A black and white image of a hospital from the opposite side of the road. The property is fenced off and the yard is scattered with barren trees. The hospital has an older wing and a newer looking addition on its right side.

St. James Town: The Wellesley Hospital

The Wellesley Hospital

182 Wellesley Street East

A black and white image of a hospital from the opposite side of the road. The property is fenced off and the yard is scattered with barren trees. The hospital has an older wing and a newer looking addition on its right side.
Wellesley Hospital, 13 Homewood Place, 1950s. City of Toronto Archives. Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 248.

Wellesley Hospital, 13 Homewood Place, 1950s. City of Toronto Archives. Fonds 1128, Series 380, Item 248.

A group of men and women stand on the steps in front of a building. They face the camera. The men are dressed largely in suits; the women have large floral hats. One man sits on the steps and faces the camera.
Opening of the Wellesley Hospital, August 27, 1912. Courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 588.

Opening of the Wellesley Hospital, August 27, 1912. Courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 588.

Black and white portrait photographs of two middle aged men. One with lighter hair smiling showing teeth. The other with darker hair and glasses smiling less broadly.

Doctors Paul (Left) and John Rekai, 1977. Private Collection.

A black and white image of many nurses lining the steps of the Central Hospital all in clean white uniforms looking towards the camera and smiling.
Staff at the entrance to the first Central Hospital, Sherbourne Street, 1969. Courtesy of the Wellesley Institute.

Staff at the entrance to the first Central Hospital, Sherbourne Street, 1969. Courtesy of the Wellesley Institute.

A home becomes a hospital

Dr. Herbert Bruce, a Toronto physician, founded the Wellesley Hospital as a private medical institution in 1911. Opened in a former home at the intersection of Wellesley Street East and Homewood Avenue, it offered 72 beds. The hospital initially attracted patients from the nearby affluent Rosedale community. However, Dr. Bruce believed in the importance of universally accessible healthcare. He ensured the hospital also provided affordable healthcare for those in need, funded by fee-for service treatments by wealthy patients.

In recognition of his service to medicine, Dr. Bruce was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario and served in the position from 1932 to 1937. By the 1940s, Wellesley Hospital had become a public institution and increasingly focused on medical training and teaching.

The Central Hospital

The Rekai Brothers

In 1950, John and Paul Rekai immigrated to Canada from Hungary. Both physicians by training, the Rekais purchased and converted an old house on Sherbourne Street into a small hospital. By 1957, the hospital had 32 beds and was known as the Central Hospital. The brothers focused on serving the diverse communities of Toronto by offering service in more than 30 languages and providing ethnically diverse cuisine to patients. The Central Hospital eventually became a public hospital and would go on to become ‘one of the first truly multicultural public hospitals in Ontario.’

The Rekai Centres

In the late 1980s, the Central Hospital expanded to open the Rekai Centre near its original location on Sherbourne Street. The Centre focused on providing multi-lingual and multicultural care to elderly patients, often taking into account a patient’s traditional or culturally specific healing practices. It became the first non-profit nursing home to do so in Canada.

Multicultural Public Healthcare

In the early 21st century, a second location was added, near the original location of the Wellesley Hospital. Known as the Rekai Centre at Wellesley Central Place, the 150-bed long-term care facility was constructed to reflect a welcoming, home-like environment with contained units, surrounding green spaces and a green roof.

The Wellesley-Central Hospital

In 1996, the Central Hospital merged with the Wellesley Hospital, forming the Wellesley Central Hospital. Although Wellesley Central Hospital was short-lived, ending operations in 1998, the hospital’s grounds on Wellesley Street were sold and redeveloped to provide new communities with affordable housing and accessible healthcare.

New Life for Old Hospitals

The Rekai Centre at Wellesley Central Place was the first to open in 2005. Shortly thereafter, Wellesley Central Residence opened, which provides 112 housing units: 50% of which are for people living with HIV/AIDS and 50% of which are for seniors.