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History of Queen Street Site Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

History of the Heritage Wall

When the Asylum opened in 1850, a wood fence and trench, built in 1846-1847, surrounded the site. In 1851, the Toronto architecture firm of Cumberland and Ridout was engaged to design a wall with lodges and an entrance gate. The portion of wall between the lodges, fronting Queen Street, had many decorative details, including an iron fence on top of the wall. By 1852, an all-brick wall was complete on the north, east, and west sides of the property. In 1860, Kivas Tully, renowned architect, prepared a new design with improved details such as stone capping, for a wall along the south boundary, which was completed by November 1861. At this point, the 50-acre property was fully enclosed with masonry walls. Patient labour was used extensively in the construction and subsequent reconstructions of the Asylum's walls.

In 1878, a portion of the wall was demolished and replaced with an iron fence on Queen Street, to provide a view to the Superintendent’s Residence. A large gap was created prior to 1881 at the southwest corner for rail sidings; the one entering the site was used for the delivery of coal to the property until the 1940s. Following the government’s sale of 23 acres of land for development in 1888-9, the east and west walls were rebuilt using original materials, in their current location. All available limestone caps were reinstalled in these portions; however, there was not enough stone material to complete the wall to Queen Street.

By 1956, the east and west lodges had been demolished and the Cumberland and Ridout wall with iron fencing had been replaced. Prior to the 1950s, a central portion of the south wall had been demolished. A new opening along Shaw Street was made when new construction started in 1970; a second opening was made some time later. The remaining sections of the north wall were demolished in 1975-6. The current configuration of the wall dates from 1970s. This is also the last period in which any maintenance occurred.

Originally, three wood storage sheds were constructed at the south end of the property in 1878. Around 1888, two new brick buildings were constructed against the south wall. The west building was a carpenter’s shop and the east building, a storage shed.

The remaining wall and the two storage buildings were designated as heritage properties by the City of Toronto in 1997. The preservation of the wall and the storage buildings is an important component of CAMH’s Queen Street redevelopment. In 2006, CAMH and the City of Toronto signed a Heritage Easement Agreement, which sets out the schedule and approach to the repair and conservation of the walls throughout the site redevelopment project. Repairs to the wall commenced in the summer of 2007.

Content taken from ERA Architects Inc. Condition Assessment, with information from Psychiatric Survivors Association of Toronto and the Provincial Asylum in Toronto: reflections on social and architectural history.

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