Discover the History of Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital

Early Beginnings

In April 1907, John Dunn sold his large home facing Dunedin Street for $3,750 to be used as a hospital for Orillia. The site was two-and-a-quarter acres and accommodated an old brick-clad dwelling with 10 rooms.


The first delicate operation was performed on April 22, 1909 by Dr. A.P. Ardagh to remove a cataract from Mrs. Charles Gill’s eye.

The Orillia School of Nursing was established at the Orillia General Hospital in 1910. Over the course of the school’s 64-year history more than 700 nurses graduated from the school. To this day, nursing students continue to gain experience at OSMH as part of their training.

In 1922, the 70-bed Soldiers’ Wing was completed. That same year the hospital officially changed its name to Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital in honour of the Orillia soldiers lost in the Great World War.


In 1926 the first nursing residence was built on Mississaga Street, next to the hospital.

The Princess Elizabeth Wing was built in 1952 and added 32 obstetric beds. To mark the occasion an oak tree was planted in the soon-to-be Queen Elizabeth’s honour in the hospital’s courtyard – it still stands glorious today.

The fall of 1963 saw the completion of the four-storey Harvie Wing, which replaced the historic Queen Mary section. This new Wing added more beds, new diagnostic departments and services, and improved administration facilities.

The following year, 1964, an enlarged Paediatric Unit was added and renovations to the School of Nursing and medical wing were completed.


In 1968, the Eleanor Johnston residence and facilities for the School of Nursing were erected. The new wing contained facilities for lectures, conference/seminar rooms, an audiovisual room, a multi-purpose room, faculty offices and a student health unit.

By 1970 increasing demands upon the hospital and its staff warranted the provision of a totally updated Emergency Room. Located on the main floor of the Princess Elizabeth Wing the new ER offered outpatient clinics and day-surgery facilities.

The hospital continued to meet the growing needs of Orillia and an expanding referral area. However, with tremendous advances in sophisticated life-saving techniques it was evident that intensive care facilities were essential for the care of our patients. The first Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at OSMH opened in 1973.


In 1982, a new Soldiers’ Wing opened. The new wing housed two medical units; an eight-bed ICU; and spaces for rehabilitation, cardio respiratory, materials management and housekeeping departments. At this time, the former School of Nursing was converted into a comprehensive educational center, complete with a health sciences library and facilities for education and meetings.

The old Soldiers’ Wing was demolished in the spring of 1983.

In September 1992 the Diabetes Education Centre opened in a house adjacent to the hospital, at 169 Mississaga Street West. The program initially dealt with adult diabetes, but later expanded to include paediatric diabetes.

The main floor of the Eleanor Johnston Residence was converted into the hospital’s cancer care clinic in 1992. The top two floors were renovated to accommodate the hospital’s administrative offices.

That same year, extensive renovations began in the old administration area to make way for a new Regional Renal Dialysis Centre for Simcoe County and Muskoka. Since then, the Dialysis Unit has expanded to the second floor of the Princess Elizabeth Wing where the Home Dialysis Program and Pre-Dialysis Clinic are located.

Early in 1994 extensive changes were made to the Paediatric Unit, resulting in a more modern, compact, and efficient environment.


In April 2000, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care announced an $83-million expansion and redevelopment project at OSMH. The project included the addition of a six-storey patient tower, which would house a new emergency room, four state-of-the-art surgical suites, a pharmacy, and a new laboratory. It also included a complete renovation of the Harvie Wing, and the diagnostic imaging department.

The groundbreaking of the expansion and redevelopment project took place on October 6, 2003.

The Community Tower (the six-storey patient tower named by local residents) officially opened on March 31, 2006.


On January 16, 2006, OSMH announced it would soon be home to a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine. Construction on the MRI began in July 2006.

In March 2007 the first CT Scanner suite opened for business at OSMH.

OSMH officially opened the new MRI suite on July 21, 2007. Only the second MRI in North Simcoe Muskoka, the state-of-the-art technology confirmed OSMH as a diagnostic centre of excellence for the region.

On May 28, 2008 Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital celebrated its 100th Anniversary; a milestone for the community and region.

2008 also marked the completion of the hospital’s five-year expansion and redevelopment project. With the addition of new regional programs and services, OSMH is creating a healthier future.