Red room of the lazaretto

Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site

Discover the secrets of the red room of the lazaretto

By the end of the 19th century, the number of immigrants entering the country had risen dramatically. Everyone had to be vaccinated against smallpox prior to their departure from Europe. One in ten died from this highly contagious disease. The symptoms included fever, vomiting, delirium, headaches and serious skin eruptions that resulted in permanent scarring.

Despite vaccination, the disease was present in the ships arriving at the quarantine station...
According to Danish doctor Finsen, sunlight was harmful to smallpox sufferers. In 1904, a lazaretto or isolation room was thus painted red. Red skylights and light bulbs were added, thus protecting the sick from light. It was thought that this would shorten the healing time and reduce scarring. Several actions and cautions had to be considered for the duration of the treatment, which lasted about one month and a half.

This exhibition will allow you to dive into the past and relive these tragic moments, thanks to the surroundings that reflect the realities of the time:

  • Discover the beginnings of the modern era of medicine
  • Learn more about smallpox treatments at Grosse Île
  • Let yourself be immersed by the atmosphere that reigned in the red room

Red room in the lazaretto  
Red room bottles
Beds in the red room of the lazaretto  

From May 9 to October 13 2024. 

Please note that transport fees to get to Grosse Île apply in addition to Parks Canada admission fees. Visit our fees web page to learn more.

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