I was born there, at the Grace Hospital in St. John’s, Newfoundland. There’s a photo of me, a port wine stain on my right cheek, swathed in a fluffy baby blanket with satin trim and a glazed look in my eyes in one of the many, featureless maternity wards the Grace had to offer. There’s more to my story, not much more that I want to divulge here, but the hospital and the residence building on the property have a story all its own. Old buildings often do.
The Grace was Newfoundland’s first maternity hospital, opened in September of 1923 by the Salvation Army. It was built specifically to cater to unwed mothers and had only 22 beds, but quickly expanded to 100 beds and had added a children’s ward by 1929. It was also chosen as the location for the second nursing school in the province. Mary Southcott (1862-1943), having created the first nursing school between 1903 and 1914, was charged with starting one at the Grace hospital. She had been in the employ of the St. John’s General Hospital, but had resigned from her position as Superintendent of Nursing after conflicts arose regarding her methods. She set up her own hospital and promoted midwifery in the province, also serving on the Newfoundland Midwifery Board. She was also the President of the Child Welfare Association and an advocate for women’s suffrage.
Several extensions were added to the Grace in later years, expanding again in 1954 to 200 beds and the government updated the existing nursing hospital 10 years later. A nursing residence was also added. The expansion of The Health Sciences Center in St. John’s prompted the closure of the Grace in 2000. It was believed that the building was outdated and that it would cost far more to bring the structure up to current standards than it would to outfit the HSC.
Transportation and Works
November 17, 2006
Government Plans to Demolish Former Grace Hospital Building
The Honourable John Hickey, Minister of Transportation and Works, announced today that government will issue a tender next week for the demolition of the remaining hospital building at the former Grace Hospital site LeMarchant Road, St. John’s. If that building, constructed in the 1960s, is demolished, only the nurses’ residence would remain on the site.
The decision to issue a tender for the building’s demolition was made following an unsuccessful call for Expressions of Interest to sell the facility issued in July. Government has determined that none of the responses are acceptable. However, Minister Hickey says a window of opportunity remains for those respondents.
“We’ve advised the respondents that we are open to offers until we award a contract for the demolition of the remainder of the former Grace Hospital,” said Minister Hickey. “We expect this would give the respondents four to six weeks to revise their submissions.”
In 2005, Transportation and Works contracted for the environmental remediation and demolition of a portion of the structures on site. As a result, the houses at 205 Pleasant Street and 203 Pleasant Street, the smoke stack, the 1920s section and the majority of the 1950s section of the former Grace Hospital were demolished.
At present, the only structure remaining of the old hospital is the nursing residence. The hospital itself, smoke stack (which was a rather iconic part of the landscape in St. John’s),the residences at 203 and 205 Pleasant St., the expansions added in the 1920’s, and out buildings had all been demolished by 2008.
There’s something about abandoned spaces. It’s as if, at any moment, something terrifying could slither its way around a corner or through a dark opening. These are the things we think about as we sit perched in front of our computers, scrolling through (what has recently been dubbed) our ruin porn.
The Grace had added a children’s ward and was accepting regular patients (not just unwed mothers) by the time it closed its doors. My grandfather, having fallen from a garage roof onto a pocket full of nails, spent a chunk of time here after surgery and rehabilitation. I remember clearly visiting the cafeteria with its pink walls and twisty chairs and weaving my way down the long hall from my grandfather’s room to the vending area. I also recall Mr. Coffee and Mr. Canoe, two men who are very likely dead by now, who shared a room with my grandfather and offered me Werther’s Original’s that had probably been kicking around in the drawer they materialized out of long before either man had resided in those beds. They meant well.
It wasn’t long after the Grace was slated to be torn down that curious individuals began investigating what remained. Although much of the equipment had been moved to the HSC, light fixtures, old desks, and random medical paraphernalia were abandoned within. Many of the remaining articles were removed and taken off property by those looking to make a quick buck while other items remain, a ghostly reminder of the building’s past.
The old nursing residence seems to be a hub of activity. Individuals who live close to the building or have sight lines to the property report ghostly apparitions, strange lights, and strange noises in the night. One such individual, a nursing student on break from his classes at university, had gone home to visit his parents during a break. His bedroom has a clear view to the old Grace Hospital parking lot. The student reported waking to a strange howling sound sometime around 4 A.M. He made his way to the window and instantly noticed someone walking around in the lot. He might have mistaken this someone for a living person if not for the fact that the person appeared to have no legs. They simply stopped at the hips, the remaining anatomy “fading” away into nothing. The figure would stop every few minutes, look to the sky, and let out a mournful wail. After about fifteen minutes, the figure slowly made its way toward the building and disappeared out of sight.
A member of the demolition crew had a similar experience. While inside the residence, he kept catching glimpses of someone peeking around the door frames in his periphery. After a few minutes of this, the man walked to the doorway where he had last seen what appeared to be a little boy. He peeked into the room, but saw nothing there. The room was empty of furniture and he saw no child inside. He went back to work. Shortly thereafter, the crewman again saw the boy. This time, as the boy disappeared through a doorway, he noticed that the boy appeared to be floating. The crewman was unable to make out distinguishing features, but he noticed the boy appeared to be wearing a hospital gown.
As a nurse was leaving the hospital in the winter time, heading across the residence lot to her car, she noticed a woman walking toward the back of the building. It appeared as if she wasn’t wearing any winter clothing and it was very cold. The nurse watched as the woman disappeared around the corner. She didn’t look like any nurse on staff that she knew and she wondered if a patient wasn’t out wandering. The nurse followed the woman around the corner, but the woman had disappeared. When she looked down, there were footprints in the snow, leading toward, and stopping in front of, a solid brick wall.
Are there spirits trapped on the grounds of the old Grace General Hospital? Will they ever find peace? Perhaps the energy surrounding the property has created a sort of portal to the other side, allowing the spirits of those lost while the hospital was still in operation to roam endlessly and without release. What do you think about the eyewitness accounts? Let us know in the comments.
Your Fellow Haunt Head,
Tweet us @hauntheadscast
Facebook: Haunt Heads Podcast
Podcast episodes are available at hauntheads.podbean.com or wherever you listen to podcasts!