Whitby Psychiatric Facility

A single chair is placed in the middle of a bowling alley lane. The bowling alley is in the basement of a building, and an orange glow covers everything from the sunlight coming through the basement windows. The bowling lanes are dirty and covered in dust.
  • Year Built: 1916
  • Year Closed: 1996
  • Year Demo: 2005

It's an industrial compound of peeling paint.

For photography, this was a land of opportunity. Whitby Psychiatric Hospital was a mental health facility built between 1913 and 1916. It was located in Whitby, Ontario about 50 km (30 miles) east of Toronto. It's also commonly known as ‘Whitby Psych’ and the Ontario Hospital for the Insane.

As an example of institutional decay, it's comprehensive.

The site was designed as a community of cottages close to Lake Ontario. The lake-side setting and on-site farm were intended to provide a beneficial environment to those undergoing treatment. At the time, it was considered a model design for this type of health care.

The facility was left vacant in 1996 when it was replaced by the new Whitby Health Mental Centre. The buildings — over 40 of them — quickly fell into disrepair and decay, with significant vandalism affecting virtually every structure.

Close to a nearby high school, it became a popular local retreat. It was featured as the setting for the music video Try Honesty by Billy Talent.

For a photographer, Whitby Psych was engaging due to the wide variety of interior spaces and artifacts. From cottage bedrooms to basement bowling alleys, the site offered everything required by a small community. Kitchens, a school, recreation facilities — even a morgue. It was easy to find something of interest here.

In 2005 and 2006, most of the buildings were demolished. They'd been neglected for so long that they were beyond repair. Combined with encroaching local residential development, their demolition was inevitable.

Attempts were made to save some of the historic cottages, but continued decay and neglect doomed these efforts.