The Toronto Western Hospital

Toronto Western Hospital, an institution that “has served the health care needs of its culturally diverse local community” for over a century. “Today, the hospital also provides highly specialized tertiary care to people across the nation” at its present location, the north-east corner of Bathurst Street and Dundas Street.

Toronto Western Hospital had its beginnings in 1894 when several west-end doctors met to find a way to establish a hospital for that part of the city. They were all on the staff of The Western Free Dispensary, an outpatient clinic for needy patients located first on Bathurst, then on Euclid Street. In December 1895, 12 of the doctors signed a prescription sheet pledging $100 each “for the maintenance of the Western Hospital $10 down and $5 per month (as required).” A double house at 393 and 395 Manning Avenue was rented, and made into wards for 30 patients. Toronto Western Hospital opened on January 1, 1896, and by May a training program for nurses was underway. Dr. Augusta Stowe Gullen, wife of one of the founding doctors and daughter of Canada’s first woman doctor, was appointed to the consulting staff in 1899.

The hospital was an immediate success, and in 1899 a large private home was acquired on the east side of Bathurst Street just south of Nassau Street. Built in 1853 by James MacDonell, collector of inland revenue, Willows had been in its day one of the finest houses in Toronto. It was so named because the large grounds surrounding it were covered with willow trees. The old brick house was renovated for patients, but before long more space was needed. A long tent with a concrete floor was set up on the front lawn. Women patients were placed at one end, and men at the other. The tent was made of two walls of canvas and heated in the winter with steam pipes. It was so popular that smaller tents were added in the summer.

Under the leadership of Dr. John Ferguson (1850-1939), one of the original 12 doctors and through the generosity of David Fasken, a wealthy insurance executive who was the hospital’s honourary president from 1908 to 1929, a proper hospital opened in November 1911. Willows continued to be used for the care of patients until the structure was demolished in 1918 when .

Over the years the hospital has grown enormously. Numerous buildings and wings have been added to make the huge (660 bed) complex that stands today at 399 Bathurst Street.

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