As the years passed, the existing hospital built in 1851 was found to be wanting. At the time of its construction the city had a population of 5,000. However, Ottawa was now the national capital of Canada, with a population grown to 22,000.
In March of 1872, a public meeting at the city hall endorsed a motion that “a building adequate to the requirements of the city of Ottawa and district” be erected, to be paid for by public subscription. The feeling that Ottawa needed a new hospital was reflected in the motion that was passed:
“Let not another day be lost, but a plain, sensible, airy, roomy building be built, modelled for ventilation, economy of labour and fuel, after the best Philadelphia models, for the. Quaker City is the place to go for models…”
A design competition for the new hospital was opened, with a first prize of $150. By September 1872, five plans had been submitted under pseudonyms that included “Binkie” and “Never Say Die”. The selected plans were returned to the anonymous architect to be reworked on a slightly smaller scale, and “for better adaptations to our climate”. On S November 1872, Robert Surtees was announced the winner and tenders for construction were requested. In February 1873, tenders were accepted that stayed close to the projected $25,000 budget for the hospital, but the tenders omitted a planned east wing.
The hospital was built between 1873 and1875 in Queen Anne Revival style. It comprised a three storey red brick structure with a cut-stone basement. The building plan was t-shaped, oriented on an east-west axis parallel to Rideau Street with short projecting wings.
Window sills, pedimented gable ends, decorative hood dormers, a striking wooden cornice, and tall chimneys added texture and visual interest to the otherwise simple structure. Elaborate decorative work incorporating the date of construction was included over the entranceway.
Following several abortive efforts to construct the wing left unbuilt in the first campaign, Alexander Hutchison of Montreal was commissioned to design a new wing, which was constructed between 1897 and 1898. Plans previously prepared in 1889 were placed at Hutchison’s disposal “…as a guide to the requirements of the Board for the enlargement and completion of the hospital”.
The new wing adjoined the existing hospital at its eastern end and extended north and south at right angles to it. While it harmonized with the original structure in terms of scale and materials, it departed stylistically. The new wing was constructed in Tudor Revival style, with shaped gables, decorative brickwork and domed turrets.