The History Of Our Office Building
Our practice has come a long way since it was opened in 1970. In the same building, it’s grown from a one chair office to six operatories – and still growing.
Dental office has medical roots
Nelson Street building a medical facility for five generations
By Vincent Ball
Expositor Staff / Brantford
Patients who enter the building at 51 Nelson Street will know they’ve walked into a modern dental practice.
The building, which sits on the corner of Nelson and Market Streets, across from the courthouse, has all of the equipment, sounds and aura of a dentist’s office.
What the visitors may not know is that they’ve stepped into a building that has been part of Brantford’s medical history since the 1800s.
Not even the current owner, Dr. John Lind, knew how deep the building’s roots as a medical facility were until recently.
“I knew that it had been used as a medical building for three generations,” Lind, 61, said. “But I didn’t realize it had been a medical building for five generations until I looked through a box of old papers that my father had kept.”
Those old papers and documents included a handwritten deed recording the sale of the building from Dr. Henry James Cole to Dr. Levi Secord in September 1884. The handwriting is beautiful and the deed is well-preserved, indicating that the property was sold for $4,500.
Lind was aware of the building’s connection to Dr. E.R. Secord because his father, physician Dr. John Lind, had purchased the building from the Secord family in the late 1930s or early 1940s. But he didn’t know about the connection to Dr. Levi Secord or Cole until he discovered the 1884 deed.
“It’s one of the oldest, if not the oldest medical buildings in Brantford that’s still standing and I’m quite proud of the fact that I’ve stayed here, kept up the building and the tradition,” Lind said. “This building is part of my roots and it’s part of the medical history of this community.
“It’s kind of exciting to know that it can be traced all the way back to Dr. Cole and that it’s always been used as a medical building.”
Finding information about Cole is challenging but there are references to him in history books and documents about Brantford’s earliest physicians.
He received his provincial medical licence from Toronto University in 1871 and the 1875 city directory lists his office and residence at the comer of Nelson and Market Streets. A Bird’s Eye View of Brantford, 1875 by delineator Herman Brosius, clearly shows the building sitting at the comer of Nelson and Market Streets, behind the former Digby house, which was at the comer of Wellington and Market Streets. That building is long gone and the site is now dominated by the Bell building and Lind’s dental office.
Researchers working on the Brantford Heritage Inventory Project provided some information about the building at 51 Nelson St.
They say the property was a formal garden with trees in 1852 and likely part of the residence of Dr. Alfred Digby, Dr. J.W. Digby, and Dr. Reginald Digby, who lived at 64 Wellington St. A map of the site from 1852 shows the former Digby home with its large circular drive. There aren’t any buildings behind the home on the map.
Going back even further, there are references to a Dr. Gilpin settling in Brantford in 1832 or 1833 and he apparently built the original Digby house or a house on the lot that was later occupied by Dr. J.W. Digby.
The building at 51 Nelson St. occupies three municipal addresses: 51 Nelson St., 112 and 114 Market St.
It is Lind’s childhood home – he was a youngster when the family moved out – but his father, a physician and surgeon, continued to use the building for his medical practice.
“My dad was a physician-surgeon who came here in 1936 and spent a two-year residency working with Dr. D.A. Morrison.” Lind recalled. He set up his dental practice in the building in 1970 and purchased the building from his father in the early 1980s.
Although it’s a modern dental office that includes two dentists – Lind and Dr. Brian DeMontmorency – the dignity of the original building has been preserved and there are plenty of clues pointing to its rich history.
In the reception area and waiting room, there is a beautiful old wooden bookcase that once belonged to the Secords. There is a picture of a physician-surgeon providing bedside care to a youngster and below it is the brass sign that was used by Lind’s father and faced Market Street.
The reception area and waiting room used to be the home’s dining room and behind the receptionist’s desk is where the kitchen used to be located, Lind explained.
The upstairs, which is now used for storage, used to be the infirmary.
“Remember, this building was being used as a medical building before Brantford General Hospital opened,” Lind said. “Brantford General opened in 1885 and this building was a medical building in 1884 and for several years before that.”
Physicians who occupied the building were dedicated individuals who were on call 24 hours a day, Lind recalled.
”My father would be in the operating room at Brantford General Hospital at 8 a.m. and would return to his office at around 10:30 a.m. to see patients,” Lind recalled.
“We had our dinner – the main meal – at noon and he’d be back in his office seeing patients from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30p.m.
“He would have something to eat after work and would spend the evening from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. seeing patients in his office.”
Although he took every Wednesday afternoon off, he worked Saturdays and visited patients in the hospital on Sundays.
Instead of following in his father’s footsteps, Lind chose dentistry. He also chose to remain in the downtown and has made every effort to retain the dignity of the building.
He had a lot of work done on the building last summer and plans to continue practising there for many years to come.
“The practice has been good to me and there are a lot of business people, professionals and now students who are in the downtown,” Lind said.
“Retirement isn’t in my vocabulary, and besides, I love this building. I really do.”
Monday, April 12, 2004