Situated on the banks of the Miramichi River, an intriguing stone building with a cupola on top now serves as a church hall for St. Samuel’s Parish. This structure was initially a Seamen’s Hospital, completed in 1830 and built by the British Admiralty.
The marine hospital aimed to provide care for indigent, sick, or disabled seamen, most of whom worked in the timber trade along the Miramichi River. Before the hospital’s construction, sailors were housed in private homes, with expenses covered by a Seamen’s Fund established through a tax on incoming vessels.
The hospital proposal was met with mixed opinions. Some considered it a “trophy of our folly and extravagance,” while others believed it would symbolize the community’s humanity and the extent of its commerce. In 1830, the hospital opened under Dr. Alexander Key’s direction, and other doctors joined him in the following years.
In 1849, the hospital had thirty patients, some staying for up to a year. According to a 1957 newspaper article by Mrs. Nora Galloway, many sailors carved model ships during their stay, which they placed in glass bottles. Some of these artifacts were still in existence at the time of her writing and may still be today.
The Seamen’s Hospital closed in 1921, with arrangements made for treating ill sailors at Hotel Dieu Hospital in Chatham. In 1923, St. Samuel’s Parish purchased the old hospital from the federal government for a reported $3,000. The building now serves various parish functions, including religion classes and card parties.
The interior showcases excellent workmanship, with roof-supporting beams shaped like those on a ship’s hull and an inverted ship-like roof. The original doors, doorknobs, and windows remain intact, while fireplaces have been replaced with furnaces. The structure was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1989, making it the oldest surviving marine hospital in the country.
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