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Thursday, 14 January 2010 16:31

The old brick home, which is the centre of Kerr Apartments, at the corner of Turnberry and Hawkes St. was one of the most beautiful landmarks in Brussels. Though it is not known when the house was built, it has been traced back to 1861 when it was registered to Thomas Halliday. From 1861 to 1892, I.I. Hawks, John Brown, then John Holmes, resided there.

It was in May of 1892 that David Ross took possession and to many Brussels residents the house became known as Ross House. The name D.C. Ross was inscribed in the sidewalk leading into the front entrance.
David and his wife Maria lived there until 1956. After their deaths, the house was occupied by their daughter Gertrude. Later her sister, Luella McLaughlin moved in with her and the two resided there. They both passed away at the house, though it had been sold in 1958 to Edward and Mary Baker, who turned it into a convalescent home.
Lila Goll, a Brussels resident, was one of the first employees at Baker’s, while Mary Stevenson was the registered nurse.
The Bakers, who resided upstairs at the home, accommodated six residents in the beginning, but by 1961 that number had increased to 13. Ida Evans had joined the staff by this time.
In March of that year the home was purchased by Douglas J. Callander, who, with the help of his mother, began an expansion of the home. The wings on the north side, upstairs and down, and upstairs on the south side, were added to the home to make room for 34 residents. Since regulations were not so strict at that time, the home was quite crowded.
Doris Cunningham (McDonald) was the registered nurse at the home. She was followed by Marguerite Krauter, who devoted many years to Callander Nursing Home. In those days the RN was a jack-of-all-trades, who, in addition to nursing, did cooking and laundry.
The first RNA course was offered through the nursing home in 1970. It was conducted by Marguerite Krauter and Doug Callander’s wife, Betty, who was also an RN. Graduates, who wrote their final exam at Westminster College, London, were Doug Callander, Kitty Rutledge, Isabel Reihl, Fannie Somers and Dawn White.
Extendicare was introduced to the home in 1972 and government inspections became more frequent. Rules were strict and the home was becoming more and more like a hospital.
In mid-February of 1972, an announcement was made that the home had been sold to Grenville Austin of Orangeville. Austin was president of a firm which owned several nursing homes in that part of the province.
In 1973 Roger Keay was named administrator, to be followed by Ron Forshaw.
The south addition was built in 1974 to meet government standards.
Keay Nursing Homes Inc. became owners of Callander from 1981 to 1983 with Norman and Roger Keay as administrators. Janis Aitcheson served a term as assistant administrator. It was then sold to MacGowan Nursing Homes. Ltd.
At that time owner Mac MacGowan began thinking of expanding, and explored the possibility of getting licensing for more beds from the Ministery of Health. By May of 1989 the future of Callander was uncertain. The Ministry stipulated that MacGowan would need to remodel the existing nursing home or rebuild. In order to do so, he needed the extra beds to make the construction financially feasible. If he didn’t get them, there was fear the nursing home would close.
Over 582 names were signed on a petition that was presented to Huron M.P.P. and Ontario Agriculture Minister Jack Riddell. They anticipated a wait of seven to 10 days before they would receive word. By June there was no news. The deadline to get more beds was less than two weeks away and the committee, headed by Bruce McCall, feared that if more beds could not be obtained, the home would likely close.
Interestingly, as Brussels awaited the future of its nursing home, which employed 45 local people and was home to 34 residents, Huron County was looking at building new county homes for the aged. The first proposal to the Ministry was for three smaller units, rather than the one in Clinton, which presently existed.
Once the county decided to construct a  facility  in the north end of the county,  Brussels council agreed that the village should lobby for the new Huronview.
In August of 1989, Reeve Gordon Workman said, that with Callander’s future hanging in the balance and the jobs that will be lost, Brussels had to “fight for the Huronview beds”.
A site was chosen on property owned by Bill and Marie Turnbull, at the south edge of the village in Morris Twp.  The Town of Wingham was also competing for the facility. After tours with politicians from provincial and county levels, and considerable debate, the Brussels site was chosen for the 81-bed northern unit of Huronview in Nov. 1989.
Just one week before, MacGowan announced that he was closing Callander Nursing Home and would amalgamate  it with his nursing home in Wingham.
In July of 1991, a tender price was accepted by county council from Granville Construction  and on Sept. 13 the official sod-turning was held. It was attended by over 100 people.
Before the end of the month, an era in Brussels history ended as Callander closed.
Then in 1993, after two years of being empty, Callander got a new look. Tom and Alan Kerr of Listowel purchased the building, then transformed it in an apartment. Renovations began in the late summer and by early spring tenants had move in.
In June of 1993 Huronlea, the north Huron county home for the aged, was officially opened.