Mimico Asylum

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Mimico Asylum
Construction Began 1881
Construction Ended 1889
Opened 1890
Closed 1979
Current Status Closed
Building Style Cottage Plan
Architect(s) Kivas Tully
Location Etobicoke, ON
Peak Patient Population 1,391 in 1950
Alternate Names
  • Mimico Insane Asylum
  • Mimico Hospital for the Insane
  • Ontario Hospital, Mimico
  • Ontario Hospital, New Toronto
  • Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital



History[edit]

The history of this institution begins on January 20, 1890, when the Mimico Branch Asylum, as it was then known, opened its doors to 116 patients from Toronto. Established to house “the chronic insane” from across the province, the Asylum was situated on 60 acres of land to the west of Toronto, just outside of the village of Mimico on the shore of Lake Ontario. The Mimico site was chosen both for its centrality to other provincial asylums and for its healthy, tranquil rural location. It also included the 125 acre North Farm situated near the main hospital grounds, and after 1903, the adjacent McNeill Farm of approximately 73 acres. As its name suggests, the Asylum was initially established as a branch of the Asylum for the Insane, Toronto (as then known) located at 999 Queen Street West. By 1894, however, the province concluded that it was not economically viable for a single site to assume responsibility for the province’s entire population of chronic patients. Consequently, Mimico was made an independent institution with its own territorial catchment area and renamed the Mimico Asylum. Mimico’s catchment area comprised the counties of Peel, Simcoe, Ontario, Victoria, and Peterborough, and the districts of Muskoka, Parry Sound, Nippissing, Algoma, Thunder Bay, and Rainy River.

Like all other provincial asylums, the Mimico Asylum was administered by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons and Charities, which was a part of the Department of the Provincial Secretary. After 1930, however, responsibility for these institutions was transferred to the provincial Department of Health. Overseen by a variety of branches and divisions within the Department’s jurisdiction, the hospital continued to operate under its auspices until Health Minister Dennis Timbrell made the decision to close the facility effective September 1, 1979. Motivated by budget considerations and the shift towards out-patient, community-based programs, LPH in-patients were transferred to other psychiatric hospitals in Hamilton, Toronto, and Whitby, and LPH services were partially amalgamated with those of the Queen Street Mental Health Centre (QSMHC). Some of those programs, such as the Daycare Assessment Rehabilitation and Education (DARE) program, continue to this day. Over its 89-year history, LPH was headed by seven Medical Superintendents: Dr. John B. Murphy (1890-1894), Dr. Nelson Henry Beemer (1894-1928), Dr. Fulton Schuyler Vrooman (1928-1929), Dr. Hugh Alexander McKay (1930-1936), Dr. Thomas Daly Cumberland (1936-1959), Dr. Herbert Clayton Moorhouse (1959-1967), and Dr. Donald Ross Gunn (1967-1972). With the departure of Dr. Gunn, the era of the Medical Superintendent came to an end as the Ministry of Health made the decision to appoint non-medical administrators. R.C. Hansen (1972-4) was the first to hold this title, and he was succeeded by Frank F. Morin (1974-1975), L.Wayne McKerrow (1975-1978), and Joe McMullen (1978-1979).

The Mimico Asylum experienced various name changes during its lifetime, a reflection of changing attitudes toward mental health. The name “Mimico Asylum” was in use until 1907, at which time the provincial government legislated the use of the term “Hospital” to replace “Asylum”, a change that was seen to embody a fundamental shift in the approach to care. As Dr. C.K. Clarke, a proponent of the change, wrote, “the basis of our teaching is the hospital idea – that is, the patients are regarded as sick people and are treated as such” (Bruce-Smith, 1906, p. 23). Consequently, the Mimico Asylum became the Hospital for the Insane, Mimico. In 1919, all psychiatric hospitals operated by the Ontario government were again renamed. Thus the Provincial Hospital for the Insane became the Ontario Hospital, Mimico, and later the Ontario Hospital, New Toronto. On May 20, 1965 the Ontario Hospital became the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital (LPH) by Order-in-Council 1763/65. In the early 1990s the property and buildings were taken over by Humber College.

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Cemetery[edit]

Patients without any family and/or 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 and they did not receive any compensation for their work. After the closure of the hospital in 1979, the Government of Ontario, which is responsible for the upkeep of the cemetery, abandoned it, and only in the last five years restoration efforts have been made by a group of volunteers. It contains the graves of 1,511 former patients.

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