with violent chills, terrible dizziness, high temperature and delirium. Doctors and nurses worked around the clock many days and nights and several succumbed to the disease themselves.

The hospital records show that sixty cases of ‘flu and twenty-four cases of pneumonia had been admitted from mid-October 1918 to May 1919. By spring the causative organisms of Spanish Influenza seemed to have disappeared but the existing hospital accommodation was becoming inadequate to serve the growing needs of the Peterborough community. A second extension was required to provide more accommodation for patients and improved services for the whole hospital.

“New Wing of St. Joseph’s Hospital, East City – The site of the building is one of the most commanding elevations in Peterborough. The hospital possesses its own dairy farm where thoroughbred Holstein cattle supply milk for the establishment and its own chicken run, giving the freshest of fresh eggs. The new addition is 153 feet long composed of pressed brick with Indiana limestone trim, and is of fire-proof construction. A roof garden on the storey together with two splendid sunrooms and three balconies add to the comfort of convalescent patients. A powerful vacuum cleaner in the basement furnishes a means of cleaning every room.” – Excerpt form Peterborough Evening Examiner, June 6, 1922

And so, a pandemic a century ago shaped the St. Joseph’s Hospital hospital campus. The local and neighboring community has relied on the St. Joseph’s Hospital campus for health and wellbeing for more than 100 years. Now, during our own pandemic, the site is again being reimagined to better serve the needs of the surrounding community.

Ground breaking at East City Condos – September 29, 2020.

Learn More

The Globe and Mail’s Dave LeBlanc, aka The Architourist, visited the site. Read what he has to say here: Critical Care for a Former Hospital Site

East City Condos recently broke ground. Read more about the project here: East City Condos