Muskoka Regional Centre

Steeped in One Hundred Years of History, the former Muskoka 'Cottage' Sanatorium lays sprawled across several acres of prime lakefront property like a sleeping Giant.

A rich and lengthy history characterizes the Muskoka Centre, situated several miles north of Gravenhurst:

Sir William Gage, was a very wealthy Toronto philanthropist who offered the Toronto city council $25,000 to start building a tuberculosis sanatorium in 1894, but no action was taken.

The next year, Gage called a meeting a the National Club in Toronto to discuss his idea, and a committee agreed to "take steps leading towards the organization of a Sanatorium for Consumptives". While travelling across Canada to find a suitable site for the sanatorium, and visiting institutions in Europe and the United States, Gage realized that it was time to establish a more definite administrative organization. On April 23, 1896, by a special Act of the Dominion Parliament, the National Sanatorium Association was born.

Kamloops, in British Columbia, was nearly chosen as the site for the first sanatorium. Sir William van Horne, President of the Canadian Pacific Railway at the time offered free transportation for tuberculosis patients from any part of Canada if the sanatorium were built in Kamloops - quite an incentive to locate the facility there.

However, the town of Gravenhurst in Ontario, offered $10,000 towards the building if a sanatorium were built in or near the town.

A suitable site was soon found on the shores of Lake Muskoka near Gravenhurst, and the Muskoka Cottage Hospital was costructed. Additional private funds came from Mr. Gage ($25,000), Mr. Hart A. Massey ($25,000), and Mr. William Christie ($10,000). Canada’s first sanatorium was officially opened in 1897. (How these gentlement made their money: Mr. Gage - Publishing; Mr. Massey - think tractors; and Mr. Christie - I hear he makes good cookies)

Construction in 1897 of the Muskoka Cottage Sanatorium, started with a 35-bed tuberculosis hospital - the first of its kind in Canada. It was not uncommon to have patients from the far southern U.S. States travel to this facilty for treatment.

Major expansions to the Sanatorium took place in the 1920’s at which time the facility could house 444 patients - a sizeable institution at the time. Additional buildings such as surgical facilities, a laboratory, several service buildings and private dwellings for the resident professionals were also completed shortly after.

As more modern treatment and prevention of tuberculosis became more prevalent, therequirements for traditional isolation sanatoriums lessened. The Muskoka hospital experienced decreased occupancy during the late 1940’s and throughout the 1950’s. Meanwhile, a counterbalancing phenomenon in the field of mental retardation began demanding increased care and treatment space.

In 1960, the 62-acre site, on a rocky peninsula jutting out into Lake Muskoka and the existing structures, were acquired by the Ontario Department of Health as an extension of the Ontario Hospital School at Orillia which came to be known as Huronia Regional Centre.
In 1973, the facility, now known as Muskoka Regional Centre administered to 305 female patients between the ages of 16 to 80 years with the total staff of about 300. There were also several male adolescent resents. Approximately 275 of these residents occupied the large Gage complex, originally constructed in 1922, with the remainder housed in the Barbara Heyden Residence, constructed in 1936.

By 1978, a plan of de-institutionalization was placed on the political agenda and had been carried forward by each political party while in office.
The Muskoka Centre was finally closed in 1994. Some buildings still do witness use by the Ontario Provincial Police for SWAT tactical forced entry training as well as 'K-9' Unit training.

UrbEx Barrie has hosted and attended a few meets at 'the San' and have left only footprints to keep this beautiful location 'pristine' in its delicious decay.


Anonymous said...

I Had heard about this center back in 2006. I believe it is a part of our history and more information should be available for it. with it's location on the water and years of history inside, this site should not be pushed under the carpet and forgot about. Please post if you have any other information or stories about this place.

Anonymous said...

I believe there is a lot of history that in't being told.My grandmother was a patient being treated for TB, she died at the age of 21 years young. There really isn't enough information in here to tell the treatments and people listed that were there, or a directory of names, it should be public knowledge, we do have a right to know

Anonymous said...

Not to be a pain in the ass, as I already made this comment on one of your old Edgar entries as well, but a mental hospital, and a centre for mentally handicapped people are not the same thing. You can't just interchangeably use the terms "mental hospital" and "psychiatric facility", when you really mean that it was a place for mentally handicapped people to live, not a place where mentally ill people were locked up.

Travis said...

Can you please post a link to find this location on google maps?


Anonymous said...

I did a field placement for school in 1973 and there were children as young as five years old at this facility! I found it very disturbing that an Ontario Hospital would allow a family to admit a child to such a facility and apparently these children had been there since infancy. There were also cribs on the ward with bars that covered the whole crib so there was no way of getting out of the crib. I beleive that cover-ups at this hospital were common.