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.