Heritage Trail: Lacombe General Hospital

Lacombe was established as a stopping point on the line between Edmonton and Calgary when the railway came through in 1891. However, according to historian Dorothy Field, it was a few years before the citizens of this new town got a hospital.

Lacombe's first hospital was in a building that had been built in 1894, but it actually wasn't opened until 1908. It only lasted a year. It was run by a Nurse Trotter as a private enterprise, and after it closed down Lacombe was without a hospital until 1910 when the Lacombe General Hospital was opened.

But getting that new hospital up and running was a major feat and it took years of dedication and hard work on the part of a lady named Mrs Burse.

Mrs. Burse, who was the wife of Lacombe's first Mayor, undertook several years of fundraising in order to have the building erected. At least three years, because in 1907 she received a letter of encouragement from Father Albert Lacombe enclosing 5 dollar donation towards the building of the hospital. So she did just about everything she could to promote the hospital, and even at one point raffled off her Christmas presents to get money for it's construction.

Eventually the money was in place and an architect was hired to design the Lacombe General Hospital. The two story wood frame building had a homey appearance. There were beds for 9 patients, and the design incorporated several features which made it stand out from other small town hospitals.

It has, most prominently, several large balconies where patients could be sat out in deck chairs to take the air, which was a very important part of recuperation in early 20th century concept of medical treatment, especially for those people suffering from the white plague as it was known, tuberculosis. The Lacombe hospital was prominent in the late teens after WWI when there was a devastating influenza epidemic, and the staff of the hospital were accredited with performing a major role in containing and treating the flu in the area.

The Lacombe General Hospital served as a hospital from 1910 until 1937. In later years it operated as a drop in center for Lacombe's Senior Citizens.

On the heritage trail, I'm Cheryl Croucher.