|Strathcona Anatomy and Dentistry Building (formerly Strathcona Medical Building)
Strathcona Medical Building -- McGill Archives
The Faculty of Medicine is the oldest at McGill and was, in the beginning, the only part of McGill capable of granting a degree. In October of 1845, the faculty, which until then had only bestowed diplomas through McGill, moved to the campus proper and set itself up in the Arts Building, the only edifice on the McGill property at that time. Since Montreal had not yet expanded as far west as McGill, the only access to the Arts Building was by way of bumpy, unkempt lanes which became almost impassable in the harsh winter drifts. One professor, Dr. MacCulloch, was actually much loved by the students because he had a large sleigh and gave passage to as many floundering students as he could.
Dr. MacCallum recalled his 1847 experience as Prosector to the Professor of Anatomy: "I had to prepare, during the greater part of the session, the dissections of the parts which were to be the subject of the Professor's lectures the following day. This necessitated my passing several hours, usually from nine to twelve o'clock at night, in the dismal foul-smelling dissecting room, my only company being several partially dissected subjects, and numerous rats which kept up a lively racket, coursing over and below the floor and within the walls of the room..." Thus the Faculty of Medicine was not entirely satisfied with its placement in the Arts Building, "a lonely building, far removed from other dwellings, imperfectly heated, and lighted by candles - the light being barely sufficient to render the surrounding darkness visible."
In 1851, the Faculty of Medicine relocated to Coté Street where its members had constructed a suitable home from their own pockets. It was not until 1872 that the faculty could be persuaded to return to the campus. This time, an entire building was erected, on the site of the present-day James Administration Building, purposely to house the faculty and welcome it home.
In 1907 two tragic fires occurred on campus within a two week period. The first, on April 5th, destroyed the Old Macdonald Engineering Building, designed by Sir Andrew Taylor in 1893. It was resurrected in 1908 by Percy Nobbs. The second fire, on April 16th, gutted three out of four sections of the Old Medical Building, once located where James Administration is today, just northeast of the Arts Building. The only part to survive, still used today as part of James Administration, was an addition constructed in 1894 by Sir Andrew Taylor.
After this second fire, the Faculty of Medicine found itself homeless and had to hold classes in rented space downtown. Fortunately, Lord Strathcona, always a friend to the University, immediately stepped forward and offered to purchase land and erect a new structure for the displaced faculty. The site chosen was at the southwest corner of Pine and University, across from the Royal Victoria Hospital. David Brown and Hugh Vallance were hired to design the new Strathcona Medical Building which opened in 1909.
The Faculty of Medicine was, and still is, one of the most revered at McGill and to reflect this Lord Strathcona insisted on a design in which no detail was ignored. Because Medicine had close connections with the Royal Victoria Hospital, the layout of the new building mirrored the main entrance and wings of the Hospital across the street. Strathcona, a 4-storey, stone edifice, has a central bay with two flanking wings connected by corridors. At one time, the central gallery, once spanned by a beautiful stained-glass dome, was used as an ethnological museum with displays of mans evolution and primitive cultures on each floor. On the south of the third floor was the students' reading room, still preserved in its original state, featuring stained-glass skylights, leather upholstered oak doors, delicate chandeliers, long oak tables, and small, green reading lamps.
In 1919, Percy Nobbs, who designed many buildings for McGill, was commissioned to create a stained-glass window commemorating the members of the Medical Faculty who fought or died in World War I. The deep colours of this large work still illuminate the second floor hall of the Strathcona Medical Building.
Sir William Osler, distinguished for his research accomplishments in Medicine, wished to leave his extensive library of medical texts with his faculty. Thus, in 1921, Nobbs was asked to construct the Osler Library within the Strathcona edifice. These three oak-paneled bays contain not only the works and collection of Osler, but his heart as well, placed in the centre wall. After the McIntyre Medical Sciences Building was erected in 1965, the Osler Library was moved, piece by piece, and installed in its south wing where it now serves scholars and students of medicine.