Capturing an era of cottage hospitals
St. John’s author and
publisher Edward Lake has now compiled the first book to ever chronicle
the entire history of the province’s cottage hospital system,
Capturing an Era: History of the Newfoundland Cottage Hospital System.
by Jonathan Carpenter
For more than half a century the
cottage hospital system delivered quality health care to hundreds of
patients in communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.
St. John’s author and publisher Edward
Lake has now compiled the first book to ever chronicle the entire
history of the province’s cottage hospital system. Capturing an Era:
History of the Newfoundland Cottage Hospital System is a compilation of
archival documents, personal accounts and a diverse selection of
Lake is a retired registered nurse and
former director of health for the Labrador coast. He says unlike most
history books, Capturing An Era combines statistical data with narrative
about the life of the cottage hospitals and the lives of patients,
families and staff that were touched along the way.
He credits Dr. John Munro Ross as first
having the idea for the book while working as Chief Medical Officer at
the Placentia Cottage Hospital. Dr. Ross began compiling research for
the book in the mid-1980s as a retirement project. Lake, who also worked
at the hospital, had already amassed a considerable amount of research
and the two friends agreed to partner on the project. However, when Dr.
Ross was diagnosed with cancer, the project was no longer a priority and
In 2006, Lake was approached by Katherine
Daley, board chair of the Health Archives and Museum of Newfoundland and
Labrador, about reviving the project. Lake agreed and he began sending
out requests in local newspapers asking readers to submit their own
memories of the cottage hospitals.
“The sad part about it is that a lot of
information was lost when they closed the cottage hospitals. Instead of
keeping the documents and records they got rid of them. What we’re
trying to do now is preserve at least the memory of the cottage
hospitals while we can,” said Lake.
The book contains anecdotes about the
doctors, nurses, administrators and support staff, who provided a system
of quality health care that never before existed. It also documents two
traveling hospital ships that augmented the system by providing care to
remote coastal communities. The book also examines such topics as
pre-Commission of Government hospitals, the origin of the cottage
hospital system and its founders, ties to Memorial University and an
overview of each individual hospital.
The cover of the book, consisting of two
integrated photographs, was also designed by Lake. The Dory Buff yellow
clapboard siding and the Forest Green traditional window trim, which was
common on most government buildings of the time, encases a photo of Head
Nurse Catherine McGrath, RN, holding the last premature baby born at the
Placentia Cottage Hospital.
The book will be available for purchase on
December 1st, marking the 75th anniversary of the official establishment
of the cottage hospital system in the province. Lake says the timing is
also significant in that it is being released during the final year of
the Health Archives’ operation, due to a withdrawal of government
funding. Lake dedicates Capturing an Era to his family doctor, mentor
and friend, Dr. John Munro Ross.
To order a copy of
Capturing an Era visit