By George Siamandas


The site of the Deer Lodge Hospital has had a tradition of hospitality. John Rowand, son of the Chief Factor of the Hudson Bay Co built a log house called Silver Heights, on a wooded site on the north bank of the Assiniboine River in 1855. At the same time Rowand's sister married James McKay and they built on a neighbouring lot and called their home Deer Lodge after all the "pretty deer" that gathered near the Assiniboine River.

McKay was a Metis who worked as a trader, freighter and plains guide, and a political leader. He was active in the settlement of the Indian Treaties and later served as President of the Executive Council, Minister of Agriculture and Speaker of the Legislative Council.

In 1871 the property was leased as a summer house for Adams Archibald the first lieutenant governor. In 1873 it was purchased by Lord Strathcona (Donald A Smith) and it became a centre of hospitality in the Red River settlement.

It became a road house called Chad's Place in 1882. After a fire in 1892 it is rebuilt as the Deer Lodge Hotel. Another fire in 1907 sees it rebuilt on a grander scale by assistance from Roderick MacKenzie son of Sir William MacKenzie.



On June 1, 1916, Roderick Mackenzie donated it to the Military Hospital Commission. By the end of June it became the I. O. E. D. Deer Lodge Military Convalescent Hospital and began to house 85 soldiers. The coming of prohibition helped encourage this new use of what had been a neighbourhood watering hole.

In 1919 the hospital was purchased and put to use as the acute care by the Department of Soldiers Civilian Reestablishment. By 1930 another 175 beds were added bringing capacity up to 250 beds. As the second world war breaks out in 1939, temporary wooden buildings are built to house another 300 veterans bringing its capacity up to 550 beds. By the end of the war Deer Lodge is severely taxed holding 1100 wounded patients. Six operating rooms were busy night and day. It was not till 1955 that the temporary buildings are demolished to make way for a new 8 storey hospital in 1958. It now houses 640 beds.

Deer Lodge pioneered orthopaedic surgery. It also had the first dialysis unit. Deer Lodge is also credited with pioneering wheelchair sports like basketball, archery and bowling which were active in the 1940s.

In 1983 the federal government transferred the hospital to the Province of Manitoba and provided $30 million to help finance renovations and new construction. It is no longer a hospital. It has no emergency care or operating rooms.

Deer Lodge is now a 461 bed geriatric care facility very much like other personal care homes. It reserves 155 beds for veterans but it also provides facilities for young brain injured patients. It also treats outpatients with ALS (Lou Gerrigs Disease), and treats swallowing disorders.

War hero Tommy Prince stayed there. And there is another famous trainee from England who dated the hospital's radiologist's daughter. The trainee went on to become the Hollywood actor known as Richard Burton.


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