Most people who spend time on the Lakeshore Campus will know that the cottages (buildings C through K), which would eventually become the eastern half of the campus, were once part of the Mimico Branch Asylum, later called the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital.
To get the full story of the campus, though, we need to journey back to before buildings were constructed on the land, when the area was significant both for its natural landscape and for the Aboriginal peoples who lived there.
“This place was a meeting ground for many aboriginal tribes,” says Allysha Wassegijig, programming officer at the Aboriginal Resource Centre. “It was a travel way and trading path.”
With its present-day parks, college and other local schools, the campus and the land around it continues to be a place of convergence and history.
When the hospital opened in the late 1800s, it was considered a progressive institution; patients actively tended the grounds, worked on an on-site farm and assisted in operating the facility. The apple orchard that lines the path to the A and B buildings is lasting evidence of the patients’ work.
The institution wasn’t without its tensions, but the hospital, like the present-day campus, held a strong place in the surrounding community. Jem Cain, a Humber staff member and local resident, grew up in the area while the hospital was still operational.
“The hospital was part of the community, and people were never afraid of the hospital or patients,” she says. “Everyone felt that their kids were safe playing in the grounds since it was a beautiful park that integrated the hospital with the public.”
When the hospital closed in 1979, the community advocated for the preservation of the grounds and building. When Humber signed a 99-year lease for the land and buildings in 1991, it began a complete restoration of the cottage buildings.
Today, Humber continues to evolve, as it plans a new Welcome Centre for the southwest corner of Lakeshore and Kipling, as well as a new Athletic Centre further west. The Lakeshore campus is an active part of the community and is proud of its heritage, participating in Culture Days and Doors Open Toronto.
When the Lakeshore Campus opens the Welcome Centre in 2016, it will host a public interpretive space covering the campus’s history. It will be a place that uses the area’s heritage to create a broader community consciousness. It will look at not only the past, but be a place of active engagement where visitors can reflect on the present and envision the future.
Thank you to the research of Ruth Grier, Anne Zbitnew and Agatha Barc for informing the content of this article. Wanda Buote, Principal of Lakeshore acknowledges the ongoing support of the Interpretive Centre Advisory Committee in providing leadership and vision for the space.
For more information on the history of the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, go to http://www.blogto.com/city/2011/04/a_brief_history_of_the_lakeshore_psyc....