The Laurentian Sanatorium
234 Saint-Vincent Street
In the late 19th century, tuberculosis (TB) was a deadly and common affliction with no known cure except bed rest and plenty of dry, fresh air. Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, recognized for the quality of its air, was identified as a site for treatment of the disease, also called “consumption”. Between 1895 and 1912, many small sanatoria and rest homes were established in and around the town. They were easy to get to, with the railway just a few kilometres from the village centre and Lac des Sables.
A larger-scale project saw the light of day in 1908. Douglas Lorne McGibbon, a TB patient, met Dr. Roddick Byers during his rest cure at a sanatorium in Saranac Lake, New York. Noting the absence of such adapted care facilities in Canada, the two men partnered with other investors to found the Laurentian Sanatorium in Sainte-Agathe. Built in the Tudor Revival style, it stood out for the quality and rarity of its architecture. Its design is unique among hospital buildings in Quebec, and it stands as the last remaining witness to the history of Sainte-Agathe’s sanatoria.
The original building was completed in 1911, on a woodland at some distance from the town, so as to isolate patients and prevent contagion. There were 45 beds, plus a floor for the staff. Between 1915 and 1924, the federal government requisitioned the premises, turning them into a hospital for the civil re-establishment of soldiers with TB or suffering from lung problems after being exposed to mustard gas during World War I. The sanatorium was then handed back to the provincial government in 1924.
In the 1920s and 1930s, with tuberculosis spreading widely, more buildings were added to meet growing need, and by the 1940s the sanatorium’s capacity was 350 patients.
(1) The original Laurentian Sanatorium not long after its construction, around 1911.
(2) Two of the buildings added in the 1920s and 1930s. They were demolished in the 1950s.
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.