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Battle River Hospital


Other Names:
1937 Manning Hospital
Manning (Battle River) Hospital
Manning Hospital
Old Battle River Hospital
Old Hospital
Old Manning Hospital
Battle River Hospital

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Battle River Hospital is a one-and-a-half storey, rectangular-shaped building with a small extension at the rear. It has a jerkinhead roof with large shed-roofed dormer windows. There are ground floor entries with wooden valances at the front and side, and two rear entrances, one at ground level and the other on the second storey, which is accessed by a reconstructed wooden staircase. Its exterior walls are covered with buff-coloured stucco and feature wooden trim and imitation half-timbering in the gables. Built between 1936 and 1937, the hospital's exterior has been restored to its original appearance. The interior has been restored to its appearance in the late 1940s. The Battle River Hospital building is centrally located in Manning on Second Avenue SW and is situated on one irregularly shaped lot.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Battle River Hospital building lies in its historical association with the Women's Missionary Society and its role in the provision of medical services to the booming population in rural, northern Alberta in the mid-twentieth century. The hospital building also has architectural significance, being representative of the "cottage" hospitals that were an essential part of rural medical service.

Following the First World War, Alberta's Peace Country became an attractive area for settlement. This trend was enhanced during the 1930s as people migrated to northern Alberta to escape drought conditions in the south. Seeing the need for a hospital in the Battle River area, the Women's Missionary Society (WMS), a lay organization affiliated with the United Church of Canada, raised funds and secured an agreement with the provincial government to share healthcare costs in that region. The WMS, formed in 1926, was committed to establishing hospitals in Western Canada, on native reservations and in northern communities. The WMS would operate these hospitals until the communities served grew large enough to support the facilities themselves. In 1936, construction began on a hospital midway between the communities of North Star and Notikewin. In August 1937, the eight-bed Battle River Hospital opened. It had a few small wards, an operating room, a nursery and living accommodations for three nurses. The hospital had running water and electricity, which was provided by a gasoline-powered engine. The hospital grew over the ensuing years. An x-ray machine was added in 1944 and a separate nurses' residence was built in 1945 allowing the hospital's second floor to be converted into a nine-bed maternity ward. The area's population continued to grow and the Battle River Hospital soon became too small to effectively meet the region's medical needs. It was replaced by a larger building in 1955, although it continued to be used as an auxiliary hospital until 1959.

Designed by architect Gordon Wynn, the Battle River Hospital represents a particular type of small rural hospital built in Alberta during the inter-war period. It is a one-and-a-half storey, balloon frame building. Its key architectural details include a jerkinhead roof with shed-roofed dormer windows on each slope and imitation half-timbering in the gables inspired by the Tudor style. The exterior walls are buff-coloured stucco with red-brown window frames, door frames, stairs and other trim, replicating the buildings original colours. The first storey has a unique fenestration pattern. The operating room, located on the northwest corner, has five windows giving plenty of light with minimal glare. There is a replica of the late 1940s sign over the front door with the words "BATTLE RIVER HOSPITAL W.M.S. United Church of Canada." The building's interior features an overly wide hall and doorways on the first floor, reflecting its role as a hospital. The hall and doorways on the second floor are of regular dimensions, reflecting its original domestic purpose. Interior walls are painted light green with white trim. Built to serve a sparsely populated but growing rural region with limited financial means, the hospital is quite simple in design. However, while the building's architecture is not outstanding or unique, it does represent trends in non-governmental hospital construction in its period of significance. Even though the Battle River Hospital was built for the sole purpose of providing medical care and was not a converted residence, the residential look of the building places it in the cottage hospital model. In this regard, the building is similar to an extant facility at Beaverlodge, and three demolished buildings at Bentley, Fairview and Morley.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1621)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Battle River Hospital include such features as:

Exterior Characteristics
- small scale and residential appearance;
- rectangular shaped footprint with a smaller extension at the rear;
- fenestration pattern of the first storey echoed on the basement level;
- buff-coloured stuccoed exterior walls with red-brown painted wood trim;
- imitation half-timbered gables, with three ganged windows in the front gable and a doorway flanked by windows in the rear gable;
- shingled, jerkinhead roof with large shed-roofed dormer double windows;
- stone rubble foundation;
- location in the town of Manning, which developed largely because of the hospital’s presence.

Interior Characteristics:
- balloon frame wood and joist construction;
- central hall layout on both floors;
- notably wide hallways and doorways on the first floor;
- hardwood floor on main floor and linoleum flooring on second floor;
- green-painted walls with white-painted wooden trim.


Street Address: 306 MacKenzie Highway
Community: Manning
Boundaries: Lot 11A, Block 11, Plan 6696NY
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
9 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
6696 NY

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
56.923013 -117.630623 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type
6308985 0461614 GPS NAD 83


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2009/03/11

Historical Information

Significant Date(s)
Theme(s) Building Social and Community Life : Education and Social Well-Being
Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Health and Research : Hospital or Other Health Care Institution
Current Function(s): Leisure : Museum

The building was constructed in 1937 as a United Church missionary hospital. It remained in use as the Town of Manning's only hospital until 1955 when it was replaced by a new municipal hospital. This hospital building has a clear connection to the early settlement period in the northern Peace River area. It reminds us that missionaries were still active in the north at this time and that basic services, which were all well established in more southern area, were still being established. In addition, the activities of the United Church as a missionary organization are not well known or well researched giving this building some additional historical interest.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0760
Designation File: DES 1621
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 72433
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1621)
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