Hospital built by Scots philanthropists to be converted to climate change centre

Picture: McGill University
Picture: McGill University
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A Canadian hospital built by a pair of immigrant Scottish philanthropists to celebrate Queen Victoria’s 50th year on the throne is set to be transformed into an academic centre for climate change.

The Queen Victoria Hospital in Montreal – built in 1887 by a $1 million (£550,000) grant from Lord Strathcona Donald Smith and his cousin Lord Mount Stephen – would become a $690m (£381m) centre for climate change, sustainable development and public policy. The plans have been unveiled by the renowned McGill University.

The pair of Scots, who emigrated to Canada in 1838 and 1850 respectively, made their fortunes in business, co-founding the Canadian Pacific Railway.

During 1897 and 1898, the duo donated another $1m between them in Great Northern Railroad securities to establish an endowment fund to maintain the hospital.

Moray-born Lord Strathcona was also commissioner, governor and principal shareholder of the Hudson’s Bay Company and president of the Bank of Montreal. Lord Mount Stephen became the richest man in Canada before moving back to the UK in his retirement.

A spokesman for the university said the transformation of the 50,000sqm site could start by 2021. The historic hospital, which was created to provide health care to people who could not otherwise have afforded it, has lain empty for the past three years since the creation of a new “super hospital” in the city.

Yves Beauchamp, vice-principal of administration and finance at McGill University, said: “While the decision for McGill University to acquire the Royal Victoria Hospital site is still pending, should it decide to move ahead with its acquisition, efforts will be made to integrate the existing historical buildings with more modern structures.

“All the buildings on this iconic site, old and new, will host academic functions.”

Mr Beauchamp added: “Should McGill become the owner of the Royal Victoria Hospital site, it shall determine how best to recognise the site’s long and rich history.”

Previous suggestions the site could be turned into flats were opposed by descendents of Lord Mount Stephen and Lord Smith, saying they attached one caveat to their financial contribution to the project – the hospital’s land and its buildings must only ever be used for “healing”.

Speaking to a Canadian newspaper in 2010, Elspeth Angus, whose grandfather was a nephew of Lord Mount Stephen, said the family would like the hospital to be turned into a research facility to honour her ancestors’s request.