Hospital faces a devastating fire

Friday, December 24, 1897

On the morning of Christmas Eve in 1897, fire broke out in the St. George’s Ward of the Watkins wing. One of the orderlies, preparing the wax to polish the floors, spilled turpentine on an open flame, igniting the fire. The fire hydrants were frozen so hoses had to be run from the Doran building, adjacent to Watkins. A brigade of firemen and volunteers fought valiantly to keep the fire from spreading to the Main Building by passing buckets of water hand-to-hand, and succeeded but for a small patch of roof. Forty of forty-seven patients were evacuated and moved to other wings of the hospital while seven sick children were moved to the Orphan’s home on Union Street for temporary shelter; no one was hurt.

Almost immediately, the Board began planning to rebuild. Watkins, which was originally a two-storey structure, was rebuilt as a three-storey structure designed by William Newlands. The reconstructed wing had a proper fire escape, electric wiring, and an improved heating unit.