Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital Cemetery Installation

CemeteryEntrance_17 May 2015

Entrance to Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital Cemetery, 1890-1979.

The Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital Cemetery Installation was a combination cemetery cleaning and art installation held on May 16, 2015.  The event was organized by Ed Janiszewski and Among Friends, a Lakeshore community mental health program. I was able to visit the cemetery on May 17, and was very moved to see 1511 paper lilies placed in the otherwise almost empty, but neatly mowed, field. During the May 16 ceremony, the the names of each of the persons buried in the cemetery were read as the paper lilies were placed. These individuals were all patients at the facility known when it opened in 1890 as Mimico Asylum and as Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital at the time it closed in 1979. From a helpful historical marker, I learned that patients who died without family or funds for burial were interred here in unmarked graves until 1957, and after 1957, in graves with small headstones.  Flowers had been placed at each headstone.

Inside the cemetery looking north. Marker for John Collin, 1882-1962.

The cemetery is a lovely spot in an otherwise industrial area of Toronto.  Though northern edge is close to the Gardiner Expressway, the cemetery is quite peaceful. The cemetery was apparently neglected after the Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital closed in 1979.  Volunteers, most recently the Lakeshore Asylum Cemetery Project, have worked since 2004 to ensure that the cemetery is tended and to record and preserve the names and memory of those buried here. The neatly mowed grass, landscaped beds at the front, and the historical marker that I appreciated so much are almost certainly the result of their efforts. Also moving is the online list of the names and what is known about the people buried here.  This list contains glimpses of stories and mysteries. The people born in Russia, England, Finland, Ireland, the few aboriginal people, the seven babies, the two babies whose mothers are also buried in the cemetery, the many people who died during the years when an individual could live most of his or her life at the asylum.

This art installation is a moving tribute to these individuals.  Because of seeing the lilies in a cemetery that I had not even realized existed, I now feel connected both to the lives and stories of those buried here and to this little plot of land in the industrialized Toronto suburbs.  The lilies remain in place until May 31, 2015. The cemetery will hopefully remain available for visiting and reflection for quite a long time.

From the north end of the cemetery looking south at the lilies.

From the north end of the cemetery looking south at the lilies.

Cemetery Installation and Performance.  The outdoor installation/performance took place on May 16, 2015.  The lilies remain in place until May 31, 2015.  The Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital Cemetery is located at the corner of Horner and Evans Avenue, about 2 km from Humber Lakeshore.  Directions to the cemetery are on the project website.

 

Upcoming:   Visualizing Absence Exhibition: Memorializing Histories of the Former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital, May 22-July 3, 2015. By Anne Zbitnew, OPENING SATURDAY, MAY 23, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm with remarks at 4:00 pm. An indoor art exhibit at the L Space Gallery of artwork made in response to archival stories and images. A free opening reception will take place from 3 to 5 pm, with remarks at 4 pm on Saturday, May 23rd for Doors Open Toronto. The L Space Gallery at Humber College, Lakeshore Campus, is located at 19 Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive, Toronto, M8V 4B6.

Share Your Story! Lakeshore Grounds Community Storytelling
Sunday, June 7th, 2015, 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm, L Space Gallery
To respect and present the dynamic history of the site and grow our community’s collective memory, we are inviting people to contribute their personal stories about their relationship to the Lakeshore Grounds. Come join our storytelling roundtable where you can share your story with other participants.

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2 thoughts on “Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital Cemetery Installation

  1. Pingback: Visualizing Absence Art exhibit opening at Humber College L Space – Aldersgrow: Etobicoke "where Alders grow"

  2. Pingback: Scenes From Humber Lakeshore Campus/Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital | Scenes From A City

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