Nervous new parents with feverish babies, big burly loggers with broken bones, concerned nurses tending to sick patients, doctors with furrowed brows contemplating test results. These are just some of the faces that may have peered out from behind these windows, looking out at the growing city as they bided their time or searching the Heavens for inspiration and meaning.
Hospitals are many things to many people, some finding the very thought of walking through the doors to be utterly terrifying while others seek comfort and solice in the very same place. For most of us, it is the place that we draw our first breath as we burst into the world proclaiming our presence at the top of our tiny, new lungs. And for many of us, it is also the place where we draw our last breath, leaving behind a lifetime of memories and achievements. But no matter what it means to each of us individually, it is the place where deeply caring and skilled people work together to alleviate suffering and keep the community healthy.
This is the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, B.C., affectionately known as “RJH” to us locals. It sits at the intersection of several busy streets, just on what would have been the outskirts of Victoria at the time it was built in 1890. The opening of RJH coincided with the introduction of the electric streetcar system that led to the foundation of several new neighbourhoods that housed some important local historical figures through the years as the city grew.
The hospital has been undergoing massive renovation over the last few years, adding a brand new patient care centre among other projects. The part of the hospital in these images is South Block which was built in 1921, one of many additions to the hospital over its long history.
Now somewhat obstructed by fences and construction bins, the architecture and fine details on the balconies and the rain spouts reflect a time when function and beauty came together to create spaces with immense character and personality, giving them an identity as unique as the people who frequented them.
Just like the elderly patient who could fill hours with tales of adventure and life experiences, this old hospital has a few interesting tid-bits of its own. Up until about 1920, it featured it’s own kitchen garden in addition to raising pigs and chickens. As the community became more populated, neighbours soon started to complain and the evolution of “hospital food” began it’s journey to the present-day comedy fodder that it has unfortunately become. Although, laughter is supposed to be the best medicine, after all!
This wonderful old hospital can also claim celebrity status for the cutting-edge Pemberton Theatre operating room that it houses, pun unapologetically intended. In fact, it is the oldest operating room in the Northwest and was the first to use antiseptic methods like handwashing and sterilizing instruments. A short, interesting video can be seen here.
Another unique feature of this special place is the Pemberton Memorial chapel that was built in 1909. Built right into the hospital and recently restored to its original beauty, it offers a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of the busy corridors outside and a view of the newly created garden below. You can read more about the chapel and the garden here.
While it is hard to let go of the beauty captured all those years ago in the delicate design of the brick, the details in the concrete, and the elegant architecture, time marches on and we come to realize that it is just another facade in a history of many, holding new windows that will continue their vigilant watch on the community below, ready to offer comfort, care and healing whenever called upon.
Thank you so much for joining us today, we love to spend time together with you, sharing images and stories from our little neck of the woods. Please do feel free to leave your thoughts and comments as we truly love to hear from you!
Until next time!