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Women's College Hospital National Historic Site of Canada

Grenville Street, Toronto, Ontario, M5S, Canada

Formally Recognized: 1995/11/24

General view of Women's College Hospital, 1995.; Agence Parcs Canada/ Parks Canada Agency, Leslie Maitland, 1995.
General view
Aerial view of the Women's College Hospital, showing wings identified  as "A", built in 1956, and "B", in 1935.; Women's College Hospital Archives/ Archives du Women's College Hospital.
Aerial view
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Other Name(s)

Women's College Hospital National Historic Site of Canada
Women's College Hospital
Women's College Hospital

Links and documents

Construction Date(s)

1935/01/01 to 1994/01/01

Listed on the Canadian Register: 2007/07/17

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place

Women's College Hospital National Historic Site of Canada faces Grenville St. where a ten-storey buff brick Art Deco-style skyscraper has, since 1935, established its presence in the centre of Toronto. The hospital is a complex of buildings with a common purpose located adjacent to one another on Grenville, Grafton and Bay Streets. The designation refers to the site of the hospital with its grouping of functioning medical buildings as defined by the footprints of the 1935 skyscraper including the south and east wing additions, Burton Hall, the Grosvenor Street apartment building, and the Bay Street commercial building.

Heritage Value

Women's College Hospital was designated a national historic site in 1995 because:
- with its emphasis on women as health care professionals and on women's health issues, it is an institution which is unique in Canadian history and the buildings that house it symbolize women's struggle to claim a place of their own in the medical profession and in the built environment,
- the hospital was founded at a time when women's access to medical education, to hospital practice and to medical teaching was extremely restricted and it provided women medical professionals with opportunities that were unavailable, or extremely limited, elsewhere in the country,
- Women's College Hospital has always been a pacesetter in medical practice and health care generally and an important Canadian research centre.

Thanks to the ground-breaking campaigning of Canada's first female medical doctor, Dr. Emily Howard Jennings Stowe, a Women's Medical College was opened in 1883 on Sumach Street in Toronto. In 1895, this college amalgamated with its sister institution in Kingston (created by Dr. Jennie Trout) to become the Ontario Medical College for Women, continuing to offer medical instruction to women until 1898, when the University of Toronto began to admit female medical students.

The college then became a free women's clinic, the Women's College Hospital and Dispensary, with a growing clientele and a constant need for larger premises, moving several times until 1935, when it raised enough money to build the ten-storey core of the present Women's College Hospital (WCH) complex. Affiliated with the University of Toronto in the 1950s, the WCH formally became a "university teaching hospital" in 1961, at which time the by-laws were amended to allow the hiring of male as well as female doctors as permanent staff. By this time a new School of Nursing (east wing) and the Burton Hall Residence had been built (1956) and in 1967 a new ten-storey east wing was added.

The heritage value of Women's College Hospital National Historic Site of Canada resides in its association with the struggle and contribution of Canadian women within the medical profession. This value is reflected in the site's prominent location and landmark 1935 high-rise building, the complex's phased construction and large scale, and its accommodation of a wide range of research, teaching and treatment activities.

Sources : Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1995, June 1999.

Character-Defining Elements

Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include:

- the prominent location of the complex in downtown Toronto, near the University of Toronto campus;
- the complex's phased construction;
- the complex's substantial size;
- the grouping of the individual buildings comprising the complex in proximity to one another;
- the 1935 high-rise building with its ten-storey pavilion massing and Art Deco exterior treatment as the visual focus of the complex;
- the Frances Gage sculpture entitled "Woman", commemorating the women founders of the hospital, in its material, form and location in a public space within the complex;
- the ability of the complex to accommodate high-level health care, training and research.




Recognition Authority

Government of Canada

Recognition Statute

Historic Sites and Monuments Act

Recognition Type

National Historic Site of Canada

Recognition Date


Historical Information

Significant Date(s)


Theme - Category and Type

Building Social and Community Life
Education and Social Well-Being
Building Social and Community Life
Social Movements

Function - Category and Type



Health and Research
Hospital or Other Health Care Institution

Architect / Designer

Steven and Lee



Additional Information

Location of Supporting Documentation

National Historic Sites Directorate, Documentation Centre, 5th Floor, Room 89, 25 Eddy Street, Gatineau, Quebec

Cross-Reference to Collection

Fed/Prov/Terr Identifier




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