Our history

A legacy of respect, excellence and compassion

St. Joseph's Health Care London is made up of several different facilities, each with its own unique history.

Historical photo of St. Joseph's Health Care, London


Mental Health Care in London and St. Thomas

The former London Psychiatric Hospital opened its doors on the Highbury Avenue site in 1870 becoming part of a wide-spread movement across North America to create specialized institutions for the mentally ill. The 500 bed facility was instantly at capacity. In the 1930s there were over 1700 patients.

In the late 1800s almost all of the London Asylum for the Insane’s 900 patients were working in some capacity at the facility. Dr. Richard Bucke believed in the idea of work therapy, including farming, as treatment for those with mental illness, helping patients to focus on healthy activities.

Regional Mental Health Care St. Thomas

On April 1, 1939, the former St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital opened its doors and was at its greatest capacity with over 2,400 patients. Even before construction was complete, the hospital was known as the finest mental health hospital in the country because of its modern design. The site included 460 acres of land for the facility’s food and produce needs.

The site was used as a training ground for the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. Over sixty thousand British Commonwealth air force personnel along with volunteers were trained at the facility.

The provincial government reopened the hospital to patients in 1945 and by 1947 there were close to 1,100 patients.

Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care

1869 - Mount Hope was established

The Sisters of St. Joseph came to London in 1868 and were commissioned by the Bishop and Roman Catholic Diocese of London to visit the sick and poor, teach in separate schools and open an orphanage, to be called Mount Hope.

Since its foundation in 1869, Mount Hope was much more than an orphanage. It was a "refuge and comfortable home for the sick, the infirm, the destitute and the forsaken," including both children and homeless elderly people.

1900 - Mount Hope became The House of Providence

By the 1890's the facility was overcrowded with orphans and the elderly, many of whom were chronically ill and needed nursing care. The orphans were moved to Mount St. Joseph. Mount Hope became known as The House of Providence, a charitable institution and home for the aged.

1948 - The Sisters decided to build a chronic care hospital

The Sisters and physicians recognized many of the residents needed "chronic" or "long-term" care. They also realized that active treatment hospitals housed a large number of chronically-ill patients.

1951 - St. Mary's Hospital officially opened

St. Mary's Hospital received 35 patients who were transferred from The House of Providence. The Sisters of St. Joseph were congratulated for recognizing the needs of the chronically ill and continuing to devote their lives to patients, in charity and in humility.

1966 - Marian Villa officially opened

A new building, containing 214 beds for those who were unable to live independently, was built adjacent to the House of Providence. It serves as a residential home for the aged with extended health care.

1980 - House of Providence building was demolished

The old building was replaced by a connection joining Marian Villa to St. Mary's, including a new chapel, kitchen and laundry.

1983-1985 - Amalgamation - St. Joseph's Health Centre formed

Marian Villa and St. Mary's joined forces under one board and administration. The two institutions then amalgamated with St. Joseph's Hospital to form St. Joseph's Health Centre.

Parkwood Hospital

A proud legacy

The Women's Christian Association, established in 1874 for "the distribution of charity, and the care of the poor and the sick," founded what was to become Parkwood Hospital. The Home for Incurables operated first on Hamilton Road, and later moved to Dundas Street and was renamed the Victoria Home for Incurables. In 1921, the home moved to the Grand Avenue location, and came to be known as Parkwood Hospital for Incurables in 1927.

A new Parkwood

The hospital moved to its current Westminster Campus site in 1984. On July 7, 1989, the Western Counties Wing, linked to Parkwood by the Arthur J. Hobbins building, was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Parkwood has grown to become one of the largest specialized chronic care hospitals in Ontario, serving London, Southwestern Ontario and the veterans of Canada through inpatient, outpatient and outreach programs.

Historical Timeline


Parkwood's forerunner, the Home for Incurables, was established by the Women's Christian Association.


Official opening of McCormick Home.


London's first Day Hospital officially opened at Parkwood.


Parkwood Hospital assumes responsibility for care of veterans.


Palliative Care Unit officially opens.


New Parkwood Hospital opened at present-day site.


Regional Rehabilitation Program begins.


Official opening of the new Western Counties Wing by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.


Region's first Brain Injury Outreach Program begins and the Research Department is established.


Regional Geriatric Program opens.


Stroke and Musculoskeletal (hip fracture rehabilitation) Programs established.


Transfer of governance of Parkwood Hospital to St. Joseph's Health Care London.

St. Joseph’s Hospital

Upon encouragement from the government and community, in 1888, the Sisters decided to open a hospital. On October 15, 1888, St. Joseph's Hospital was officially opened, initially with 10 beds and space to accommodate 24 patients in total. The staff consisted of three Sisters and four doctors.

It was out of this humble beginning and the mission of the Sisters that St. Joseph's Hospital and all its affiliated services grew. Indeed, the hospital continues to provide the type of care that was initiated and nurtured by the Sisters, in the tradition of faith and caring.

Today, St. Joseph's retains its close affiliation with the Sisters and the Catholic Church through its owner, St. Joseph's Health Care Society of London.

View historical timelines of surgery and of St. Joseph's Health Care London:

Historical timeline of surgical innovation


St. Joseph’s performs the first cadaver kidney transplant in Ontario


St. Joseph’s is first to use a holmium laser for fragmentation of renal calculi, now used world-wide as standard of care in hundreds of centres


St. Joseph’s Urology Centre becomes first in the world to implant an antibiotic coated penile implant, called Inhibizone


St. Joseph’s Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) redefines treatment of glaucoma


  • St. Joseph’s surgeons first to perform a robot-assisted partial cystectomy using the da Vinci robot
  • St. Joseph’s is first in Canada to use robotic surgery as part of treating advanced endometriosis affecting the urinary bladder
  • St. Joseph’s Urologists first to use a four-armed da Vinci Surgical System to reduce the size of a man’s bladder and remove bladder stones


Surgeons perform Canada’s first robotic assisted radical hysterectomy with St. Joseph's da Vinci Surgical System. The landmark procedure marks the debut of a surgical robot in gynecologic cancer surgery in Canada


St. Joseph’s is first to perform pediatric robotic kidney reconstruction on a 16-year old boy


St. Joseph’s participates in first cross-continental surgery broadcast to China in real time using new technology from InTouch Health

Historical timeline: St. Joseph’s Health Care London

The Early Years, 1888 to the 1920s

1888 - St. Joseph's Hospital was established

From the founding of Mount Hope in 1869, the Sisters fought tirelessly to provide a safe refuge, caring for the sick, poor and otherwise helpless in the community. The community and the government were impressed with the compassion and efficiency of the Sisters in running Mount Hope and encouraged them to undertake hospital work.

The Sisters purchased a house on the northeast corner of Richmond and Grosvenor Streets and the long history of St. Joseph's remarkable health care began.

The hospital officially opened on October 15, 1888, operated by three Sisters, Mother Aloysia Nigh, Superior, Sister Martha Toohey and Sister Herman Murphy. The first patient was admitted the following day. The hospital had ten beds, with room for 14 more, which were to be tended to by four medical staff members, Dr. John Wishart, Dr. James Macarthur, Dr. William E. Waugh and Dr. William Woodruff.

1892 - A new hospital facility opened

Just four years after the hospital was founded, a new facility opened its doors on October 15, 1892. Built adjacent to the small house on the corner, the new building was three and a half storeys with 60 beds and one operating room. It remains today as the core of the west portion of the hospital.

Early facts:

  • The population of London in 1888 was 35,000
  • Average length of stay in St. Joseph's in 1892 was 34 days.
  • Average daily cost per patient was 25.87 cents
  • The hospital admitted 339 patients in 1893
  • By 1902, the number of patients admitted rose to 573
  • The first recorded birth in St. Joe's was on October 5, 1901

1901 - St. Joseph's School of Nursing established

From the beginning of St. Joseph's Hospital, nursing care was provided by the Sisters and the lay staff hired to assist them. With the developments in medical science, the need to train hospital workers in the care of the sick became very evident. In 1901, St. Joseph's Hospital Training School for Nurses was formally established.

1903 - The first major expansion

A new three-storey addition to the hospital was built to the east, expanding its capacity to 80 beds and nursing staff to 30. In the 1903-1904 fiscal year, the hospital admitted 850 patients, a substantial increase from the 532 patients admitted the previous year.

1915 - A new addition was completed

A three-storey wing with a basement was built adjoining the main building, extending south along Richmond Street towards Grosvenor. The Richmond wing provided 12 private rooms on each of the three levels, as well as incorporating service rooms, a library and lecture rooms for the nursing students. A new chapel was built at the same time, which remains today as a historical treasure on the second floor of the Richmond Street wing.

1916 - X-Rays were first used at St. Joseph's

With x-ray technology gradually being accepted as an accurate diagnostic tool, St. Joseph's opened its first Department of Radiology.

1922 - Organization of the medical staff

Eight doctors were formally appointed to specific offices and specialties within the hospital, including Surgery, Gynaecology, Medicine, Obstetrics, Anaesthesia, Paediatrics and Ophthalmology.

1927 - Nurses' Residence opened

A four-storey structure was built at Richmond and Louisa (now Cromwell) Streets for the nursing school. About 200 students lived in the building, attending classes in the new wing's lecture rooms and learning on-the-job in the hospital attached. The Nurses' Residence remains today, housing the "900 Richmond Lounge," meeting rooms, the Carr Hearing Centre, Gastroenterology clinic and other services.

1928 - Outpatient department established

An outpatient department was established on the recommendation of the medical staff, including Medical, Surgical, Paediatric, Obstetrics, Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat and Gynaecology Clinics. A Physiotherapy Department for both inpatients and outpatients was also established at the time.

Expansion and growth, 1930 to the 1950s

1931 - East Wing addition

A three-storey wing, similar to the 1915 addition, was built to the east of the 1903 building. It contained an additional 100 patient beds, expanded operating room facilities, a new laboratory and a new labour and delivery area. A new kitchen and dining room area was built in the basement to accommodate the increase in staff. This area remains today as the staff cafeteria and food services area.

The 1930s and 1940s

The next two decades saw the further development of the excellence and expertise of the medical staff, as well as increases in the number of staff and patients. St. Joe's had grown to become a major referral centre for Southwestern Ontario and, in 1947, signed a formal agreement with the University of Western Ontario, officially recognizing St. Joe's long-standing relationship with the university as a teaching hospital.

1948 - Diamond Jubilee, St. Joe's 60th anniversary

By 1948, the hospital had expanded through five major additions and had grown to accommodate 300 patients. About 330 staff members were employed at St. Joe's, including 27 Sisters. In 1951, an Advisory Board, comprised of lay members of the community, was set up to act in an advisory capacity to the administration of St. Joseph's - a predecessor to today's Board of Directors.

1954 - Two new wings completed

By the early 1950s, the population of the City of London had grown substantially, led by the industrial development after World War II. St. Joseph's had become not only a busy community hospital, but a district hospital, and a regional hospital, renowned for its expertise and accepting referrals from across the province. Motivated by these factors, St. Joseph's undertook the largest expansion of the hospital's long history, building two new wings at the same time.

The Marian Wing was built to the east of the East Wing addition of 1931 while an Administrative Wing was added mid-way between the East and West Wings. The five-storey Marian Wing included a new 36-bed Psychiatric Department, expanded maternity and nursery facilities, a floor dedicated to surgical patients and living quarters for 22 Sisters.

The Administrative Wing included space for the Emergency Department, which had been established in 1951, clinic and teaching facilities for outpatients, administrative facilities, a central Admitting Department and more patient rooms. The two new additions increased the bed capacity of St. Joseph's to 500 patients.

The late 1950s

Additions and renovations continued over the next few years.

Despite these expansion efforts, by 1958, just four years after the hospital's largest expansion, the hospital was operating over capacity and another expansion was needed. In 1959, the St. Joseph's Hospital Building Fund Campaign began, the first fundraising campaign the Sisters had ever undertaken to solicit financial support. Due to a generous response from the community, construction on the Wellington Wing began in 1962.

Building a modern health centre, 1960-1985

1964 - The Wellington Wing opened

The Wellington Wing, along with an addition of the fourth and fifth floors extending over top of the East Wing, expanded the hospital's patient capacity to 605. With the new wing came a new, large Outpatient Department, a new Emergency Department, new surgical suite, an intensive care unit, and significantly enlarged Radiology and Psychiatry Departments.

1967 - St. Joseph's internationally-renowned Neonatal Intensive Care Unit opened

1969 - St. Joseph's Family Medical Centre opened

The Family Medical Centre provided services to thousands of people in the community over the years and continues to serve the community well. It is also an outstanding teaching facility affiliated with the University of Western Ontario's highly-regarded Department of Family Medicine.


Management of St. Joseph's School of Nursing was transferred to Fanshawe College, in conjunction with similar transfers to community colleges across the province. The school continued to operate on the St. Joseph's campus site.

1971 - Surgical Day Care Unit opened

With changing technology and medical advances, surgery done on an outpatient basis had become widely accepted, with the volume of patients consistently growing.

1973 - St. Joseph's Detoxification Centre opened

The aim of this centre was to "keep persons who were continually being arrested for drunkenness out of jails," by admitting them to rehabilitation centres.

1977 - Nursing school closed

St. Joseph's nursing residence and campus (operated by Fanshawe College) closed, ending a 76-year tradition of excellence.

1981 - Grosvenor expansion

Placed between the East Wing (now sections B and C of the hospital) and Wellington Wing (sections A and D), the Grosvenor facility expansion provided room for a large Central Admitting Department, Laboratory Test Centre and twenty new rooms for medical clinics. A new Coronary Care Unit and enlarged Surgical Day Care Unit were also established.

1982 - A Canadian first

Researchers at St. Joseph's were the first to show that nuclear magnetic imaging could distinguish diseased tissue from normal tissue. In 1982, they were the first in Canada to achieve a human image using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).

 The Lawson Health Research Institute

1983 - St. Joseph's Hospital Research Institute established

(later renamed Lawson Health Research Institute)

As a teaching hospital, St. Joseph's has a mandate to provide high quality patient care, teach medical students, interns and residents and conduct research. In 1976, a task force set up by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities found a critical need for research facilities at St. Joseph's.

Over the next few years, St. Joseph's raised more than $12 million through various provincial grants, the Sisters of St. Joseph, the University of Western Ontario and St. Joseph's Hospital Foundation. The money was used to build the impressive research facility and furnish it with equipment, including a new nuclear magnetic resonance (now called Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI) facility.

Within three and a half years of opening, the Research Institute changed the profile of St. Joseph's Health Care London across the city, university and nation. The institute and the health centre were soon internationally-renowned as a major clinical research centre. It was renamed the Lawson Health Research Institute, in honour of Colonel Thomas Lawson, in 1987.


The boards and administration of Marian Villa and St. Mary's Hospital merged, in preparation for an amalgamation with St. Joseph's Hospital.


St. Joe's became the first hospital in Canada to clinically operate a Magnetic Resonance Imager (MRI).

World-class Facilities, 1985-1997

1985 - Amalgamation

The boards of St. Joseph's Hospital and Marian Villa/St. Mary's Hospital merged to form St. Joseph's Health Centre, placing the full continuum of care under one management.

1985 - The new Family Medical Centre opened

The Family Medical Centre was relocated to a specially-designed facility on Platt's Lane in the Cherryhill community, where it remains today.

1985 - Planning began to build a new long-term care facility

Representatives from residents, family members, community associations, medical, support, administrative and planning staff, the Thames Valley District Health Council and the Ministry of Health began meeting to identify long-term care residential care and community outreach needs.

1989/90 - the HIV Care Programme was established

One of seven designated HIV clinics across Ontario, the HIV Care Programme serves HIV-positive and AIDS patients from London and the surrounding region. The clinic works closely with physicians and medical centres across the city, as well as other AIDS-related agencies in the area, to bring the best possible medical, emotional and psychological care to its clients.

1990 - Renal Lithotripsy Unit opened

St. Joseph's became the second facility in Ontario to operate a renal lithotripsy unit. A lithotriptor is a non-invasive device which uses shock waves to crush kidney stones. St. Joe's lithotripsy unit is now one of the busiest in the world.

1992 - Hand and Upper Limb Centre opened

St. Joseph's Hand and Upper Limb Centre was established, providing care to patients with conditions of the upper limb. It was the first Canadian centre to offer endoscopic surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.

1993 - Opening of the Geriatric Assessment Unit

Part of the Regional Geriatric Program, the unit is for those elderly who, for no obvious reason, lose their ability to function or thrive. These patients are brought to the unit for assessment and short-term treatment. The team works closely with each patient and their family to determine what can be done to bolster the patient's independence and improve their quality of life.

1995 - Opening of the Monsignor Roney Ambulatory Care Centre

This new ambulatory care centre, home to the Women's Health Centre and the internationally-renowned Hand and Upper Limb Centre, was established in 1995.

May 1997 - New St. Mary's complete, Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care officially opened 

The new St. Mary's is a state-of-the-art 177-bed facility designed to enhance resident independence, personal choice and wellness. With Marian Villa and the former St. Mary's Hospital, it forms the new Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care - not just a facility but a resource to the community, offering services such as rehabilitation, residential care, supportive housing and ambulatory programs.

Looking ahead, 1997 and beyond

1997 - A new role

Upon the recommendations of the provincial Health Services Restructuring Commission, St. Joseph's Health Care London has begun working towards a new role in serving the health care needs of our community and surrounding region for the next millennium.

In December 1997, St. Joseph's Health Centre integrated Parkwood Hospital into its umbrella of facilities and partnerships. In 2001, management and governance of the London/St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospitals were also transferred to St. Joseph's, forming St. Joseph's Health Care London as we know it today, and combining a history of more than 200 years of excellence in health care.

Visit the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada Archives to explore historical records and photographs of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care, and to learn more about the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph. This site houses an historical timeline, publications that can be downloaded, photographs, audio and video recordings, and digital exhibits.