The property which became Mount Hope originally belonged to William Barker, formerly the mayor of London. It was bounded by Grosvenor, Burlington (now Richmond), George and Thomas (now College). It was originally a school for the Religious of the Sacred Heart from 1857 to 1867, but found to be unsuitable for education due to its size and location. It was bought by John Cooke Meredith from the congregation in 1867. It was then sold to Francis Smith on May 1, 1869 for the sum of $9,250. The property was then purchased by Bishop John Walsh on May 10, 1869 for the same price. It officially opened as the new Mother House and orphanage for the Sisters of St. Joseph on October 2, 1869.
Seventeen orphans – fifteen from Toronto, and two from London – arrived at the opening of Mount Hope. By June 1870, elderly men and women from Victoria Hospital and the Municipal Home for the Aged also came to live at Mount Hope. The number of orphans living at Mount Hope grew to fifty. The women residents assisted with domestic duties and the men did gardening and other tasks.
The former Barker residence had beautiful grounds with broad shaded walks hedged with privet or bordered with flowers, as well as rose bushes, shrubs on the lawn, and many trees including pine, catalpa, birch and maple. The rear grounds were filled with apple, pear, plum and black English cherry trees. The orchards made way for the new brick building added to the Barker house. Inside the building, there was a chapel, a parlour, various workspaces, kitchen and bake room, refectories, and accommodation for the Sisters as well as dormitories for orphaned girls. The floors were bare wood kept scrubbed white and clean. The house was heated by wood stoves and lit by coal oil lamps, with a good oven in the basement where the Sisters made their own bread. Water came from a single well and was hauled from the river in barrels. A frame building at the rear of the house held a school room, sleeping quarters for resident men, a laundry, and dormitory for boys. In the laundry, wooden tubs and washboards were set around the walls, and an iron boiler rested on a big heater in the middle of the room. The stable housed a horse and cow at the rear of this building. Not far from the frame building was a two-storey brick building used by the Religious of the Sacred Heart as their poor school.
On December 18, 1870, a mass was celebrated at Mount Hope Chapel, at which time Sister Ignatia Campbell was installed as the General Superior. Through the efforts of Justice McMahon K.C., the Congregation was incorporated through an Act of the Legislature on February 15, 1871. The first reception for novices took place at Mount Hope Chapel on March 25, 1871.
Mount Hope was expanded to provide more room for the Sisters and for the poor, elderly and orphans. The sod turning took place on June 20, 1876. Bishop Walsh provided the security for any debts, and Mother Ignatia Campbell borrowed from the banks and private individuals. The building took two years to complete and was opened on October 7, 1877. The citizens of London helped to liquidate the debt incurred in construction by donating to collections and working at picnics and bazaars for many years. The newly extended building was christened the Mount Hope Mother House, Orphanage and Home for the Aged.
The new building was a Gothic design, four storeys high, built of white brick trimmed with red around the windows and porches. A large, airy bright basement contained the kitchen, store rooms, refectories and school rooms. The first floor had parlours, a community room and the novitiate, while the second floor held rooms for the Sisters. The chapel was on the north wing opposite the Bishop’s parlour and contained statues of St. Joseph and of the Sacred Heart, which were purchased in France and given to the Sisters by Bishop Walsh. This floor also had rooms for elderly women who preferred to live with the Sisters although they had independent means. The cupola on the third floor was surrounded by rooms for orphan girls, and a lamp that always stayed lit hung in the hallway. The fourth floor held the children’s dormitories. There were also dormitories for elderly women, and elderly men were housed in the remodeled former boys’ dormitory, by then a two-storey brick building.
Improvements were made with the installation of gas in 1878, and in 1887 when machinery was brought in for the laundry. In 1880, Mount Hope provided shelter to over 200 people, its only source of revenue being the salaries of Sister teachers and donations.
By the late 1890s, there was overcrowding of elderly and orphan residents. Many elderly residents required medical care. It was decided for health reasons that the elderly and orphans be separated. In 1899, the orphans – first the school-age children, beginning with the girls and then the boys and the infants – moved with the Sisters to set up their new Mother House at the former Hellmuth College for Young Ladies, which was renamed Mount St. Joseph Orphanage. The elderly residents stayed at Mount Hope, which was renamed House of Providence in 1899.
The House of Providence was a charitable institution which operated under the Charitable Institutions Act.
By the 1940s, the Sisters decided that a new facility was needed since the House of Providence was not able to properly accommodate the growing number of residents and chronic care patients. Additionally, area treatment hospitals were also encountering an increased number of chronically ill patients occupying beds, which were needed for active treatment patients and emergency care. A new addition would allow the Sisters to care for chronically ill patients from London and its surrounding areas, freeing up space in the area’s treatment hospitals. Approval for the new chronic care hospital was given by the Government of Ontario in 1948, and after grants were given by both the Federal and Provincial governments, the construction of St. Mary’s Hospital commenced. On May 1, 1951, St. Mary’s Hospital opened, located on the corner of Grosvenor Street and Richmond Street and one side of the House of Providence. Subsequently, chronic care patients were moved to St. Mary’s.
Following the construction of St. Mary's Hospital and despite financial difficulties, the staff of Sisters, under the leadership of Sister Patrick Joseph Gleeson, decided to renovate each floor of the House of Providence to make it comfortable for elderly patients. The renovation included the expansion and brightening of the small, dark rooms as well as the creation of sitting rooms. The Chapel was also renovated and expanded to make it wheelchair accessible. These renovations were completed in 1952.
Various changes occurred in the administrative structure during this time when the government was taking a more active role in social welfare, and the House of Providence made an effort to become more involved in the local community. During these changes, Sister Consolata became General Superior of the House of Providence and St. Mary's Hospital in 1956. Her interest in aiding the sick made her well liked among the patients. Father McCabe, Director of Catholic Charities, formed an Advisory Board to examine any financial or social issues pertaining to the House. Other committees were created to aid the Advisory Board, including the Recreation Program Committee, which was involved in the day-to-day activities of the patients, and the Budget Committee which was responsible for the annual operating budget.
Other individuals also became involved in the operation of the House. The residents themselves were responsible for entertainment at every social evening. A group of community members formed the House of Providence Guild, which was concerned with residents maintaining hobbies and life interests. The Catholic Family Centre helped the House of Providence conduct interviews for the admission process in order to ensure that adequate care could be provided for each resident. Some doctors, nurses, and other members of staff volunteered their time and services. The Sisters continued to care for the poor. Even when residents did not qualify for pension or welfare, the Sisters would admit them. Indeed, the Sisters themselves would take on financial responsibility for room and board as well as any other service residents were provided.
In May, 1962 a plan for a new facility to accommodate the need for more hospital beds was approved, and in January of 1966, Marian Villa was built on the other side of the House of Providence, supplying an additional 214 beds. The House of Providence still housed 58 beds, but residents from the House of Providence building were gradually relocated to Marian Villa. At Marian Villa, the Sisters were dedicated to providing both residential and extended health care to elderly residents. Additionally, the Sisters placed great emphasis on high quality long term care and viewed residents in a familial manner.
The Barker House was torn down in 1963 when Marian Villa was built, and the 1877 extension was demolished in 1980 when the addition to St. Mary's Hospital was built. By 1969, the House of Providence was deteriorating, and it was decided that is was necessary to build an additional fifth floor to Marian Villa in 1976. The House of Providence was demolished in August 1980. In 1981 a new chapel was opened, and kitchen and laundry departments opened for use by both Marian Villa and St Mary’s Hospital in October, 1982. In 1987, a secured special care unit, containing 14 beds, opened in Marian Villa to provide care for the elderly residents with mental illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
On June 24, 1985, Marian Villa, St. Mary’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital were amalgamated and named St. Joseph’s Health Centre. Today, Marian Villa and St. Mary’s Hospital form the Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care.