Muskoka Centre

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Muskoka Centre
Construction Began 1897
Opened 1963 (Mental Facility)
Closed 1994
Current Status Closed
Building Style Single Building
Architect(s) Charles S. Cobb
Location Gravenhurst, ON
Alternate Names
  • Muskoka Free Hospital for Consumptives
  • Muskoka Sanitorium


Construction in 1897 of the Muskoka Cottage Sanatorium, started with a 35-bed tuberculosis hospital, the first of its kind in Canada. expansions to the Sanatorium took place in the 1920’s at which time the facility could house 444 patients - a sizeable institution at the time. Additional buildings such as surgical facilities, a laboratory, several service buildings and private dwellings for the resident professionals were also completed shortly after.

As more modern treatment and prevention of tuberculosis became more prevalent, the requirements for traditional isolation sanatoriums lessened. The Muskoka hospital experienced decreased occupancy during the late 1940’s and throughout the 1950’s. With the discovery of streptomycin in 1944, the need for traditional isolation lessened. This led to a decline in the number of patients during the 1940’s to 1950’s. In 1960 the site became a housing and care facility for development challenged individuals. Meanwhile, a counterbalancing phenomenon in the field of mental retardation began demanding increased care and treatment space.

In 1960, the 62-acre site, on a rocky peninsula jutting out into Lake Muskoka and the existing structures, were acquired by the Ontario Department of Health as an extension of the Ontario Hospital School at Orillia which came to be known as Huronia Regional Centre. In 1973, the facility, now known as Muskoka Regional Centre administered to 305 female patients between the ages of 16 to 80 years with the total staff of about 300. There were also several male adolescent resents. Approximately 275 of these residents occupied the large Gage complex, originally constructed in 1922, with the remainder housed in the Barbara Heyden Residence, constructed in 1936. Conditions at Muskoka Centre were poor. There were too few staff and too many patients. Several patients suffered abuse at the hands of employees. A 1985 inquiry into conditions at the Muskoka Centre found that residents were not receiving adequate care. A $36 million class-action lawsuit was filed on behalf of patients who had been at twelve residential care facilities in Ontario. For patients of the Muskoka Centre the class-action covered those who’d been residents between August 28, 1973 and June 30, 1993. The Muskoka Centre was finally closed in 1994.