History of the Cemetery
Asylum by the Lake acknowledges the kind permission of Ed Janiszewski for the reprint of his work. © 2005 Ed Janiszewski. All rights reserved.
This all-but-abandoned, century-old gravesite is located at the northeast corner of Evans and Horner Avenues, bordered by the QEW (Gardiner Expressway) on the north, Horner Avenue on the west, Evans Avenue on the south and a commercial property, Islington Nurseries, on the east. In 2000, the property was sold through the Ontario Realty Corporation to George Damiani, Numbered Co: 1385521 Ontario Ltd., who proposed to build a crematorium. It must be noted that the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital has not only been designated a heritage property, but restored, to much acclaim and serves further as a community college. The burial grounds were an integral part of the functioning of the hospital, its history and more importantly should serve to recognize the lives and labours of the inmates for posterity. Since the first burial in 1890 the grounds have been the resting place for 1,511 indigent people, primarily patients of the LSPH, including 10 infants. I have recently voluntarily taken up the task of memorializing those buried at this site by compiling a database enumerating them, to be used for genealogical purposes. I feel that these pioneers of the city deserve acknowledgement, since many laboured without remuneration on the hospital farms and in the trade and maintenance sections, contributing to the upkeep, and indeed the construction, of the institution. Greater awareness of their contributions will reduce negative perceptions. Their lives advanced the history of care for the mentally ill as much as the work of their “custodians.”
The Burial Grounds of the Former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital
The “Mimico Branch Asylum” opened its doors on January 21st, 1890 as an annex to the Provincial Lunatic Asylum (PLA), later called Ontario Hospital, Toronto and then Queen Street Mental Health Centre and today the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Construction began in 1881, and as early as spring 1888, patients from the PLA were transported to the 125-acre “North Farm” of the Mimico Branch Asylum grounds located about 1.5 miles north of the Lake, to farm the lands (1). In 1976, Dr. Ian Bond stated that “(Mimico Asylum) in fact had been largely built by patient labour brought in from ‘999’” (2). In May of 1890, correspondence from Dr. Daniel Clark, PLA Medical Superintendent, to Provincial Inspector R. Christie, recommends “…twenty five (later revised to 11 16/100) acres owned by the Government north of its farm in Mimico be set apart as a burying ground for the pauper dead of Toronto and Mimico Asylums.” As late as June 27, 1891, despite government approval for the use of “a certain portion of the 11 acre lot and North of the concession at Mimico” be used for burials, Dr. Christie urges haste from Kivas Tully, the Department of Public Works Chief architect, to establish the grounds (3).
The enumeration of those buried at this site, now at the northeast corner of Evans and Horner Avenues, shows plot and grave assignment to the first patient death at Mimico on March 10, 1890 and subsequently twenty-nine further interments before the referenced dates of “Establishment” on December 5, 1891, and the “First Burial” of February 2, 1892 (4), (5). These people show up on the death records for both PLA and Mimico. Whether these first thirty individuals were initially buried at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, as was the practice at PLA, and later re-interred at the Mimico burial grounds needs further research.
Apparently, no one from the PLA was interred at the Mimico grounds despite the initial proposal’s scope. From its inception, it is clear from Mimico’s death and burial records, that there are 1516 individuals buried in Roman Catholic and Protestant sections, including ten infants born to inmates who were stillborn or lived only a few weeks, as well as one of their mothers. Evidence of several Aboriginal individuals, two “unknown” persons and one woman incorrectly documented as to her plot and gravesite have been determined.
Finally, it appears that one grave is shared by an infant and an unrelated adult, their burials separated by many years. The last burial occurred on March 26, 1974. The Mimico Branch Asylum, later the Ontario Hospital: New Toronto, then Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, closed and partially “re-merged” with Queen Street Mental Health Centre in 1979, formally closing the burial grounds to further interments. A publication by the Ontario Genealogical Society (1992) lists the 154 flat grave markers for the period between 1957 and 1973 (6). It was stated even then that the majority of markers were sod-covered.
While under the management of the Ontario Realty Corporation the property was sold in 2000 to the numbered company 1385521 Ontario Limited, owned by George Damiani, for $300,000, who intended to build a crematorium with provisions to restore the existing burial grounds, and demonstrate the historic significance of the property (7). Unfortunately, the property has been left unmarked, untended and in need of renewal. Markers for individual graves and plot location markers need to be uncovered, made level or replaced. The overgrown shrubs, trees and grasses need attention including removing one felled tree which rests on gravesites. Sunken graves need to be leveled, gopher and fox holes make walking hazardous, and generally a new landscape design is required. This site will be 115 years old next year. We should strive to respect the resting places of those who preceded us and set an example for future generations as to how to acknowledge each person’s contribution to society regardless of perceived limitations.
- Mr. John Court, Archivist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Personal correspondence.
- “History of Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital” Dr. Ian K. Bond, unpublished article, July 1976.
- “Selected Sources for the Burying Grounds north of the Mimico Asylum (aka Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital: Humber College, Lakeshore Campus)” prepared by: Pleasance Crawford, Landscape Design Historian, 28 January 2000.
- “Cemetery Record–Ontario Hospital: New Toronto, no date, register of burials 1890–1974.” From the Archives of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
- Ontario Archives microfilm Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, RG 10, Series 20 H-3 “Registers, Rolls and Books, 1890–1963. Vol 1– 33.” MS 3559 and MS 3560.
- “Ontario Hospital Cemetery (Mimico), City of Etobicoke, Ontario,” Ontario Genealogical Society, Toronto Branch, 1992
- Ontario Municipal Board Decision /Order #0106 issued; Jan 23, 2001, OMB File number M00046.