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Isolation Hospital


Other Names:
Jamieson Residence

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place
The Isolation Hospital is a two-storey building situated on a single lot in a residential neighbourhood in Lethbridge. It features a red brick exterior, clipped gable roof with a prominent central cross gable, flaring eaves and exposed brackets, dormers on the front and rear elevations, and two large, round-arched banks of windows on the north-east corner of the building.

Heritage Value
The heritage value of the Isolation Hospital in Lethbridge lies in its architectural value as a rare example of an institutional building manifesting the strong influence of the Arts and Crafts movement. It also possesses significance for its design, which includes functional elements associated with its use as an isolation hospital.

During the early decades of the twentieth century, the mining community at Lethbridge had proven especially susceptible to communicable diseases such as whooping cough, smallpox, and measles. In 1907, a public health by-law was passed that called for the establishment of an isolation hospital. The institution was constructed the following year and relocated in 1911 to a wood-frame building near Mountain View cemetery. By the 1920s, the isolation hospital was proving inadequate. It was plagued by poor ventilation, dismal heating, and dubious hygienic arrangements. Mildred Dobbs, the extraordinarily committed and competent nurse tasked with managing the hospital, convinced town council to relocate the institution to a two-storey brick building originally constructed to serve as a children's shelter.

The new hospital was well-appointed with luxuries like a gas stove, furnace, washing machine, and electric iron. These creature comforts were married to a general architectural philosophy that tended to emphasize the residential over the institutional, the elegant over the strictly utilitarian. Designed by the architectural firm of Whiddington and Fry, the large building manifests the influence of the Arts and Crafts movement in the informality of the design, the wide eaves and exposed roof rafters, and the interior emphasis upon high quality materials finely crafted. It appears that this location and the style and residential environment were deliberately chosen to convey a sense of domestic warmth to the young children who initially inhabited the building. It remained in service throughout the 1950s and was pressed into service during the terrible polio epidemic in the early part of that decade. In the late 1950s, the isolation hospital was closed and, appropriately, was adapted for reuse as an apartment building.

Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 1976)

Character-Defining Elements
The character-defining elements of the Isolation Hospital include such features as:
- location in a residential neighbourhood in Lethbridge;
- exterior elements of the building that manifest the influence of the Arts and Crafts style, including the informality of the exterior, six-over-one double-hung windows, cedar-shingled roof and dormers, the brickwork arrangement featuring a stretcher bond pattern with a soldier course every six courses, exposed rafter ends and wide eaves, clipped gable roof, and the two large, round-arched banks of windows in the north-east corner of the building;
- interior elements of the building that manifest the influence of the Arts and Crafts style, including high quality materials finely crafted into mouldings, frames, baseboards, doors, as well as original flooring;
- elements expressive of the building's historic institutional role, including the scale of the building, the double stair that meets on the main entry level and served as the division between the boys and girls wings of the children's shelter, the two back entrances for girls and boys sheltered by a gable.


Street Address: 1920 - 7 Avenue South
Community: Lethbridge
Boundaries: Lot 12, Block 2, Plan 0414555
Contributing Resources: Buildings: 1

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD

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

Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
49.689224 -112.813486 Secondary Source NAD83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type


Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Provincial Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 2008/10/15

Historical Information

Built: 1920/01/01 To 1920/01/01
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s) Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life : Architecture and Design
Historic Function(s): Health and Research : Hospital or Other Health Care Institution
Health and Research : Hospital or Other Health Care Institution
Residence : Group Residence
Residence : Multiple Dwelling
Current Function(s): Residence : Single Dwelling

In 1882, the North Western Coal & Navigation Company began to mine coal on the east bank of the Belly River, and a community to be known as Lethbridge was begun. With the arrival of a railway in 1885, the population began to grow rapidly, and consisted mainly of miners and railway workers. They were joined by merchants and others employed in service industries. In 1890, Lethbridge was incorporated as a town with over 1,400 people. In 1906, it became a city.

Among the services required by the expanding community were health facilities. In 1885, Dr. Mewburn arrived and began to serve as a general practitioner in the employ of the North Western Coal & Navigation Company. His makeshift three room hospital soon proved inadequate, and, in 1891, the Galt Hospital was built. This would be the major hospital in Lethbridge until 1955. Other health facilities were however needed and therefore built, such as the maternity hospital established by Elizabeth Van Haarlem in 1909, and the Grace Dainty and Wimpole private hospitals, built during 1909-10.

As a mining community, Lethbridge was especially susceptible to communicable diseases such as whooping cough, smallpox and measles. In 1907, at the urging of Mayor W.S. Galbraith, a Public Health by-law was passed which called for the establishment of an isolation hospital. The following year, an isolation facility was created in rented quarters on Battery Point, and run by a husband and wife by the name of Dawson. In 1911, it was re-located to a wood frame building on City property near Mountain View Cemetery and put in the hands of a professional nurse named Mildred Dobbs. Here, people with communicable diseases were located and treated in isolation to prevent their diseases from spreading. In 1918-19, it was in specially need for the international Spanish Flu epidemic.

The end of World War I saw the expansion of industry in Canada, and, in 1921, Alberta was producing 41% of the country's coal. Lethbridge took heart and made plans for further growth. This included improved public facilities. In 1922, a red brick childrens shelter was built by "Smith Brothers and Wilson" at 1920 - 7 Avenue South. This soon proved inadequate, and so another orphanage was constructed. In the meantime, the Isolation Hospital was also proving inadequate. Newspaper accounts told of poor heating and ventilation, with the beds being old RCMP folding cots. With heavy lobbying by Mildred Dobbs, City Council decided to relocate the isolation hospital in the former childrens shelter in 1928. Here, there were such amenities as a furnace, gas stove and washing machine, as well as newer beds which were transferred from the Galt Hospital.

The Isolation Hospital continued to be run by Mildred Dobbs until her retirement in 1950. It was then taken over by the Galt Hospital. With the polio epidemic of the early 1950's, it was recognized to be inadequate for its purpose, and so, an isolation ward was planned for the large new Lethbridge Municipal Hospital which was opened in 1955. There being no further need for the old Isolation Hospital, it was sold by the City to private interests and converted into an apartment building called Lou Ann Apartments. With six suites, it has functioned as an apartment building ever since.


The historical significance of the Isolation Hospital in Lethbridge lies in its close association with the medical history of the city, in particular with its service during the polio epidemic of the early 1950's. It is also important in having served briefly as an orphanage.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-1343
Designation File: DES 1976
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 24649
Website Link: N/A
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8
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