Toronto Feature: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Toronto Feature: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

This article is from our Toronto Feature series. Features from past programs are not updated.

This content is from a series created in partnership with Museum Services of the City of Toronto and Heritage Toronto. We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, and the Department of Canadian Heritage.

On 26 January 1850, the Provincial Lunatic Asylum, as it was then known, first opened its doors on Queen Street West in Toronto (public domain).
CAMH 2012
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2012 (photo by James Marsh).
Provincial Lunatic Asylum, Queen Street, opposite Ossington Avenue, circa 1868 (photo by William Notman, courtesy Toronto Reference Library, Baldwin Room/F-114).

Toronto Feature: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

"Burying the Past of 999 Queen"

999 Queen. An address so attached to the bad reputation of the Provincial Lunatic Asylum that when the site was improved in the early 1970s, it received a new street number - 1001 Queen Street West. This was only one of several efforts to bury the past of what was then called the Queen Street Mental Health Centre.

Another was the old asylum's demolition in 1975-76. When architect John Howard designed the institution in the mid-1840s, he envisioned a cutting-edge mental health facility with architecture inspired by the National Gallery in London. Howard incorporated room for exercise and other activities to aid patients. Instead, the facility was overcrowded and understaffed from its opening in January 1850. As pollution blackened the walls and maintenance funds decreased in preparation for a move that never happened, the asylum became, according to historian William Dendy, "a symbol of all the errors and horrors of mental health care."

Further changes in views toward mental health resulted in the revitalization of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) site, designed to better integrate patients into the community through a mix of care facilities and non-CAMH housing and commercial development.