Century Manor is the city’s original Insane Asylum from the 1800’s. Hard to believe such a building still exists in Hamilton today.
Once home to unusual treatments from naive days of science such as electro-shock, lobotomies and methods akin to torture all for a cure to insanity.
And this place held the “worst of the worst”, the criminally insane.
Mansion on the Hill
“Be careful or you might end up in the mansion on the hill”, words spoken a century ago by many a Hamiltonian.
Barton Building was the main structure flush against the escarpment, facing down to the city below. You could see it from the right angle as a constant reminder of mandatory normality.
So close to Auchmar —
Isaac Buchanan, lord of Auchmar Mansion, once owned those lands. The asylum was built in the same year Buchanan failed.
He sold the beloved house and grounds. Officials took advantage in 1876, buying up cheap land and starting construction on a home for drunkards being transported out of Toronto.
Doctors felt the nice view would calm this “mental disease”.
Patients became labourers creating their own resources. Farmlands around the asylum provided food and distraction.
The original grounds led passed Fennell Ave to current Mohawk College. Old underground tunnels still exist in parts, once used for patient transfer.
Ever wonder why the old Cellar Pub in Mohawk College looks like a tunnel? It wasn’t. The structure was storage for the farm, but was part of the original designs of the tunnels.
Also, the 1970’s HPH used the original tunnels as a basement. Whether they still exist under the new St. Joe’s is a mystery to us.
A fun afternoon with the family —
What does your family do on a nice Sunday afternoon?
If you lived in Hamilton, in the late-1800’s, a popular choice was picnicking in the park. Many traveling extra to the Asylum.
They did it for free entertainment, wanting to watch patients walking about, talking to themselves.
Watching people be mentally disturbed was okay back then.
Worse was the lowest class of people who would tease and dare patients to do weird things. If they refused, the people threw things at them.
Orderlies and nurses watched for abuse before rushing patients back into the building.
To the end —
The grounds remain a haven for the disturbed to this day, only the buildings change.
In 1975, the Barton Building was demolished. Most recently two of the smaller outbuildings were taken down. All that remains of this history is Century Manor.
Century Manor is in trouble. Help support the efforts of the Save Century Manor Campaign
The Nurses never left
Ghost stories are hard to get in long abandoned buildings such as Century Manor. For now we only have one, coming from a dedicated security guard. He worked in the 1970’s HPH many years ago.
A common task at night was regular walks. He’d watch the grounds closely for trespassers wanting access to Century Manor. It was possible for them to get into the old tunnels, a liability issue.
Jeff (not his real name) was taking a round through the tunnels late into his shift. Voices talking soft, whispering or muffled around the corner.
Looking passed the wall, Jeff saw a long hallway leading to an old wood door with a brass handle. The voices were coming from the other side.
He crept up to the door and listened, hearing women talk back and forth. Pressing an ear against the wood he couldn’t make out any words.
Trespassers, he thought. Must have gotten into the tunnel, walked around and were now lost.
Jeff smiled as a plan snapped into his mind. He’ll scare them. Just to teach a lesson of course. It being funny was just a bonus.
He swung open the door and saw two women sitting at a table. Their clothes were old fashion, looking like original nursing outfits. White coats, shoulder pads leading up to a tight collar. Faces under flat white hats looked up at Jeff. They smiled.
One woman turns to the other and says, “See, I told you he would find us”.
Jeff slammed the door. Catching his breath, a few seconds would pass until he was able to move. No sense of the women came to mind, instead natural curiosity took hold.
He slowly opened the door to see an empty room.
The only exit was this door, acting as a needed crutch for Jeff.
**A look inside current day Century Manor