Abandoned Childrens Regional Psychiatric Centre
This abandoned location is an Abandoned Childrens Psychiatric Centre for children and youth.
Counselling and treatment programs here were geared to help children and youth up to 21 years of age who suffered from the following difficulties:
The province announced in 2012 that the 400 children and youth who are in day programs at the facility — which treats clients with complex mental health, behavioural and developmental challenges will be transferred to community-based agencies.
The 15 individuals who lived there at closing would also have to leave and the province has promised to “work with families’’ to provide “individualized transition plans.’’
This hospital consists of three wings with an H-shaped footprint. It has a flat roof and is faced in brown brick. The main north side is symmetrical and formal in appearance.
This hospital was described as a “Palace of Sunshine”, custom-designed for children requiring helio (sun) therapy or hospitalization for long periods, e.g. while recovering from rheumatic fever, osteomyelitis, polio or surgery.
The building accommodated 112 patients in rooms with 6 to 8 cots that could all be wheeled outside in nice weather. At that time, sun and fresh air were considered necessary treatments for certain ailments. Because a natural environment was considered healthful for their patients, 50,000 tree seedlings and extensive gardens were planted on the grounds.
The site was self sufficient, with its own steam plant, water filtration system and sewage disposal system. A bus was purchased for $3,300 to connect the hospital to the nearest transportation lines and help make this “remote” location more attractive to staff.
With medical advances, including vaccinations, antibiotics and surgical techniques, the need for this type of hospital diminished over time. By the 1940s, it was being used primarily for polio cases. After a major power failure in 1954 during Hurricane Hazel when 17 babies in incubators had to be evacuated, the decision was made to close the facility.
In 1957, the property was sold to the Ontario Government to become a Hospital for children – the first residential mental health centre for children and youths in Ontario.
The facility could accommodate 72 children, aged six to seventeen. Few staff members had experience working with emotionally disturbed children, and by the time the hospital opened in January 1958, the new staff had received little training.
In addition, the target population had not been well-defined, and the first group included those with schizophrenia, brain damage, deafness, and developmental delays.
This first cohort of children literally destroyed the place by breaking windows and burning mattresses. Workers were attacked. Staff largely learned as they went, and after a period of major adjustment, order was brought to the facility and an era of effective treatment began.
In the 1960s, a new insight in child psychiatry was the revelation that experiencing a positive group living situation – even with people to whom a child was not related – could be healing to a child who previously had never lived in a “normal” family environment.
In 1972, the province constructed ten small houses on the property, and moved many of the children out of a “hospital” setting into these cottages where they could experience living in family-style groups. These cottages are still used today and are located south and west of the main building.