The Royal Victoria Hospital Site

Royal Victoria Hospital today

The Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH), opened in December 1893 by Lord Aberdeen, was established thanks to the generosity of two of the city’s wealthiest citizens, Sir Donald Smith (Lord Strathcona) and Lord Mount Stephen. Their collective gift of one million dollars helped to build the RVH, named in commemoration of Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1887.

LordsThe hospital was built at the top of what is now University Street, on the slope of Mount Royal, where it still stands today. Like McGill University itself, the site was originally in the country. The site was chosen not only for its easy accessibility to McGill students but also for the health benefits of fresh air. Designed by London architect Henry Saxon Snell in the Scottish baronial style, the hospital was intended to be a place of healing for all people—“to be for the use of the sick and ailing without distinction of race or creed.” The Royal Victoria Hospital was very modern in its day and was hailed as the “finest and most perfectly equipped (hospital) on the great American continent.”

Sketch for Royal Victoria architectureSince its inauguration, the Royal Victoria Hospital has seen many renovations and expansions. In its first twenty years of service, the building underwent construction for fireproofing, the creation of laundry services, the addition of new operating theatres and a new nurses’ residence. The RVH quickly established itself as a centre for clinical excellence—a reputation that led to further expansion. A new outpatient wing was built in 1922, followed by a pathology institute, the Ross Memorial Pavilion, and the now renowned Women’s Pavilion.

Nurses circa 1910In the 1920s, extensive joint research by the RVH medical staff and McGill University began. The demands on the hospital for women’s services culminated in the creation of the Royal Victoria Montreal Maternity Pavilion in 1926. The next decade saw a close association between the staff of the combined Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital and the RVH, allowing neuroscience research to be applied directly in the clinical setting. A new surgical wing opened in 1955, and in 1994, the Montreal Chest Institute merged with the RVH.