What Happened to West House?

Century Manor, originally known as East House, opened on the grounds of the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane in November 1884. The event was noted in the Annual Report to the Inspector of Asylums. The report offers some details about the architecture of the building. It was interesting to learn that there were no wards in East House – all bedrooms were “single”. But it was one line from the report that stood out to me:

“(I)t will be necessary to use one of the wings for female patients until the West House, which will be for women, is finished.”

1885 Report to the Inspector of Asylums

The text of the report reads: “The new building, designated East House, to distinguish it from a similar building to be erected next year on the ground to the west of the Main Asylum is now neatly completed. The agreement required this building to be ready for occupation on the first of September, but the contractor has failed to meet his obligation in that respect, and will be at least six weeks behind the time specified. This building is intended for the accommodation of sixty male patients, but in the meantime it will be necessary to use one of the wings for female patients until the West House, which will be for women, is finished. These houses are to be devoted specially to the reception and treatment of acute cases. The structural arrangement of the wards is very well adapted to the purpose. The corridors are broad and high and very well lighted. The bedrooms are all single. The window frames and sashes are iron and have a very neat appearance, and so strong that no guards of any kind will be required. The building is heated by hot water, and in each alcove and parlour there is an open fireplace. We hope to be able to receive patients into this building about the 20th of this month.”

“West House” was never built on the Asylum property. In 1888, a larger building called Orchard House opened on the grounds.  But Orchard House was farther east than East House. Surely, it couldn’t be what was meant to be “West House”. Also, as evidenced by the 1911 fire insurance map, East House continued to have both a male and female wing.

1911 Fire Insurance Map – Orchard House is clearly to the east of East House
Detail of 1911 Fire Insurance Map showing East House with male and female wings

It will take some further digging to find out what caused the Asylum to scrap the plans for a sister building to Century Manor more than a century ago. In the meantime, let’s hope that “East House” can be saved from the wrecking ball and find some new purpose.

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