90th anniversaryJuly 2024

Digging into the archives to celebrate the JGH’s 90th anniversary

Raise a glass and make a toast: The Jewish General Hospital is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year—on October 8, to be exact.

In honour of this special occasion, JGH News is dipping into the archives for a look back at some of the highlights of the past nine decades.

Every Tuesday during the 90 days leading up to the 90th anniversary, four new archival items will be showcased in JGH News.

Some of them commemorate historic landmarks, others describe major medical milestones, and many are simply unique glimpses into the everyday lives of patients and staff of bygone eras.

Featured in this edition are:

  • The 1931 groundbreaking for the hospital
  • The main lobby in previous decades
  • How the JGH helped Celine Dion breastfeed her twin sons in 2010
  • A 1984 visit by Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau

All of the JGH News items that have been published to date can be found in the 90th anniversary archive. [add link]

Be sure to check back every Tuesday for the next four entries!

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Ground is broken to start construction of the JGH

One of the most stirring milestones in the history of the JGH was the day when ground was broken, on August 3, 1931, to start construction of the hospital. Present as the guest of honour was Canada’s Governor General, Lord Bessborough, who would return a little over three years later for the official opening.

Architect’s drawing of the JGH, as envisioned in 1931 when ground was broken for construction of the hospital.

Architect’s drawing of the JGH, as envisioned in 1931 when ground was broken for construction of the hospital.

The day began with a sumptuous luncheon (suprême de volaille sous cloche, pèche melba and other delicacies) at the Montefiore Club, followed by a tour of the Hebrew Educational Institute, the Hebrew Old People’s Sheltering Home and the Young Men’s Hebrew Association.

When the dignitaries finally reached the hospital site, they were greeted by more than 1,000 spectators and a band. After speeches by several officials, Lord Bessborough was handed a spade and he proceeded to turn the first sod to the cheers of the crowd and the strains of “The Maple Leaf Forever”.

The final words on that momentous day were Lord Bessborough’s: “In breaking the earth on which this great hospital is to be erected, I express my sincere hope that, with God’s blessing, it may long fulfill the errand of mercy for which it is destined.”

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Bringing the lobby and main entrance up to date

The original lobby of the JGH, with a Star of David and the hospital’s name inlaid in the tile on the floor. At the rear in the centre of the photo is the information desk.

The original lobby of the JGH, with a Star of David and the hospital’s name inlaid in the tile on the floor. At the rear in the centre of the photo is the information desk.

The lobby in the 1990s. At the centre is a directory of hospital offices and clinics, and behind it is The Auxiliary’s flower shop. Today the main security desk has replaced The Auxiliary’s book table (at left) and the passageway to Pavilion K would later begin where people are waiting for an elevator (at right).

The lobby in the 1990s. At the centre is a directory of hospital offices and clinics, and behind it is The Auxiliary’s flower shop. Today the main security desk has replaced The Auxiliary’s book table (at left) and the passageway to Pavilion K would later begin where people are waiting for an elevator (at right).

The main lobby is often the first point of contact for patients and visitors who come to the JGH. As the hospital has evolved, so has the lobby, which has been modified to keep pace with evolving needs and tastes.

The most dramatic change took place in 2008, when the lobby and main entrance were extensively renovated and enlarged in anticipation of the JGH’s 75th anniversary in 2009.

This involved extending the lobby beyond the original exterior walls of Pavilion B, enclosing the entire space, installing wider and roomier doors (both revolving and conventional), and adding a sheltered drop-off area outside.

* * * * *

Celine Dion reaches out to the JGH

Celine Dion with her twins, Nelson and Eddy, born October 23, 2010.

Celine Dion with her twins, Nelson and Eddy, born October 23, 2010.

In 2010, when Celine Dion urgently needed advice on breastfeeding her twin boys at her family home in Florida, she reached across the continent and found the expertise she needed at the JGH.

“I got the call, flew out the next day and was there for just over 24 hours,” said Carole Dobrich, Lactation Consultant at the Goldman Herzl Family Practice Centre.

“It was good timing, because nothing was scheduled for the breastfeeding clinic on the following day, so I was able to leave without affecting its activities.”

Ms. Dobrich, whose name was given to Ms. Dion by a mutual friend, said she found the superstar singer to be “a mother like any other.

“People forget that moms need support even for the little things. It’s how they come to feel confident and trust their instincts. I’m proud I could sit down and help her, just like any other mom. The whole family was very friendly—genuinely loving and kind people.”

* * * * *

Mayor Jean Drapeau pays a visit

Jean Drapeau visits.

In March 1984, Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau (right) unveiled a plaque marking the 50th anniversary of the Jewish General Hospital. President Herbert Siblin also showed him plans for a new western wing, now known as Pavilion E.

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