Over its history, there were five different fires on the grounds of the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane. Arguably the most tragic occurred in August 1911, when part of the Barton building burned, killing 8 patients. The estimated cost of the damaged caused by the Barton fire was $16,000.
Five years later, in late April 1916, Orchard House caught fire, causing considerable damage to the south wing of the building. The estimated cost of this damage was $50,000, substantially higher than the Barton fire. Thankfully, no lives were lost.
The news was reported as follows in the April 24, 1916 edition of The Windsor Star. (Transcribed below)
“HAMILTON ASYLUM SWEPT BY BLAZE”
“250 PATIENTS MARCHED OUT OF BURNING BUILDING IN PERFECT ORDER”
“Hamilton, April 24 – Damage to the extent of nearly $50,000 was caused by a fire which broke out at the Hamilton Asylum, on the mountain top, shortly after midnight yesterday morning.”
“The blaze started in the south wing of the orchard house building and the third floor attic and roof were completely gutted, while the lower floors were flooded with water. None of the patients were injured, the 250 stationed in the building being marched out in quick and perfect order.”
“It is not known how the fire started, but it is thought that it originated in the work shop at the south end wing. The flames quickly spread and the entire third floor and attic were beyond control, and when the firemen arrived they contented themselves with saving the rest of the building.”
“They were handicapped in their work considerably because of a low water pressure. Hundreds of people went to the fire from the city and witnessed a most spectacular scene.”
“Fireman Wm. Wheaton fell from a ladder and sustained a badly sprained ankle.”
The Vancouver Daily World also reported the story on April 24, without adding much detail.
“FIRE IN HAMILTON ASYLUM FOR INSANE”
“Serious Outbreak in Night – Patients Are All Brought Safely Away.”
“HAMILTON, April 24. – A very destructive fire broke out about 1 o’clock this morning in Orchard House, the second largest building in the group at the asylum for the insane on the mountain, and it is estimated that the damage will amount to $50,000. About 250 patients and attendants were in the building at the time, but all got out safely and with little confusion.”
“The city fire department fought the flames till about 6 o’clock this morning, though they were under control about 3 o’clock.”
The Province also mentioned the story in its pages.
“Second Largest of Hamilton’s Buildings Is Victim”
“Hamilton, Ont., April 24 – Fire broke out early yesterday morning in the Orchard House, the second largest building in the group at the hospital for the insane. It is estimated that the damage will amount to $50,000. About 250 patients and attendants were in the building, but all got out safely and with little confusion. The firemen prevented the spreading of the flames to the lower floors, but much damage was done by water.”
To learn more about the 1911 Barton building fire, see the posts “Tragedy at Hamilton Asylum” and “Headline News – 1911 Hamilton Asylum Fire” on this site.
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.