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Frequently Asked Questions About Cornwall's House of Refuge

Where is Cornwall's House of Refuge? Is it still standing?

Cornwall's House of Refuge is located at 201 Eleventh Street East. It is currently known as Heartwood Nursing Home. This facility has been a nursing home since 1972, however, it has operated under various names. It was formerly known as: The Convalodge, Best View, and Versa Care.


The map below indicates the exact location of the facility.

201 Eleventh Street East, Cornwall, Ontario

When did the House of Refuge operate?

Cornwall's House of Refuge operated from 1913 to 1952.


In 1952, the facility was closed down because the building was overpopulated with inmates and it was completely infested with cockroaches. The Glen-Stor-Dun-Lodge (on Montreal Road) opened just before the House of Refuge closed, and the residents that remained at Cornwall's House of Refuge were transferred to the newly opened old folks home. Over the next two years, the House of Refuge facility was completely renovated. In 1954, it was purchased by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and they turned the facility into St. Michael's Academy, an all girls Catholic school.


Timeline of the building's history:

1913 to 1952: Cornwall's House of Refuge.

1954 to 1970: St. Michael's Academy, an all girls Catholic school.

1972 to Present: Operated as a nursing home under various names.


A relative of mine stayed at St. Paul's Home..
Often times, people confuse Cornwall's House of Refuge with St. Paul's Home. They were two completely different facilities. St. Paul's Home was located on Water Street (beside the old Hotel Dieu Hospital/across the street from the RCAFA building.) It was built in 1898, and served as an old folks home.  The building was run by the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph. The building was demolished in 1963 (it had 100 beds at the time), and re-opened as St. Joseph's Villa in 1969.


Why are the people who lived there called "inmates"? We're they criminals?

Absolutely not. In the early 1900's the term "inmate" was used to describe people in several situations:


Inmate, noun:

1. a person who is confined in an institution such as a prison, hospital, etc.

2. Archaic. a person who dwells with others in the same house.


How many inmates stayed at the House? What was the capacity of Cornwall's House of Refuge?

906 inmates called the facility home throughout its years of operation. In 1949, the Standard Freeholder reported that "one hundred residents were living in a building designed for approximately thirty people." Census records from the early 1900s provide evidence that well over 60 inmates were housed in the facility at the same time.


Who stayed at the House of Refuge? What are some of the reasons for people living there?

People stayed at Cornwall's House of Refuge for all kinds of different reasons:

- Pregnant women who were not married. (Only one birth occurred at Cornwall's House of Refuge.)

- The mentally ill.

- The poor.

- The disabled.

- Children without parents / unwanted children. (Children seldomly made their way to Cornwall's House of Refuge. They would typically be sent to the orphanage on Sydney and Second Streets.)

- The elderly. (Especially those without family to take care of them.)


Anyone who needed a roof over their head could be admitted to the House of Refuge.


What are you doing with all of your research?

I am currently writing my first book which will describe the history of Cornwall's House of Refuge, and focus on all of the people who called the facility "home." Piecing together information about the lives of 906 people before, during, and after their time at the House of Refuge from often little to no archival information is not an easy task, but I am doing my best to uncover all that I can. With that being said, I unfortunately do not have an estimate date on when this book will be published.


If you would like to read more information about Cornwall's House of Refuge, click here.