Description of Historic Place
The London Psychiatric Hospital is located at 850 Highbury Avenue North, on the east side of Highbury Avenue, north of Dundas Street and south of Oxford Street East, in the City of London. The complex consists of a three-storey white brick Infirmary Building that was constructed between 1900 and 1902, a two-storey brown-brick Recreation Hall, built in circa 1920, the Chapel of Hope built in 1884, a white-brick horse stable, built in 1894 and a tree-lined avenue off Dundas Street.
The property was designated, by the City of London, in 2000, for its historic or architectural value or interest, under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law L.S.P. – 3321-208).
The London Psychiatric Hospital, established as the London Asylum for the Insane between 1869 and 1870, is an impressive symbol of the innovative and humane programs encouraged by the Hospital's two supervisors, Henry Landor (1870-1877) and Richard Maurice Bucke (1877-1902). Under Landor's guidance, the Hospital was designed as a farm with the intent that patients be involved in the farming of produce, as a therapeutic activity, as well as to provide opportunities for communal play and greater freedom. Bucke's significant innovations and improvements to the treatment of patients in a psychiatric hospital included the reduction of mechanical restriction and alcohol, as a method of controlling patients, and visual aesthetics through the addition of sculptures and landscaping of the grounds. In 1995, the London Psychiatric Hospital joined St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital to operate under a single administration. In 2001 the St. Thomas Psychiatric Hospital was transferred from the Province of Ontario to St. Joseph's Hospital and renamed the Regional Mental Health Care, London.
The London Psychiatric Hospital was designed by London architect Thomas H. Tracy, and was modeled after Thomas Kirkbride's landmark Pennsylvania Asylum. A beautiful tree lined two-lane avenue runs from the original main entrance, north of Dundas Street to the Infirmary building. The Infirmary, built between 1900 and 1902 and known variously as the 1902 Building, Exam Building, Bucke Research Institute and the Outpatient Department and Admitting Hospital, is a fine example of the Victorian style, displaying an exemplary classic symmetry and balance. Of note are the huge skylights on the third-storey that provided light for the surgical suite.
The Chapel of Hope was constructed by the patients, in 1884, in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. It was constructed of white brick with seven stone-capped buttresses on each side. Also of note are the four small dormers on each side of the gable roof, which feature a trillium-shaped stained glass window. The front and two smaller side entrances feature roof peaks that are capped with a carved stone ornament.
The horse stable, constructed in 1894, is a white brick structure, white washed at the base, with a slate roof. Even though the construction of this building was mainly functional, its monumental size, nearly regular fenestration, classical proportions and the picturesque effect created by the ventilation cupolas, make it a strikingly handsome building.
The two-storey Recreation Hall, built in circa 1920, is also of architectural significance. The building features a metal roof with two ventilators, gable ends and four small wings, two at each end, with pedimented gables. The large auditorium windows are set in semi-circular headed brick panels and each has 40 panes arranged in nine sections. The Hall was used to host recreational activities for patients and to stage performances.
The property's landscaped grounds and farmland are very important, symbolizing the key principles of the therapeutic farming approach, on which the London Psychiatric Hospital was founded. Of note is the magnificent vista formed by the two-lane avenue, with a centre walkway, lined with eight rows of trees, from Dundas Street towards the Infirmary. The horse stable, located on the northwest end of the Hospital grounds, is also of note, as the last vestige of the Hospital's significant agricultural past. Of three original farm buildings it is the last remaining building built by Bucke.
Sources: City of London, By-law L.S.P.-3321-208; Nancy Z. Tausky, London from Site to City, Broadview Press Ltd, 1993.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the London Psychiatric Hospital include its:
- farmland grounds that show the Hospital's early supervisor's vision on the treatment of patients with mental illness
- sculptures and landscaping on the Hospital grounds reflecting the Hospital's approach to the treatment of the mentally ill patients
- Infirmary Building
- Recreation Hall
- Chapel of Hope
- large Hospital grounds featuring landscaped areas, farmland and built structures
- magnificent vista formed by the two-lane avenue with a centre walkway lined with eight rows of trees
- horse stable, as it is the last remaining of the three farmyard buildings
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Infirmary Building include its:
- three-storey white brick construction
- hip roof
- overall symmetry and balance
- central surgical block attached by two passageways to mirror-image side pavilions, each featuring a gabled projection and cupola
- corner quoins
- plain pediment over the front entrance
- voussoirs over windows
- semi-circular window on second storey above front entrance
- closed brick railings on entrance steps
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Recreation Hall include its:
- two-storey brown brick construction
- gabled ends with a wide plain frieze and moulding
- return eaves over broad pilasters at the south end and a pediment at the north end
- four small wings, two at each end, with pediment gables
- metal roof with two ventilators
- large and tall auditorium windows on the sides set in semi-circular headed brick panels, each with 40 panes arranged in 9 sections
- double door centre entrance with an eight-light transom, windowed doors, small lanterns to each side, high and wide front steps, and a canopy supported by chains
- performance stage in the interior of the building
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Chapel of Hope include its:
- white brick construction
- four small dormers on each side of the gable roof, each featuring a trillium shaped stained glass window
- seven Gothic arch-shaped stained glass windows on each side of the building
- large stained glass window behind the altar
- front and two side entrances roof peak is capped with a carved stone ornament
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the horse stable include its:
- white brick construction
- white washed base
- slate roof
- monumental size
- nearly regular fenestration
- classical proportions
- ventilation cupolas