Smallpox in Carleton Place — Did You Know?

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Did you know that Carleton Place had an isolation hospital located at the extreme end of Bridge Street? There were 4,548 cases and 36 deaths attributed to smallpox across Canada between 1929 and 1933; 291 cases and 14 deaths over the next five-year period; and 247 cases and 1 death between 1939 and 1943.

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On 6 April 1911, The Globe and Mail informed their readership that the Bedford Apartments in Ottawa, which roomed about 40 individuals, were under quarantine for the second time in a week, as there was a new case of smallpox in the building, bringing the total of infected individuals to 27. Despite assurances in the paper the previous day that Dr. Bell would remain in Ottawa “as long as is necessary to see that proper measures are taken to prevent the spread of the disease,” the paper reported that there was also an outbreak of the disease in nearby Carleton Place with approximately 20 cases.

During one particular small pox scare practically every person in Carleton Place wore a bag containing a bag containing a piece of camphor to kill the germs.

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These masks were worn by plague doctors in centuries past. The doctors administered little in the way of real medicine, and wore full-body leather cowls, paired with eerie bird masks that were filled with aromatic herbs. The plague doctor’s costume was the clothing worn by a plague doctor to protect him from airborne diseases. The costume originated in the 17th century consisted of an ankle length overcoat and a bird-like beak mask often filled with sweet or strong smelling substances (commonly lavender), along with gloves, boots, a brim hat, and an outer over-clothing garment.

 

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Clipped from The Ottawa Journal, 19 Sep 1936, Sat, Page 3

 

Historical Facts

The Russell House hotel was the most high-profile hotel in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada for many decades. It was located at the corner of Sparks Street and Elgin Street, where Confederation Square is located today. The original building was built in the 1840s. Additions were made in the 1870s and the original building replaced in 1880.

In 1901 there was a smallpox outbreak in Ottawa. Complaints were made on a daily basis to the Ottawa Journal of anyone that a local citizen deemed should be quarantined. Names and addresses were published in the newspaper, no matter the age of those who were inflicted. Vaccines were available at the Ottawa City Hall and doctors were kept busy.

In 1912, the Château Laurier succeeded the Russell as Ottawa’s premier hotel. Money was spent on renovations in the 1920s, but the hotel had declined due to age and its closure was announced on September 1, 1925. Some of the reasons listed were the high cost of heating the structure, and the higher number of staff to operate the hotel, compared to a newer facility.The Russell House closed permanently on October 1, 1925. Ground-level shops remained open, but the hotel was emptied.

On April 14, 1928, a fire broke out in the hotel, and the hotel was mostly destroyed. The remains of the structure were demolished by November. The Government of Canada had been in the process of buying the property when the fire occurred, and the government used the land to expand Elgin Street to create Confederation Square. Various artifacts of the hotel are on display at the Bytown Museum

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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