London Asylum for the Insane

Friday, June 14, 2019

The 160-acre property that houses the former London Psychiatric hospital has been sold to a local developer for 17 million dollars.  Most of the buildings will likely be demolished with the exception of three historically designated ones.  So, with a Friday off work I decided to go on a road trip outside the GTA and see what is there and get some pictures while they can still be taken.

The original name for the facility was The London Asylum for the Insane when it opened in November of 1870.  The original building had 500 beds and these were filled almost immediately.  In 1928 it was renamed the Ontario Hospital for the Mentally Ill.  It became The London Psychiatric Hospital in 1968.  The Western Archives photo below shows the main building before it was demolished to make way for more modern buildings that stand at the front of the lot today.  The remaining historical buildings are all at the rear of the property.

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The original idea for the asylum included various types of therapy.  Natural surroundings were considered ideal to medical recovery in the late Victorian Era.  The hospital also applied various work programs to the patients to help prepare them to be integrated back into society when they were well.  Men worked at farming and gardening while the women were taught sewing.  The wings of the replacement facility extend from a round central hub.  This building was opened in 1968.

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Insanity was a simple diagnosis that could be applied to any socially unacceptable behaviour including masturbation, depression or senility.  Patients were not always treated in ways that we would find acceptable today.  Some of the treatments were considered too much, even in those days.  Between 1895 and 1898 one doctor performed over 200 surgeries on women’s reproductive systems to help try and cure hysteria.  Apparently an hysterectomy would be a suitable cure.  The buildings on the site are a mix of the mid-20th century replacement structures and the original buildings from the 1870’s and 1880’s.

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This building will need to be removed as it appears to have been allowed to deteriorate to the point of self-demolition.

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The redevelopment plan calls for the preservation of the old recreation hall.  Also known as the assembly hall, this building was erected in 1920.

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The infirmary for the asylum is still standing and is also featured in the cover photo.  It was built in 1902.  There is a central administration block and two wards on either side.

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Patients sit on the lawn in front of the infirmary in this historical photo from the Western Archives.

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The non-denominational chapel on the hospital grounds was built partly using labour from the patients.  It was constructed in 1884 in the Gothic Revival style that was popular for churches in that era.

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The church was known as the Chapel of Hope and was used for thousands of weddings in recent years.  The last wedding was held here on September 30th, 2014.  With the land sold for development it is unclear what the future of the chapel is but is is protected under a heritage designation.

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The modern buildings will likely all be removed in the name of progress and residential, office space and a large component of  park land will replace them.  Several of the older buildings may be incorporated into the development due to their designation as historic structures.

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There are several of these unremarkable building on the site that were built during the 1964 renovation of the property.

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Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of the stables so it is a good thing that they will be preserved in the redevelopment.  It will be interesting to see what becomes of this piece of property.  In the GTA we had a similar hospital at the Mimico Branch Asylum

Google Maps Link: London Psychiatric Hospital

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7 thoughts on “London Asylum for the Insane

  1. Donna Lounsbury

    My son and his second wife married at the Chapel in 1992…It’s a beautiful little church. I’m glad it is protected.

    Reply
  2. Ms. susan b. zaple

    god I hope the developer will not dystroy the old building here it is a big part of Londons History ,

    Reply
  3. John Ewin

    My father was treated there for about a year during the late 1940s. He mainly received electric shock treatments & said they did help relieve his mental depression condition.

    Reply
  4. Donna Book

    My uncle was in there because he had tuberculosis. I remember as a child sitting on the lawn while mom and dad visited him. He would wave from a window.

    Reply
  5. The Big Garden and Croft

    J > Right across the UK all similar establishments (possibly more than a hundred) have now been sold off and almost all have become very up-market residential developments, some with various on-site services and retail and in effect forming free-standing communities, akin to gated communities in the US or upscale urbanizations in Spain.

    Reply
  6. Pingback: Western Counties Occupational Centre | Hiking the GTA

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