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Lakeshore tunnels tour explores haunted history

Daniela Gitto

ARTS REPORTER

Just below Humber Lakeshore student’s feet lies the history of the Mimico Insane Asylum’s and the tunnels that connect what is now Lakeshore campus buildings C through K.

Tuesday afternoon students were transported back to the late 1800’s as business professor and tour guide, Steve Bang led the group through the underground system.

The tour followed the land’s history and started at the first tunnel in the system which was built in 1890 by the patients of the hospital as a job option to pay for their treatment and residency.

Mimico Insane Asylum’s patients were allowed to pick from various jobs like construction, carpentry, cooking and laundry, Bang said. The patients were also required to farm their own food which included maintaining an apple orchard.

The tunnels were used to transport supplies and patients between buildings using a metal railway similar to a coal car.

“The patients were split by gender, where woman resided on the south side of the facility while men were housed on the north side,” Bang said. “So the tunnels were very convenient.”

The tunnels were painted vibrant colours because hospital staff believed it would create a happy atmosphere for patients and improve their mood.

After more than a century, there are still traces of yellow and green on portions of the decaying walls.

Throughout the tunnels, students would come across the odd jail-cell which was used for the criminally insane patient, but they’re now used for tool storage.

Bang pointed out what seemed like an irrelevant sewer cover, but ended up being the same sewer Suicide Squad shot the crocodile scene at, one of many film scenes shot at Lakeshore campus.

The end of the tunnel led students back outside where Bang pointed out Tim Hortons in the M building which was used to store the transportation buggies and horses in the late 1800’s.

The tour moved into H building covered every corner and wooden beams made for a narrow hallway.

“In 1952, it became really crowded in the G building (which was) the administration building so they had to move many of the staff up here,” Bang said.

The K building stood for kids, which is where they cared for children with mental disorders as young as four-years-old.

“If you suffered from ADHD as a child, your parents might have dropped you off here,” Bang said. “If parents had children with epilepsy, it was thought they were possessed by the devil and parents would drop them off at Lakeshore for staff to find.”

Unlike today, there were no drugs to treat the patients so they used many experimental and traditional techniques to deal with the resident’s ailments.

“This is where the they did the frontal lobotomy’s and in fact this is where they performed the first electric shock therapy in Canada.” Bang said referencing building H which back then stood for hospital.

The hospital’s cemetery is located at the corner of Horner and Evans Ave. where 1517 patients are buried.

In 1979 the hospital was closed because of the trend of deinstitutionalization, which suggested that patients would benefit more by joining society. The neighborhood locals got together and made the hospital cottages provincially historic property so that they cannot be taken down.

In 1991 Humber College Institute signed a 99-year lease to build the campus, but were instructed to keep the cottages standing exactly as is besides the few structural and indoor renovations that were necessary.

“I thought it was very interesting and I liked it more than I expect,” said Linh Tran, advertising and marketing communications student at Lakeshore. “I thought it was just going to be another boring campus tour, but I ended up learning a lot.”

After all the ghostly rumours floating around campus, it ended up being a great learning experience for students to understand the history behind their school.

“There’s a lot of history on Lakeshore ground that many people don’t know about, and a lot of people should come check it out and enjoy a history lesson,” Ellie Knight said, hospitality and tourism management student at Lakeshore.

Lakeshore plans to host public tours in May for any Torontonians who want to learn a little more about the history of their city.

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