McMaster University

History of
Health Care in Hamilton

Scope of Search

Municipal Hospital

Hamilton's First Municipal Hospital

In 1848, Mr. Henry John Williams, Hamilton's first appointed health officer, rented a small house on Catharine Street to house several homeless typhus patients. This became overcrowded very quickly and was closed sometime later, after a new hospital was built.

The new hospital was called the House of Industry because its purpose, at least partially, was to house the homeless poor. This was very common for hospitals opened at this time. It was built on two wooded acres of city property at the base of the escarpment near Ferguson Avenue, then called Cherry Street. The sole drawback of the commodious, two story, frame building, was its location. It lay in the path of regular quarry slides from the Wellington Street Quarry which was just above it on the escarpment. Its seclusion also tempted City Council to place a powder magazine and an animal pound there. After innumerable complaints and a few close calls, in 1852 a municipal committee found the site no longer suitable for a hospital. Another, more appropriate building was located for this purpose and after it opened, the patients were moved.

However the building remained in use. It was renamed the House of Refuge and continued to operate for another thirty years as a home for elderly women. It finally closed around 1882.