Strathcona Building

The Strathcona Building of McGill University in Montreal was built in 1909 after a major fire destroyed the old Medical Building.

"After this (…) fire, the Faculty of Medicine found itself homeless and had to hold classes in rented space downtown. Fortunately, Lord Strathcona, always a friend to the University, immediately stepped forward and offered to purchase land and erect a new structure for the displaced faculty. The site chosen was at the southwest corner of Pine and University, across from the Royal Victoria Hospital. David Brown and Hugh Vallance were hired to design the new Strathcona Medical Building which opened in 1909.


The Faculty of Medicine was, and still is, one of the most revered at McGill and to reflect this Lord Strathcona insisted on a design in which no detail was ignored. Because Medicine had close connections with the Royal Victoria Hospital, the layout of the new building mirrored the main entrance and wings of the Hospital across the street. Strathcona, a 4-storey, stone edifice, has a central bay with two flanking wings connected by corridors. At one time, the central gallery, once spanned by a beautiful stained-glass dome, was used as an ethnological museum with displays of mans evolution and primitive cultures on each floor. On the south of the third floor was the students' reading room, still preserved in its original state, featuring stained-glass skylights, leather upholstered oak doors, delicate chandeliers, long oak tables, and small, green reading lamps. (…)


Sir William Osler, distinguished for his research accomplishments in Medicine, wished to leave his extensive library of medical texts with his faculty. Thus, in 1921, Nobbs was asked to construct the Osler Library within the Strathcona edifice. These three oak-paneled bays contain not only the works and collection of Osler, but his heart as well, placed in the centre wall. After the McIntyre Medical Sciences Building was erected in 1965, the Osler Library was moved, piece by piece, and installed in its south wing where it now serves scholars and students of medicine".1

Its features include an ornate reading room and a stained-glass window commemorating members of the Medical Faculty who fought or died in World War I2. Another typical feature of the Stratchona building is a large number of plaster coat-of-arms and memorial tablets dedicated to the main full professors of the old School of Medicine and Dentistry. Among them, of course, the one of Sir William Osler. On the contrary, Maude Abbott had not her coat-of-arms because, as a woman, at that time she never could become full professor in the School.


The Strathcona Anatomy and Dentistry Building is today home to the Faculty of Dentistry, and to the Faculty of Science’s Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology. The building also houses an Electron Microscopy Laboratory and the Maude Abbott Medical Museum3.

  • Photos by Luca Borghi ti.supmacinu|ihgrob.l#| (July 2017), courtesy of Richard Fraser and Joan O'Malley (Maude Abbott Medical Museum)

Related items:
* Maude Abbott Medical Museum
* “Maude Abbott”(1936?) by Mary Alexandra Bell Eastlake
* "Robert Tait McKenzie" by Alphonse Jongers
* Starr-Edwards prosthetic heart valves
* William Osler bust
* William Osler's coat-of-arms
* World War I commemorative stained-glass window

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