St. Christopher House, 1912-2012: a century of social services in Toronto

Well Baby clinic

When St. Christopher House opened in 1912, Toronto had no pasteurized milk and no free medical or nursing services. The following year, the House hired a graduate nurse, who set up one of the city’s first Well Baby Clinics, with a private doctor in attendance. She arranged for the House to be a depot for pasteurized milk and baby formula made up at the Hospital for Sick Children. Each evening as many as thirty mothers came to the House for their daily milk supply. The nurse also visited the sick in the neighbourhood, providing services later offered by the Victoria Order of Nurses and the Department of Public Health.

Play School and the Toronto Playground Association

Children were a constant feature at St. Christopher House from the first day. One of the reasons why the founders decided to set up in Kensington Market was the fact that this was a neighbourhood with a large number of children. A Play School for young children began in 1912, and “Hose Parties” kept the children cool on hot summer afternoons. Picnics, sports events, street car excursions and folk dancing held on the lawn were all part of life at St. Christopher House. In 1915, the House began working with the Toronto Playground Association, an organization that promoted the extramural use of school space. Gym classes for girls and women, folk-dancing clubs, games, and boys athletics were held at Ryerson School. This co-operation between schools and settlements marked the beginning of community use of public schools for social and recreational activities.

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