Provincial Hospital for the Insane Ponoka

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Provincial Hospital for the Insane Ponoka
Established 1911
Opened 1912
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Architect(s) A.M. Jeffers
Location Ponoka, AB
Architecture Style Classical Revival
Alternate Names
  • Hospital for the Insane, Ponoka
  • Ponoka Mental Hospital
  • Alberta Hospital Ponoka
  • Centennial Centre for Mental Health and Brain Injury (current)


Before Alberta existed as a Canadian province, citizens of the North-West Territories deemed to suffer from mental illness were sent to an asylum in Brandon, Manitoba for treatment. However, in 1908, it became clear that the burgeoning population (alongside a growing number of psychiatric patients and "mental defectives") meant that a new institution must be built. The provincial government began constructing Alberta's first mental health institution in Ponoka. The site was deliberately chosen as a rural area - medical advice of the day required fresh air and immersion in nature as remedies for troubled minds. The hospital was also self-sustaining, using gardens to supply its own food. The hospital officially opened in 1911 as the Alberta Hospital for the Insane, and construction finished in 1912.

During the early and mid-twentieth century, this institution was the primary mental health institution of the province. When the hospital first opened, very few nurses worked there, with little knowledge of psychiatric nursing. However, when Dr. Baragar was appointed Acting Superintendent of the hospital, he also established a nursing school. Dr. Baragar, a psychiatrist from Brandon Mental Hospital, strongly felt that nursing care of "the complexities of the mind" should be a profession in its own right.

This was one of the major centres in Alberta where the Eugenics Board enforced Sexual Sterilization, responsible for near 60% of board cases. Of the patients admitted to Ponoka between 1927 and 1941, half were from Canada and the United States. 22.70% were from the United Kingdom, and 12.40% from Poland. People of Scottish ethnicity accounted for 8.00% of sterilization.

Currently, the institute still stands. It has transformed into The Centennial Centre for Mental Health & Brain Injury, and is a nationally known psychiatric and brain damage treatment centre. It also plays a strong role as an educational facility in subjects including psychiatry, substance abuse, rehabilitation, and brain injury. A great deal of history of the museum can be seen at the Fort Ostell Museum's "History of Mental Health in Alberta" permanent collection.

Images of the Provincial Hospital for the Insane Ponoka[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Provincial Hospital for the Insane Ponoka