Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Walls

Photo of the Queen Street Psychiatric Hospital  circ 1945. Note the walls surrounding the property.

Male patient construction labour quite literally built and re-built the institutions in which insane asylum inmates lived. The most visible example of this today in Toronto is the old boundary wall along the south, east, and west sides of the present-day Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Queen Street site. At least 1600 feet  of the old 999 Queen Street West boundary wall, averaging 16 feet in height, was re-built by patient labourers in 1889.

Superintendent Daniel Clark reported that "tens of thousands of dollars" were saved by using these unpaid patient workers to do this back-breaking work. Their skills are still very much in evidence today as three of the four sides of these walls continue to stand as mute testament to the people who built them and lived and died in their shadow.

Shaw St. Wall, Queen Street Mental Health Centre, 1001 Queen St. W. was built entirely by patient labour

Dates scratched on inside of wall. Probably made by patient.

A few miles down the road, on the grounds of the old Mimico Asylum (also called Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital before it closed in 1979) can be found a large number of structures built with the toil of patient labour during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, these grounds are being re-made into a community college.

The first occupants were ten male patient labourers from the Queen Street Asylum who were sent there along with two attendants in 1889 to begin to get the institution ready for the later influx of inmates. Like all other male and female asylum inmate labourers in Ontario during this period, none of these workers received any pay for their work.

Patients' Quarters were called 'The Cabins'.

Main Office

In a cemetery at the corner of Evans and Horner in Etobicoke 1,511 forgotten people are buried. These people were patients of Mimico Insane Asylum, between 1890 -1974. When the hospital was closed 1979, the cemetery was closed to further interments. The people buried in the cemetery have been forgotten due to the prejudice against people with a psychiatric history.