Hamilton Asylum Land Acquisitions 1875-1909

A 1917 book edited by Henry M. Hurd, M.D. entitled “The Institutional Care Of The Insane In The United States and Canada, Volume IV” offers a concise history of the original land purchase on “the Mountain”, for what was to become the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane. It also details the five additional land purchases that allowed the Asylum to grow from 100 to 529 acres between 1875 and 1909.

the original site

Between 1867 and 1873, some 50 petitions were presented to the Provincial Legislative Assembly for the establishment of an asylum for inebriates in Hamilton, Ontario. The decision was finally made to build such a facility and a number of sites were considered.

The author writes, “Of sites proposed, the two finding most favor were one on the brow of the escarpment overlooking the city of Hamilton, the charming Dundas Valley and Burlington Bay, above which it rises some 300 feet; the other a property on the lower level in East Hamilton. Joseph Rymal, Esq., M. P., and James Williams, Esq., M.P.P., then members of the federal and local legislatures, respectively, strongly urged the selection of the former, and fortunately their wishes prevailed. The wisdom of the choice has been amply demonstrated, as it is one of the most delightfully situated and healthful localities in the province.”

“The first property, comprising about 100 acres, was purchased for $22,400 from Mr. Isaac Buchanan, ex-M.P., Messrs. Moore and Davis, and a Mrs. Gourlay. Upon this was erected, according to plans prepared by Mr. Kauffman, Provincial Architect, a three-story brick building with coursed stone basement and mansard roof, suitable for the accommodation of 200 patients and necessary staff. It was ready for occupancy in the fall of 1875. The material employed in construction, above the basement, was red brick, with white brick and stone trimmings.”

“The land that had been acquired was a common, very rough and rocky but well wooded in parts, and much labor had to be expended in levelling, removing stumps and constructing roadway and necessary fences.”

The original Barton building circa 1876

ADDITIONS MADE 1888 – 1909

It quickly became apparent that the 100 original acres was inadequate to meet the needs of the “insane” population of Hamilton and surrounding areas. The author records these expansions as follows.

“The original property purchased for the institution was soon found insufficient for garden and farm purposes. In consequence, from time to time additions to it were made. Thus in 1888, 95 acres more were bought; while, in 1890, the ‘Andrews Homestead’ and eight acres of land, on which stood a large double brick house, occupied by the gardener and farmer, and for which the hospital had for years been paying rental, was acquired at a cost of $8000. In 1897 another addition of 50 acres was made by purchase and exchange from a Mr. Beckett. In 1903 ‘Boulderwood’, the summer chalet of Mr. B. E. Charlton, with its beautiful gardens and lawn, comprising 11 acres, lying between the hospital entrance driveway and the mountain brow, was secured*; and in 1909 ‘Hickory Farm’, consisting of 176 acres of excellent farm land, was obtained at the price of $15,000**. This last purchase leaves the total property area of the hospital at 529 acres.”

(* “In 1908 this chalet was moved to a spot adjacent to the infirmary and utilized in the construction of a harborage for the 30 tuberculous patients, its well-lighted rooms and broad verandas fitting it admirably for the purpose.”)

(** “The old farm house on this property has been remodeled, brick veneered and a second story added, thus giving accommodation for 36 patients of a privileged class with the requisite staff.”)

Barton Building after 1879 expansion. Image from “The Institutional Care of the Insane in the United States and Canada”, volume IV

(To learn more about the expansion of the Barton building, see “Barton Building Expands – 1879” at the following link.)


(If you are interested in the history of the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane, be sure to check out my other posts on the topic by navigating to the “Categories” section on this site.

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