Toronto (ON)

Toronto – i.e. where it all began.

When I first arrived in grad school I was the typical lost-and-scattered-without-a-topic-student until my supervisor, Chris Green, told me to read Geoffrey Reaume’s Remembrance of Patients Past and to visit the Centre for Addiction and Mental Heath (CAMH) Archives on Queen Street West where I was kindly welcomed by their Archivist, John Court. I haven’t looked back since 🙂

My Master’s thesis, “An Exploration of the History of the Toronto Asylum from Multiple Perspectives, 1853-1875”, as well as many of my first conference presentations focused on CAMH‘s early history.

Toronto was the first purpose-built asylum to open in Ontario (or what was then Upper Canada/Canada West). Temporary accommodations were opened in 1841 and the purpose-built building first began accepting patients in 1851. It stood on the site of the current CAMH buildings on Queen Street West.


1. Portion of the patient-built brick wall that still stands on the CAMH property

2. Portion of the circular staircase that once led to the dome of the original main building – now mounted on a wall in the cafeteria

3. Joseph Workman park, named for Medical Superintendent Workman (who’s term I focused on for my MA thesis). Located behind the CAMH propery – note that you can see both a portion of the wall and the 1970s buildings (currently under renovation).


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