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General Info

Location

When the hospital ceased to operate in 1979, the address was 3131 Lakeshore Boulevard West, and it was located at the northeast corner of Lakeshore Boulevard West and Kipling Avenue, in the former City of Etobicoke, Ontario. When it opened on January 21, 1889, it was situated what was then considered the western part of the village of Mimico. Later, this area eventually develped into an industrial centre called New Toronto in the 1890s and was subsequently incorporated as a village in 1913. At that time, the address was 1007 Lakeshore Road. When Lakeshore Road was renamed, becoming an extension of Lakeshore Boulevard West, and the address was changed to 3131 Lakeshore Boulevard West. In 1967, New Toronto became part of the Borough (and later, in 1984, City) of Etobicoke which was merged into the new City of Toronto (part of the Greater Toronto Area) in 1998.

Lakeshore Road, 1928.

Years of Operation and the Official Names

The asylum opened on January 21, 1889 and closed down on September 1, 1979. It was originally known as the Mimico Branch Asylum, as it formed part of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum at 999 Queen Street West in Toronto, Ontario, caring only the chronically ill. Between 1889 and 1979, it was also referred to as the Mimico Insane Asylum (renamed 1894, becoming a seperate institution that offered treatment to all types of patienta), Ontario Hospital, Mimico (1920), and later Ontario Hospital, New Toronto (1934). In 1964, the name was changed again to Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital. Unofficially, the hospital has been commonly referred to as a Lakeside Sanatorium, Lakeshore Asylum, Mimico Asylum and Lakeshore Hospital, along with the usual range of derogatory names associated with psychiatric hospitals, such as a “nuthouse,” “looney bin,” etc.

A sign that stood at the corner of Lakeshore Boulevard West and Kipling Avenue. Assembly Hall is visible in the background. 1970s.

Years of Construction

The initial stage of construction of the asylum started in 1888 and was completed in 1889. Assembly Hall was built in 1897 and the Gatehouse in 1899. For more information on the history of specific structures, prefer refer to The Architecture.

The earliest photograph of the asylum, looking southwest, late 1880s.

The Architect and the Style

Kivas Tully (1820–1905), the Chief Provincial Architect, was responsible for preparing architectual plans for the buildings. He also designed a number of other structures in Toronto, including the Old Trinity College. The design of the therapeutic landscape was developed by Samuel Matheson, a landscape gardener. The asylum was built in the combination of the Romanesque and Gothic Revival styles.

Patients strolling under the watchful eyes of the orderlies. Notice the turret of the Administration Building, which was removed in the 1930s, early 1900s. Archives of Ontario

The Cemetery

Patients without any family and/or financial resources were buried to rest at the asylum cemetery, located at the corner of Evans and Horner Avenues, about five kilometers north. Wooden coffins were made by patients at the asylum carpentry shop. After the closure of the hospital in 1979, the cemetery was abandoned. Beginning in 2005, restoration efforts have been made by a group of volunteers. Please consult the Lakeshore Asylum Cemetery Project.

The Closure in 1979 and the Aftermath

Despite an active protest of the staff, some patients and their families, as well as local residents, the hospital was closed down on September 1, 1979, following the decision of the Ministry of Health. Dennis R. Timbrell, the Minister of Health, , made an announcement in his speech on January 22, 1979 with regard to this decision.

The decision was inspired by the prevailing trend of deinstitutionalization, which advocated that that mental health patients were able to benefit more from their treatment by living in the community as opposed to being committed to an institution. Furthermore, the issue of funding for the continued operation of the mental hospital from the government was also taken into consideration. At the time of the closing, the hospital was seen as an antiquated relic of Canada’s Victorian past, with the most recent renovations having been done in the 1930s.

After the closure, as it was the case with other psychiatric hospitals in Canada and abroad, many of the patients became homeless. The most severely ill were transferred to the newly constructed Queen Street Mental Health Centre (the former Provicial Lunatic Asylum), as well as Whitby and Hamilton Psychiatric Hospitals, which remained opened. Other patients were released and an outpatient community psychiatric clinic was opened in Cottage 2. Later, the Lakeshore Outpatient and Community Clinic was opened at 3170 Lakeshore Boulevard West and it continued the tradition of providing mental health services in New Toronto until 2008.

During the 1980s, the grounds were used by a number of film corporations to shoot movies, most famously Police Academy and the television series Night Shift, among others. And as it is usually the case with many many old, abandoned institutions, most of the structures quickly began to deteriorate, often falling prey to frequent trespassing and ensuing vandalism.

The Tunnels

The underground tunnels were designed in order to quickly travel between the various buildings, and were often used by staff during unfavourable weather conditions. Patients probably had restricted access, and probably they were required to be accompanied by a member of the staff. When the asylum was first built, it was equipped with a miniature railway tracks, located in the tunnels, which were used to deliver food to individual wards from the main kitchen, located in the Central Building. It was removed in the thirties due to its deteriorating condition. Today, the tunnels are still utilized by the Humber College, accessible only to staff.

The Ghosts

Some of the present staff and students of Humber College, which now occupies the site of the former hospital, claim that the former Cottages are, in fact, are visited on a regular basis by ghostly appearances. For more information, please go to Haunted or Not?

References

Anonymous. “History of Ontario Hospital, New Toronto, Henceforth to be Known as Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital” [Unpublished, written by an unnamed patient with assistant of John Sutherland, Chief Attendant, c. 1964].
Beemer, Nelson. [Untitled letter]. March 22, 1909.
Court, John. “Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital–A Vital Part of the CAMH Legacy.” May 1, 2001.
Deverell, Rex. “The Assembly Hall: A Lakeshore Landmark, 1898–2001.” May 2001.
Gunn, Donald Ross. “Five Year Program.” Etobicoke: Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, 1971.
Hansen R. C. “Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital Orientation Package.” Etobicoke: Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, c. 1972.
“It All Started Back in 1890.” Rapport February 1975.
Keefer, Alec. “Excerpt of Market Gallery Exhibition Didactics re Lakeshore.”
McKerrow, L.W. Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital: Submission to Committee on Mental Health Services, Ontario Council of Health. Etobicoke: Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, May 1978.
Melamet-Vetter, Walther. “The Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, A World of Its Own, Another Coocoo’s Nest, In New Toronto.” Toronto: July 1989.

All primary sources retrieved from the Archives for the History of Canadian Psychiatry and Mental Health Services, January 30 and April 21–22, 2005. Images from the Archives of Ontario, Asylum Projects, RootsWeb, City of Toronto Archives, and from author’s collections.

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