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.
After a nine-month long renovation the Orillia General Hospital officially opened on a Thursday, May 28, 1908. With approximately 25 beds, the hospital adequately served the needs of the Town of Orillia, which had a population of 5,400.
Over the next few years the hospital provided adequate services for the city. However, during the Great War (1914-1918) overcrowding became a serious issue and it was identified that the hospital’s capacity of 35 beds had become inadequate for the town’s growing population.
By 1916, the hospital had become overcrowded and inadequate. Around this time Charles Harold Hale, publisher of the Packet and Times, became concerned with the number of soldiers returning from the war with severe health problems. Hale recommended that a hospital should be Orillia’s unique war memorial and that this hospital provide free medical care to soldiers and war veterans from Orillia for as long as they lived. The leading doctors in the town, Arthur Ardagh and A.R. Harvie, agreed with the idea and convinced the other doctors with hospital privileges to provide free medical treatment to war veterans in gratitude and remembrance of their war service.
In 1917, a committee was formed to begin a campaign to raise funds for the new hospital. The $100,000 cost of construction was borne by the town ($25,000) and Orillia Township ($10,000), with the balance financed by Orillians’ subscriptions for services.
On November 26, 1921, the name of the hospital was changed to Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital and the new building was completed in 1922 with a capacity of 70 beds. At this time, the original hospital became the Queen Mary Maternity Wing.
Over the years, until universal healthcare was enacted in Canada, hundreds of Orillia war veterans have utilized the free hospitalization, medical care, and surgical facilities. In 1966, a cenotaph was erected in front of the hospital and now serves as the location for Orillia’s annual Remembrance Day ceremonies. The hospital is also home to a commemorative listing of those from Orillia who died in World War I and II.