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FEBRUARY 2016 - The Cardinal’s hospital

Source : ACAM
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On 24 January 1956, the Archbishop of Montreal made a rather surprising acquisition. Cardinal Léger acquired the former Montreal General Hospital located on Dorchester Boulevard (now René-Levesque). The building was up for sale since the inauguration of the new General Hospital on the southern slope of Mount Royal. The 1.5 million dollar transaction was intended to open a place that would provide care to the chronically ill. In the 31 December 1955 edition of Le Devoir, the Cardinal described the acquisition as being a true leap of faith. Indeed, the money for this ambitious project largely came from corporate and individual donations. A plan of the hospital complex has been preserved by our archives. It is this precious document that we suggest to you this month. It allows us to identify the location of a range of buildings including some that no longer exist. Many of the small buildings along Dorchester Boulevard were demolished to allow the widening of this important street. Among these buildings, is a structure built in 1821 that had housed the original hospital. The plan also reveals that an underpass beneath the Dorchester Boulevard linked the Nurses Home to the former General Hospital.

Faced with an enormous task to make the derelict building functional again, Cardinal Léger appealed to the Catholics of his diocese. A large volunteer program was set up to rehabilitate the building. The Cardinal's Giant Community Bee was launched. All those who could were invited to spend a day or more to clean and renovate the building. At the end of January, the hospital welcomed its first patient. Cardinal Léger himself accompanied him by ambulance from the Maisonneuve hospital

Affectionately known as the Cardinal's Hospital, the building did not remain his property for a very long time. Cardinal Léger invited the Hospitaller Order of the Brothers of Saint John of God to take over the administration of the institution and to provide care to its patients. The final release act with the religious community was signed on 17 February 1956. The new hospital would take the name of Saint-Charles-Borromée. It was sixty years ago.

The religious community administered Saint-Charles-Borromée for more than a decade. At the end of the 1960s, the Brothers Hospitaller of Saint John of God transferred the administration of the hospital to a corporation. In 2014, in memory of its benefactor, the building was renamed after Cardinal Léger and is now known as the Centre d'hébergement Paul-Émile Léger.


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