Heritage Value of the Second Nurses’ Residence

Description of Property

The Second Nurses’ Residence is a three-storey institutional building, located on the East side of Delhi Street on the Homewood Health Centre campus in the City of Guelph.

Statement of Cultural Heritage Value of Interest

The Second Nurses’ Residence’s cultural heritage value lies from being Guelph’s best example of an institutional building of the late Edwardian style with Georgian revival proportioning and Arts and Crafts influences.

Typical of the era, the residence reflects the Georgian revival through the use of tertiary proportioning.  This is evidenced through the residence’s horizontal rectangular massing that is anchored by the slightly protruding three-storey building wings.  The protruding wings are further accented by single storey bays on the front façade, two storey bays on the North and South ends.  The tertiary symmetry is further reinforced by the large imposing chimneys on the North and South sides (only the Northern chimney remains today).

Built in 1925, the building was designed by Ottawa architect Walter Herbert George (1907-1958) who became known as a hospital construction specialist in the latter part of his career.  George is also associated with the construction of two major theatres in Ottawa: the Family Theatre (1911) and the Imperial Theatre (1913).

Most importantly, the Nurses’ Residence’s cultural heritage value lies in the vital role it played in recognizing and promoting the role of women in nursing psychiatry in Ontario and Canada.  According to historian Cheryl Warsh:

Homewood was forced to continually upgrade its program and facilities because of the “unwillingness on the part of young ladies to come to Homewood to train and (the) scarcity of nurses.  Reason – standards of nurses are very low and type of work expect(ed).  Toronto graduate nurses and staff absolutely refused to do maid’s work”.  Along with an improved curriculum, Homewood realized that they would have to provide “better standards of amusements and entertainments” to compete for nursing students of good quality.  The erection of a new separate nurse’s home in 1924 helped to make Homewood more appealing to prospective nurses.  (p.116 from “Moments of Unreason: The Practice of Canadian Psychiatry and the Homewood Retreat, 1883 -1923).

The Nurses’ Residence served to:

  • Position Homewood as a pioneer in psychiatric nursing;

  • Elevate and promote nursing (a female profession at the time) through education and standards;

  • Provide a vehicle for nursing students to gain emotional support and to establish lifelong professional loyalties;

  • Provide security and comforts of home while freeing women of domestic responsibilities in order to pursue their studies without distractions.

The Homewood also has the distinction of operating the first psychiatric nursing school program (started in 1906) in a private setting in Canada.  And it is the second oldest psychiatric nursing school program in Canada for both public and private settings — the Rockwood asylum training school in Kingston is believed to be the first program of its kind: it was established in 1888).

Contextually, the relationship of the Second Nurses’ residence to its setting is important to the Homewood campus.  First, it contributes to the largest concentration of the Edwardian institutional buildings in Guelph – and possibly Ontario – and was the last Edwardian building built following the fire of 1911.  Second, its massing and location opposite the Manor building contributes to the balanced architectural rhythm by creating a “gating” effect as one travels North on Delhi Street.  The Nurse’s residence is framed by large mature trees (in contrast to the West side of Delhi St. where a natural canopy is absent) and as such contributes to the “canopy effect” of arriving on the Homewood campus.

Description of Heritage Attributes

Key heritage attributes, embodying the heritage value of the best remaining example of a residence of a late Edwardian institutional building, include:

  • Brickwork characterized by brown rug-brick (typical of the wire grooving of the era) and includes a number of unique details including a soldier course between the second and third storeys to accentuate the Georgian symmetry and unique barrel vaulted brick lintels.

  • A well-proportioned hipped roof that includes one prominent centrally located dormer.

  • Pronounced soffit dentils typically found in the Arts and Crafts building style.

  • Rectangular plan with protruding wings on the North and South sides that are include single storey bays on the front and double-storey bays on the North and South.

  • Original 9x9 windows including art glass windows on the second floor of the North and South side wings.

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