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mental health clinic

A Brief History of the Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene The grounds and area surrounding the Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene (MHCP) are steeped in history. The original 380 acre site was chosen by Governor John Graves Simcoe as a naval and military base to protect the Upper Great Lakes from American threats in the aftermath of the War of 1812. Perched at the entrance of Penetanguishene Harbour , the site retains its commanding view of Severn Sound. (During the 1960's about 60 acres were turned into a historical park to preserve the early history of the site.) Carving a military site out of the bush led to further development in the region. The beginnings of a town sprung up on the harbour to service the lumber trade, farming and the military - including a pub which was probably located on the edge of the current hospital grounds. A number of Victorian heroes such as Sir John Franklin (who later perished in an ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage ) visited the military site until it was decommissioned and turned over to the Government of Upper Canada in 1855. The Boys Reformatory of Upper Canada was established in the abandoned barracks in 1859, continuing the economic link between the local people and government institutions. The barracks were consumed by fire in 1870, so the location of the reformatory was moved up the hill and a new building was constructed with the boys providing the labour. Stones from the old barracks were used as a foundation and new stone was taken from Quarry Island in Severn Sound. The resulting structure, currently known as the MHCP Administration Building , is the oldest on the grounds and one of several registered historic sites. How did the grounds eventually become a major psychiatric hospital? By 1904 it was clear that, for a number of reasons, the Boys Reformatory was not suitably located in Penetanguishene. The remaining boys were scattered to other provincial institutions or community placements and the building was converted into an "asylum for the insane." The first Superintendent of the hospital, Dr. Phillip Spohn, was also the first Reeve of the Town of Penetanguishene . An extensive farming program carried out by the patients made the institution self-sufficient in food production - in fact it provided meat and produce for other provincial institutions. (The demands of modern therapy and a shrinking patient population led to the phasing out of the farm program in the mid-1960's). Most staff members lived on the grounds either in residential sections of the larger buildings or in white clapboard houses, some of which have been preserved as historic sites or active treatment areas. The Superintendent lived in the large Victorian mansion on the edge of the grounds which is now the Georgianwood Addiction Centre. The mansion, also a registered historical site, has the best view of Penetanguishene harbour and was once graced with a lawn tennis court. Dr. Barry Boyd, the last man to call the mansion home, retired as Medical Director in 1978. Since 1974, MHCP has had a separate Administrator and Medical Director (now called Psychiatrist-in-Chief). All staff now live off the grounds.

 
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