McMaster University

McMaster University

Hamilton Asylum

Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital


The Hamilton Asylum for the Insane, also called the Ontario Hospital and later the Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital, was initially intended to be an asylum for ‘inebriates’. However there was more need for beds for the mentally disturbed and this became its sole concern. The Hamilton Asylum for the Insane began operation in 1876 on 529 acres of land with 202 patients. Patients came from the counties of Wentworth, Halton, Peel, Simcoe, Wellington, Waterloo, Norfolk, Haldimand, Welland, Lincoln and the City of Hamilton. The two closest asylums were Toronto and London.

Until well into the 20th century it was accessible only by a dirt road and was therefore quite isolated. However it was largely self-sufficient with the farm, on which the hospital stood, providing all the necessary food. Cattle, chickens and pigs as well as fruits and vegetables all came from the farm. It had its own bakery, butcher's shop, greenhouse, root cellar, milk-processing house, tailor's shop, sewing room, upholstery shop, fire hall, power house, a fleet of vehicles, skating and curling rinks, a bowling green, tennis courts and chapel. In 1890 it housed 915 patients and employed 119 people. The Asylum Ball was an annual event in the Hamilton community for many years. Its guest list was a who’s who of Hamilton society.

Around 1902, it established a training school for psychiatric nursing which was accredited in 1924. It graduated over 240 nurses before it closed in 1956. The facility also provided training in psychiatric nursing to nurses from the other city hospitals.

The Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital was owned and operated for more than 124 years by the Ontario government. In November 2000 it was transferred to the authority of the St. Joseph's Healthcare-Hamilton and has been renamed the Centre for Mountain Health Services.

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