The Fenwick Operating Theatre

Tuesday, October 1, 1895

Formally opened in October 1895, the Fenwick Operating Theatre was added to the main hospital building and cost $4,000 to build.

Dr. Kenneth N. Fenwick, a Queen’s Medical College professor and attending physician for the hospital had been requesting a new operating theatre for years and donated $2,500 of the cost. The theatre featured ten windows around the upper-perimeter and, most prominently, a large skylight in the domed ceiling which contributed to a better-lit operating room before the installation of electric lights. A large gaslight also hung over the operating table to provide supplementary lighting when required.

The theatre housed three rows of seats that accommodated up to 100 medical students. The discovery that sanitation and antisepsis were critical to the maintenance of health made Dr. Fenwick a great proponent of cleanliness in the operating room. The building’s inner circular shape was intended to facilitate cleaning, as there were no corners in which dirt might get trapped. The floor was made of slate and the walls of polished white Italian marble, since slate and marble are less porous and more easily sanitized than wood. Fenwick Operating Theatre was furnished with state-of-the-art equipment for the time: a new Endibohl’s operating table with a Morris extension, two wash basins, three glass tables, and a boiler for sterilizing instruments.