Fredericton’s Victoria Cottage Hospital
From the blog at http://JohnWood1946.wordpress.com
Fredericton’s Victoria Cottage Hospital
Samuel Leonard Tilley was almost 70 years old in 1888. He had been a ‘reformer’ in the New Brunswick legislature. He had also promoted the building of the Intercolonial Railway and the C.P.R. and was a Father of Confederation. He had been a minister of finance in Ottawa, and was, in 1888, Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick for the second time. He had been made ‘Sir’ Samuel Leonard Tilley in 1879. It is therefore not surprising that his wife, Lady Alice Chipman Tilley, was well able to promote her good works which included a project to build the Victoria Cottage Hospital in Fredericton.
It was early in 1887 when Lady Alice decided that she needed to leverage her position by contributing, somehow, to the public good. She considered the possibilities, and based upon what she saw as divine guidance, decided to build Fredericton’s first hospital. She persuaded the government to donate a lot of land next to Government House and began to promote the project in the newspapers. There was also a committee of ‘some gentlemen’ friends who solicited contributions. Another friend, in New Jersey, sent her sample building designs from which she chose a ‘cottage’ style building from which a Saint John man developed the final plans.
A cottage design was a popular idea in those days, when pleasant surroundings were expected to contribute to recovery. The provincial mental hospital in Saint John was located on a similar philosophy. Here, a person could benefit from a pleasant rural setting while remaining within eyesight of the city. It provided, as they thought, a sense of hope on the horizon. It was therefore significant that the Victoria Cottage hospital was “elevated above the water, ‘the silent river gliding slowly to the sea,’ with the meadows beyond.”
The financial campaign quickly succeeded with contributions from around the province and around the world. A bazaar was then organized to collect funds locally. The parliament building and grounds were donated for the bazaar, and a military academy helped out. The bazaar was in conjunction with Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, and was successful. An additional six thousand dollars were raised.
The cornerstone was laid on June 21, 1887, and the hospital was opened on June 21, 1888, which was only a year and a half after Lady Alice first envisaged it. Premier A.G. Blair led the ceremony. There was a Board of Trustees, Blair being President. A maintenance fund was in place, supported by the province and the city in addition to churches and other organizations.
The hospital needed a separate building for the treatment of contagious diseases. It seems that this building was not there when the main hospital was opened. The required $1,000 was contributed by a man in Canterbury, N.B., however, and the second building was added shortly thereafter.
The hospital was a great addition to the quality of medical care in Fredericton, but more was soon required. Several additions were made, with the original ‘cottage’ disappearing, and it became simply the Victoria Public Hospital in 1889. This, of course was superseded by the Doctor Everett Chalmers Hospital in 1977.
References: The primary reference for this blog posting is a little book entitled Victoria Cottage Hospital, Fredericton, N.B., Opened June, 1888, by Lady Alice Chipman Tilley, Saint John, 1888. This appears to be the transcript of her opening-day speech, with a brief afterward describing the additional building for treating contagious diseases.
A concept sketch of the Victoria Cottage Hospital, from Lady Alice’s book, published in 1888. It was reasonably accurate, but some changes were made.
Lady Alice Chipman Tilley’s Victoria Cottage Hospital in the center, with the facility for contagious diseases to the left and an addition to the right. From the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick.
Another image of the same vintage, from mynewbrunswick.ca, with a credit to Vintage Fredericton Photos on Facebook.