The House’s History
The house at 442 Adelaide Street North, in London, Ontario, was built in 1900 for Dr. John Wright. It was purchased from Wright by local shoe merchant Rowland Hill in 1914.
In 1920, Frederick Banting decided to open a private practice in London after failing to obtain a staff position at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. He purchased 442 Adelaide from the Hills for $7,800. As the construction of the Hills’ new home was not yet completed, Banting allowed them to remain living in the house with him until the end of the year. He moved in during July 1920, taking possession of the front room where he’d have his private practice, a small telephone room and pantry he would use as an apothecary, and an upstairs bedroom.
Unable to conduct his research in London, Banting decided to return to Toronto to pursue diabetes and insulin research in May 1921. He sold the house to James Henry Clark and Lila Shaw and it was used as a boarding house and later a real estate office until 1981 when the Canadian Diabetes Association began using it to house their local offices when they bought 442 Adelaide.
The Continued Legacy
As early as 1923, the house has been recognized as being the birth place of insulin. In 1984, the Association answered the call to turn the house into a museum honouring Dr. Banting. They confined their offices to the newer addition at the back of the house and recreated his office and bedroom.
In 1989, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother visited Banting House. With only a short amount of time to prepare, extensive renovations were done to the square just south of the house as well as the house itself. The Queen Mother unveiled the bronze statue which depicts Banting writing down his insulin hypothesis and kindled the Flame of Hope, which will burn until a cure for diabetes is found; the doctor or team of doctors who finds the cure will be brought to London to extinguish the flame and unearth the time capsule life by the International Diabetes Federation in 1991 as part of Banting’s centenary celebration.
On 7 July 1999, on the third attempt, Banting House was designated a National Historic Site of Canada and officially recognized as the “Birthplace of Insulin,” the home of the defining moment in the discovery of insulin.
Currently, Banting House National Historic Site of Canada at 442 Adelaide street serves as both a museum commemorating the life and career of Sir Frederick Banting as well as the offices for the local branch of the Canadian Diabetes Association. The rooms Banting occupied have been restored to their 1920 state and the rest of the original building houses exhibits which highlight his achievements. The Association offices are located in the newer addition at the back of the house.
I lived at 442 Adelaide while I was a student, from August 1978 to April 1979. The house was owned then by the Gleed family. Mrs. Gleed owned and operated her own Real Estate company and strictly managed her boarding house as women only. Males were only permitted on the premises for short visits in the downstairs kitchen or front hallway. I paid $26.00 a week for my own bedroom and all other amenities were shared. There were other businesses housed on the main floor, all owned by Gleeds. Her son, had his plumbing company’s office there, as well as his wife owned a maternity clothing store, that was located at the very front of the house. I have many very fond memories of my year living there, including sneaking my friend Mike upstairs to the third floor, on several occasions. Coincidentally, much later on in my life, I was gestational diabetic when pregnant with my son. Although it was very close, I actually never had to take insulin, but I was extremely thankful for Dr. Banting and knew first hand where much of the research connected to diabetes began!
Thank you for sharing your memories with us. Glad to read that you did not have to take insulin! If you had any photos of the house – interior or exterior – from you time here, we would be interested in seeing those too. You may contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello. My name is Stephen Klinck, age 66. My mother was Dorothy Mae Hill, the only daughter of Rowland Hill, London’s shoe store owner, in whose house you apparently have your museum and where my mother grew up. She used to talk about Dr. Banting and upon her death I inherited a small painting by him which he’d given to my grandmother. It’s a small (8″x10″) sombre affair of a group of miners walking home from work, it seems. I don’t think it is signed so it might be of no interest to you. I don’t really like it, to be honest, but on the other hand, I feel some responsibility to the doctor to preserve his legacy. Perhaps you’d like to see a picture of it?