Heritage Sites

PSAT collects material objects made by psychiatric survivors, past and present, when in-patients or out-patients of a mental health facility, as well as people who are no longer patients, such as pottery, clothing, wood-work, stencilled imprints, key-chains, musical instruments, tools used to create objects, political buttons, banners and other similar examples of physical culture.

PSAT has negotiated with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health for the protection of the patient-built wall on CAMH's grounds. See a memorial plaque which has recently been installed on the wall.

See some examples of buildings raised by psychiatric inmates from the old Malden Lunatic Asylum, Amherstburg, Ontario on the Detroit River, 1859-1870.

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 (another report says 3000 feet) of the old 999 Queen Street West boundary wall, averaging 16 feet in height, was re-built by patient labourers in 1889.

toronto asylum wall

Shaw St. Wall, Queen Street Mental Health Centre, 1001 Queen St. W. Toronto, Ontario, Built entirely by patient labour, circa 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.

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 of this centre of learning, 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.

See the Lakeshore Asylum Cemetary Project.

Agatha's historical site about the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital.

Asylum Project's wiki site includes photos and material on many asylums. This page is dedicated to Canadian sites.