Queen's University

Responses to "School of Medicine celebrates two grand openings"

Letters responding to “School of Medicine celebrates two grand openings,” Issue #4-2011, P. 17


I never thought that I’d write these words – especially as whenever I’d been on campus earlier this year I’d been appalled as I passed the intersection of Barrie and Stuart Streets. I saw the once stately old homes – now owned by Queen’s – rapidly falling into neglect and disrepair. My ­disgust reached rock bottom when I saw a hand-painted sign on plywood reading “Site Office” that was haphazardly nailed above the doorway of the once spectacular Abramsky mansion. I shook my head in dismay when I saw construction ­workers tramping in and out the marble hallway inside of the front door.

All I could think of was why can’t they incorporate those historic buildings into the new building going up behind them? This was done in an award-winning way with Victoria Public School on Union Street, which is now part of Queen’s School of Business complex. The old and the new were merged successfully.

Well, time went by, and I was in Kingston again in September and feeling nostalgic for my student days. A quick tour of campus assured me all was well. However, when I drove by the new School of Medicine building, I stopped the car and got out to have a look. My mouth was agape. Magical things had happened to the Abramsky house.

There was complementary landscaping up to the beautifully repaired limestone wrought iron fencing around the property. And lo and behold, the house was all restored, cleaned up, and looked as majestic as it ever did. To say that I was speechless is an understatement

A new sign on the lawn proudly announces the building as Abramsky House. Closer inspection revealed an elevator ­edifice between the two houses and the new building. It looked to have been ­incorporated into the new School of ­Medicine complex.

Was it the Abramsky family or Queen’s coming to its senses in a city that has ­already lost too many beautiful heritage properties. Whatever it was, make sure to drive by to take a look.

After peeking in the windows, I only had one question: why ruin the beautiful transformation with fluorescent lights ­instead of heritage-style fixtures? Just a question.

But I know ... be grateful for small things. I am and say to Queen’s officials: keep up the good work.

Mary (Majoros) Cuthbert, Arts'71, ON

The University enjoys a longstanding relationship with the Abramsky family and is very grateful for their generous gift of $500,000, which was used to transform the Abramsky’s former home into the new administrative building of the School of ­Medicine. – Ed.


I followed the construction of the new Medical School building with great ­interest because it was built on the site of 1 Arch Street, which was the longtime home of my great uncle, Dr. Walter Connell and his son, my cousin, Dr. W. Ford Connell, MD’29, LLD’73. In fact, I have been fortunate to be on the Campus and Development Committee as a Board of Trustees representative since the building was first conceived. I thought Review readers might be interested in knowing a little bit more about how the door arrived in the foyer of the new medical building.

When the house was being torn down, my husband, Richard drove past the house. When he saw that the demolition crew was working around the door, he stopped the car and asked the demolition foreman what they were going to do with the door. The man responded that it was going to the demolition yard. Richard asked him if he could buy it, and after a sum of money was presented, the demolition foreman told him the door would be ready to be picked up the next day.

We sought and received approval from the University, my husband arrived on campus with a truck and two men to pick up the door.

Richard used the massive surrounds of the door to frame a beautiful window in a rental apartment we own. Now refinished and with the missing door knocker replaced with an exact replica, the door itself remained in storage.

Many of us well remember the sounds of that knocker and the door being opened or closed. It had a character all its own. All the while, we knew this door was significant because through this door, from the 1950s up to the 1980s, every graduating class of medical students at Queen’s had entered to attend the many events the Connells hosted.

We knew, too, that those same students had had instilled in them by Ford and his father, Dr. Walter Connell, MD1894, LLD’41, before him, not only the importance of medical competence in the practice of medicine, but that that competence should be balanced with the ability to listen to and treat the patient with compassion.

Over time, Richard and I looked at different places we might donate the door as a symbol of this message. When the new Medical School building became a reality, with the support and urging of former Dean David Walker, Meds’71, we knew we had found the perfect new home for the door. Our wish to use the door so that Ford’s emphasis on compassion in medicine can continue to be passed on to succeeding generations of medical students has now come to pass.

On opening day we had many medical alumni comment on how they ­remember that door so I thought the story should be told.

Sarah Jane Dumbrille, Arts’65. Maitland, ON

Queen's Alumni Review, 2012 Issue #1Queen's Alumni Review
2012 Issue #1
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