Grace Hospital Nursing Residence
LeMarchant Street, St. John's
Anybody who has visited St. John’s in the last few years and driven down Lemarchant Road will have noticed the abandoned Nursing Residence that was once part of the Grace Hospital. The residence is located on a large empty block of land near the current hospital, St. Claire’s. The empty building is seen by many to be an eyesore and admittedly they are not wrong, but the building was once part of the Grace Hospital; Newfoundland and Labrador’s first maternity hospital.
The Grace Hospital was opened by the Salvation Army on September 19, 1923. The hospital was opened as a maternity hospital for unwed mothers and offered 22 beds to patients. The first patients were admitted on December 20 of the same year by two nurses from New Brunswick. The hospital served the purpose to educate and train maternity nurses through an 18 month program specifically designed for midwives.
The hospital quickly expanded and by 1929 the hospital contained about 100 beds and had acquired a children’s ward. 1929 also marked the opening of Newfoundland’s second nursing school inside the Grace Hospital. The famous Newfoundland nurse, Mary Southcott played a key role in creating this second nursing school (who is also credited with creating the first nursing school between 1903 and 1914).
Several more extensions were added throughout the years. In 1954 the hospitals capacity expanded to provide 200 beds. Over the next 10 years several other extensions were added and in 1964 a new nursing school was built in the hospital to replace the original one. During this time the nursing residence was built.
The hospital provided care to the people of St. John’s until it closed in 2000. Its closure was caused by the expanding Health Sciences Centre causing the Grace to become outdated and obsolete. At the time of its closing, the hospital's official name was the Grace General Hospital and was owned by the Department of Health and Community Services. After becoming vacant the facility was turned over to the Department of Transportation and Works.
By 2008 much of the hospital was demolished. This included houses at 205 Pleasant Street and 203 Pleasant Street, the distinctive smokestack, the 1920’s section of the hospital, and most of the extensions built in the mid-1950s. All that was left standing was the residence building and a small storage shed near Bennett Ave (which was later torn down in 2015).
Unlike many plots of land owned by the government, the Grace Hospital site will not be sold but instead will become the location of new government buildings.
Although I never had the chance to see inside of the Grace and the Nursing Residence before it was shut down and blocked off, Colin Peddle Photography was able to capture some great shots from inside. Find it here.
What's Next for the Site?
The building today is constantly criticized by residence as being an eyesore and a danger to the public. And while it stands as a last reminder to the heritage of the former Grace Hospital, it is hard to argue against the general public’s opinion. But perhaps the building and its surrounding land is an opportunity for the city of St. John’s.
The land which the building sits on is about 3 hectares or 30,000 square meters in size. It is situated overlooking the Waterford Valley, and is located near numerous residential neighbourhoods. Therefore, the land has great potential to be redeveloped as a new space, whether that be the home for a new mixed-use neighbourhood or perhaps as a new city green space. For over a decade the gravel lot has been fenced off and abandoned. While part of the lot has served as a parking area for the nearby St. Claires Mercy Hospital, it perhaps got its most important new use during the infamous winter storm in 2020, known as Snowmageddon, when it became one of the sites selected to store the snow that buried the region.
There is also one last hidden wonder on the site, which is the buried river flowing under the plot of land. The outlet to nearby Mundy Pond, is the buried urban stream named, Bennett’s Creek. Best glorified in Victoria Park where the past riverbed can still be seen, the river has been buried for almost half a century. With ideas now being thrown around about what the reinvention of the former Grace Hospital site could look like, perhaps this is the time to start looking at the benefits of unburying or “daylighting” this once vibrant stream. By excavating the stream and remediating the area, the site offers incredible potential to become the city’s next public green space.
Sources & Further Exploring
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2006, November 17). Government Plans to Demolish Former Grace Hospital Building. Department of Transportation and Works Website. Retrieved from https://www.releases.gov.nl.ca/releases/2006/tw/1117n01.htm.
Higgin, J. (2008). Health. Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site. Retrieved from https://www.heritage.nf.ca/articles/society/health.php.
Mary Southcott collection, University of Ottawa’s Library Archives. Retrieved from https://biblio.uottawa.ca/en/content/mary-southcott-collection.
Peddle, C. (2010, October 12). Going Out With Grace – URBEX in Newfoundland’s Grace General Hospital. Colin Peddle Photography. Found at https://www.colinpeddle.com/grace-hospital-newfoundland-urbex-old/.