A chunk of land in London, Canada maintained a 144-year streak as the site of one of the country’s pioneering psychiatric hospitals. Clusters of abandoned buildings hint at the site’s healthcare history.
The facility operated under many names since it first opened in 1870 as the London Asylum for the Insane. From 1877 to 1900 it was headed by Richard Maurice Bucke, a revolutionary psychiatrist and friend of Walt Whitman. In 1932, it became the Ontario Hospital London. It was then reborn as the London Psychiatric Hospital (which is what it’s still commonly referred to as) in 1968. In 2001, it was rebranded for a final time as Regional Mental Health Care London.
The hospital’s first superintendent thought its peaceful, rural location would be healing for patients. The facility was soon turned into a working farm, as its second superintendent believed work therapy would benefit those with mental illnesses.
Emphasizing work, as well as focusing on nutritious diets and fostering healthy social interactions, was part of the hospital’s decision to use moral therapy. This type of mental health treatment was rather progressive at the time, as it focused on emotional and social interactions and was seen as less cruel than previous methods.
As the decades went on, overcrowding led to the demolition of much of the 19th-century complex as newer, bigger buildings were put up in its place. However, some structures, like a church, the horse stables, and the original infirmary still remain.
In 2014, the site ended its 144-year-long stint in psychiatric care when Regional Mental Health Care London relocated its patients to a different facility. It’s still possible to visit, though it’s difficult to get into the older, abandoned buildings because they aren’t all structurally safe.
Know Before You Go
There are still active buildings on this property. Pull in and go past them to the middle of the property to find the old buildings. Visiting is not allowed and there are multiple security cameras throughout the property. Police will remove any trespassers. Coyotes are often in the area and entry to the buildings is nearly impossible.