Additional information and corrections were provided by Ed Janiszewski and Ron McKinley.

1871–1885: the Prelude

Annual meeting of the provincial asylum superintendents at the Provincial Lunatic Asylum in Toronto, during which the new cottage system of asylums is discussed. This new plan uses a number of centrally administrated smaller buildings in place of one large asylum.

Provincial Lunatic Asylum in Toronto, 999 Queen Street West, Toronto.

Dr. Daniel Clark, the superintendent of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum, finds a provincial farm in rural Mimico located just south of the shore of Lake Ontario and decides that it would be a good setting for a new branch asylum. He also persuades the provincial government to sell 25 acres from the east and west side of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum and to use the accumulated funds toward the construction of a branch in Mimico.

Convinced by Dr. Clark, Kivas Tully, the Chief Provincial Architect, along with Inspector O’Reilly, travel to the central and northeastern parts of the United States in order to investigate the cottage system, implemented in the architecture and the management of the existing asylums. In August, O’Reilly continues his travels with the Honourable Provincial Secretary and together they examine a number of newly built hospitals, including Illinois Eastern Hospital for the Insane in Kankakee and Middletown State Hospital in Connecticut. Next, they order Tully to travel there in order to obtain the plans and to research the ways in which the buildings are being administrated.

Middletown State Hospital, visited by Tully and O’Reilly in 1885.

c.1881–1893: the Establishment of the Mimico Branch Asylum and the Moral Treatment Experiment

Construction of the new branch asylum, employing patients from the Provincial Lunatic Asylum, starts. The patients are not compensated for their work, as in light of moral treatment this is seen as a form of therapy.

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

An additional group of ten male patients of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum and two attendants came to prepare the institution for incoming patients.

1890, January 20
Mimico Branch Asylum opens its doors for first 116 patients transferred from Toronto. They are deemed as chronically and incurably insane. The asylum has only forty staff members and consists of three cottages and three general buildings, connected to each other by underground tunnels. It is designed to be a self-sufficient institution, not depended on founding from the provincial government for its operations and maintenance. As a result, the patients are required to work on the land accumulated for farming, which surrounds the asylum to the south and north.

Dr. Thomas William Reynolds, followed by Dr. John Cascaden, become temporary superintendents.
Dr. John Bernard Murphy becomes the first permanent superintendent.

Kivas Tully designates a cemetery, located at Evans and Horner Avenues.

Two cottages are added on the north and the south side for the most indisposed patients.
Carriage House is built, known today as William’s Coffee Pub. Another source states it was built in 1900.

A gatehouse (originally called an entrance lodge) is erected by patients. Other sources cite that it was built in 1910.

1894–1908: Beginnings of the Independent Institution and Growth

Due to increasing number of patients, the asylum gains administrative autonomy by becoming an independent institution from the Provincial Lunatic Asylum, and is subsequently renamed as Mimico Insane Asylum.
Dr. Nelson Henry Beemer becomes the superintendent and promotes contact with the outside community.

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

A cricket oval, located immediately south of the buildings, is levelled by patients. Reportedly, it is one of finest in the Township of Etobicoke, and the incorporation of the Mimico Asylum Cricket Club soon follows. A superintendent’s residence is constructed (later known as the Cumberland House, today it houses the Jean Tweed Centre).
Two separate pavilions are built near the shore for the leisure of male and female patients and staff.

Postcard, 1909

An Assembly Hall is constructed, using patient labour (another date suggests that it was built in 1897).

A new stores facility, located on the ground floor of the Assembly Hall, is constructed.

The asylum now consists of ten cottages, housing 590 patients and a staff of 93.

A conservatory is built. It has not survived; possibly a former greenhouse.

The asylum acquires 76 acres of H.J. McNeil Farm (the name refers to a provincial creditor) from the west of the hospital, marked on maps of surveyors as “Lot 6.” The land is to be worked by the patients as part of their therapy in order to continue maintaining the expanding asylum as a self-sufficient institution.

Two patients on the asylum farm. The asylum regime, as influenced by the principles of moral management, dictated that patients were required to perform unpaid labour as part of their treatment. As a result, the asylum was economically self-sufficient. Year unknown.

Cottage 2 is destroyed by fire.

Cottage 2 is rebuilt.

The first training school for nurses is funded.
A barn is constructed on the north side of the McNeil farm.

1909–1928: Accommodating Increasing Patient Population

Additions to the Gatehouse are made, which include new kitchen, pantry, bedroom, closets, bathroom, and enlarged cellar with a hot air furnace.
A construction of a building for intensive care is requested. Planned to be constructed in 1979, it is never completed.

A gatehouse, an incinerator, paint shop, and barn are built.
The asylum now houses 602 patients and has 111 staff members.

A pumping house is built.
Lakehouse is erected. It is located farther away from the hospital buildings, toward the lake. It is used to provide accommodation for the staff. It has not survived.

The asylum is renamed as Ontario Hospital, Mimico.
It now treats 619 patients with a staff of 104.
A fire tower is added to the rear building.
July 16
The Toronto Daily Star reports that “The whereabouts of Chas. Naylor, who escaped from Mimico Asylum on Friday afternoon, are still unknown to the local police.”

1921, October 14
A nurse named Rachael Lake rescues a “a female patient suffering from manic depressive of the depressed type with strongly suicidal impulses.” The patient attempted suicide by trying to drown in the lake.

Dr. Fulton Schuyer Vrooman becomes the superintendent.
The Occupational Therapy Department is inaugurated.

Lakeshore Road, 1927.

1929–1959: Overcrowding, the Subsequent Failure of the Moral Treatment and Partial Renovation of the Asylum. Various New Forms of Therapy Introduced

Dr. Hugh Alexander McKay is appointed as the superintendent.
The asylum now consists of 795 patients and 177 staff members.
Powerhouse is erected. Still standing today, south of the cottages, towards the lake. Another reference suggests that it was constructed in 1937.

A root house (used for vegetable storage), laundry, and nurses’ residence are constructed
The Administration Building is partially renovated, and the turret is removed in order to avoid the cost of the restoration.
The Carriage House is modified to store vehicles rather than horses and thus divided into three sections. All of the construction is completed by patients who are not awarded any financial compensation.

Due to severe overcrowding, an extension is built to the Cottage A, thus joining it to the Cottage B.
Cottages F, G, and J are extended to the Cottage 1.

The underground railroad (located in the underground tunnels and used to transport food from the main kitchen) ceases its operations to due to its deteriorating conditions.

The hospital is renamed Ontario Hospital, New Toronto.
The approved homes program begins, originated by the chief social worker, Lillian Oliver. The homes are located in rural areas and provide residential care for long-term patients.

Dr. Thomas Daly Cumberland becomes the superintendent.

Insulin shock treatment starts to be administrated as a form of therapy. Powerhouse, described as “the most modern plant owned by the provincial government,” is built.

The old stone gate at the hospital entrance is replaced by a brick gate, still standing today.
Cottage 2 becomes a reception ward for the admission of incoming patients.

The patient population increases to 1,348 patients and there are 296 staff members.

The Administration Building is altered to provide consultation offices for medical staff.

Dr. Martin A. Fischer introduces a new form of therapy through art.

The hospital now has 1,391 patients and a staff of 260.

Almont Hotel, New Toronto, 1953.

Farming is discontinued and Teachers’ College acquires the former McNeil farm and opens a campus at the corner of Lakeshore Boulevard West and Twenty-Third Street.
Erection of a kitchen and new service building. Absorbed by this new construction is the original Centre Building, which contained the main kitchen, recreation rooms, storerooms, and bedrooms for the staff, as well as an old fire hall and the carpenter shop.

1959–1969: Revitalization of the Hospital, with Focus on Specialized Classification and Treatment

Dr. H.C Moorehouse becomes the new superintendent and completely revitalizes the entire institution following years marked by patient overcrowding, staff shortage, and constant lack of funding.
A cafeteria is built.

1959, October
The hospital is reorganized into a unit system, designed in order to make the administration of patients to be more effective, with a concentrated treatment. As a result, the hospital operates as “a series of functionally autonomous units,” as opposed to the old-styled “traditional centralized organization.”

Dr. Donald Ross Gunn becomes the Director of Clinical Research.
The Cumberland House is renovated to accommodate day and night care of patients, and later a school for the patients from the Child and Adolescent Unit.
That year, there are 1,096 patients in the hospital’s care with 514 staff members.

Construction of the R.C. Clark Filtration Plant takes place on the former farm of the hospital.

The hospital is renamed again and becomes known as Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital (LSPH).
Central Trades Building is destroyed by fire.

1966, July 20
The Toronto Star reports that Joseph Armand Roy, a patient suffering from epilepsy, commits suicide by deliberately drowning in Lake Ontario. He is found face down in 3 feet of water, about 20 feet away from the shore.

Dr. Gunn is appointed as the superintendent.

1967, February 6
Dr. Gunn opens the new Child and Adolescent Unit in Cottage 5. All of its patients, labelled as suffering from “psychiatric and behavioural disorders,” are required to attend a school located in the former superintendent’s residence.

Construction of R.C. Clark Filtration Plant is completed.
The Moorehouse is erected by the Association of Volunteers.

Patients playing cards in the Moorehouse, late 1960s.

1970–1979: the Last Years and Closing of the Asylum

It is reported that the hospital has 545 patients and 729 staff members.

1970, March 21
The hospital becomes accredited by the Canadian Council on Hospital Accreditation, meaning that the conditions in the institution are reasonably good, despite the antiquated and the continually deteriorating buildings.

The activists of the Church of Scientology advocate against the use of lobotomy, electroconvulsive shock treatment, and drug therapy. This action soon provokes a public outcry.

Dr. Donald Ross Gunn crafts an ambitious “Five Year Program,” attempting to usher the institution into a new era of psychiatric treatment. Its main objectives include: to totally reconstruct the physical plant of the hospital with contemporary hospital facilities, which would replace the antiquated cottage system; to organize a board of directors in order to become a public psychiatric hospital; to become a teaching hospital; to reduce the number of chronic patients, requiring long-term, continuous treatment, in order to become a fully active psychiatric hospital; to develop more adequate emergency and admitting services; to increase the scope of outpatient services; to improve existing partnerships with associated agencies and institutions and to create new ones; and to retain accreditation. Dr. Gunn’s plan is never implemented and he retires the following year.

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

1971, September 15
The Minister of Health, Bert Lawrence, and Lakeshore MPP, Patrick Lawlor, are presented with a petition signed by 600 citizens, who protest the treatment of patients at Lakeshore. The action is originated by an organization called the Mothers for Real Mental Health.

R.C. Hansen, first non-medical superintendent, replaces Dr. Donald Ross Gunn, who retires.
Teachers College is acquired by Humber College.

1972, August
The Adveriser, a locally published newspaper, reports that patients Martha Morais and Nadia Machialovich commit suicide by deliberately drowning in the lake

1973, March 23
A young female patient, whose identity is not revealed, is reported missing. The story soon leaks to the press.

Lakeshore Campus is opened by Humber College on the site of the former Teachers College.

Frank F. Morin becomes the new superintendent.
New Trades Building is erected.

1974, April 20 or 22
A patient named Douglas Davis Harris dies at the hospital; his death remains unexplained.

L.Wayne McKerrow is appointed as the superintendent.
The cottages are renamed, with new names indicating the geographical area served.
Rumours start to spread, which indicate that the hospital may close.

Joe McMullen becomes the last superintendent.

1979, January 22
Dennis R. Timbrell, the Minister of Health, announces that due to its “sub-standard” facilities, Lakeshore will close. Instead, he promises an expansion of community-based, out-patient clinical programs that will replace the services of the hospital.

1979, August 15
The last of the 280 patients are transferred to the Queen Street Mental Health Centre (QSMHC), now known as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

1979, September 1
Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital officially closes and partly re-merges with the QSMHC as a division. Most of the buildings are abandoned and quickly start to deteriorate. At the time of the closing, there are 280 in-patients and a staff of 675. Some patients are released and others are transferred to the QSMHC, Whitby and Hamilton Psychiatric Hospitals.

An unidentified doctor with a member of staff, March 13, 1980

1980–1999: the Former Asylum as a Film Set and Beginnings of Re-Adaptive Use

The first installment of Police Academy is filmed on the grounds the former hospital.

The Cumberland House is renovated and becomes home to the Jean Tweed Centre after a three-year fundraising campaign.

The grounds of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital are designated as a heritage property by the Province of Ontario under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Humber College signs a 99-year lease on the buildings of the former hospital and begins to restore them.

A non-profit organization renovates the Gatehouse, opening a supportive centre for children and adults.

Gatehouse, May 2011.

2000–present: the Opening of the Assembly Hall. The Start of the Cemetery Preservation Efforts

The sale of the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital Cemetery by the provincial government under the Conservative Party provokes outrage in the public, as the new owner, George Damiani, plans to build a chapel and a crematorium on the site.

2000, February 14
Newly restored Assembly Hall is officially opened by the mayor Mel Lastman.

2001, May 31–June 17
Opening Celebrations of the Assembly Hall.

Panoramic view of the former Administration Building and the cottages, August 2010.

2004, May 29 and 30
The Gatehouse and the Assembly Hall are featured during the event of Doors Open Toronto.

2005, May 21
A cemetery restoration event organized and led by the Psychiatric Survivor Archives, Toronto and Ed Janiszewski, a former employee of the hospital. This originates the Lakeshore Asylum Cemetery Project.


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Bond, Ian K. “History of Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital.” July 1976.
Court, John. “Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital–A Vital Part of the CAMH Legacy.” May 1, 2001.
Court, John. “Re: Humber College Timeline.” E-mail to Jim Graves. March 1, 2004.
Deverell, Rex. “The Assembly Hall: A Lakeshore Landmark, 1898–2001.” May 2001.
The Executive, Volunteer Association, Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital. “Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital Should Not be Closed.” Letter. Oakville Journal Record February 9, 1979: 5.
Fisher, Honey R. From Vision to Legacy: CAMH’s Four Pre-Merger Institutions. Toronto: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2000.
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Hurst, Lynda. “Centre Provides Special Help for Alcoholic Women.” Toronto Star April 16, 1985: B1.
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“Lakeshore to Close in Mental Health Reorganization.” Pulse March 1979.
“Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital Joins the Ranks of the Accredited.” March 2, 1970.
“Lakeshore Volunteers Meet.” The Advertiser April, 1971.
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.
“Must Work Together: Unity of Purpose Needed, Says Minister at Church Picnic.” The Toronto Daily Star July 16, 1911: 7.
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Paine, Cecelia. “Origins of Therapeutic Landscape Design in Ontario: Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital.” [http://www.apa.unmontreal.ca/gadrat/formcont/seminaire98/
coneferences/Paine/Paine.htm]. Accessed November 13, 2002.
Psychiatric Survivor Archives of Toronto. Heritage Sites. Retrieved November 11, 2004.
Rogers, E.R. Esq., Inspector of Asylums, Parliament Buildings, Toronto. [Untitled].
Sekeres, Matthew. “Search for Gravesites Holds up ORC Land Sale.” The Globe and Mail August 23, 2000.
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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.