In 1890 the Brandon Reformatory for Boys school was built. The building was designed to hold 45 young offenders but only ever held a single 9 year old boy. This was embarrassing for the government so they decided to convert the building into an institution for the mentally ill. The Brandon Asylum for the insane opened in 1891. The hope was it would help prevent overcrowding at the nearby institution in Selkirk. By 1910 the asylum had over 600 patients. In 1910, during the winter, a fire destroyed the entire facility. The massive three-storey Parkland building was built and opened in 1912 accommodating 700 patients at the time. In 1919 it’s name was changed to the Brandon Hospital for Mental Diseases. Another name change took place in 1972 when it became known as the Brandon Mental Health Centre.
The Brandon Mental Health Centre also included the following buildings: Superintendent’s Residence (1909), morgue (1913), laundry building, five one-storey wood frame cottages for employees, coal house (1914), power house (1912), stores building, Nurses Residence (1920) and Valleyview Building (1924).
The Nurses Residence is a 2.5 storey building that is a designed historic site. It was designed to accommodate 75 nurses and featured a training center for mental nursing. The building has been repurposed and is used by the culinary institute that owns the property. The Valleyview building that was constructed in 1924 as a unit to receive new patients still stands today but has been mothballed until they are ready to repurpose it. You can see our exploration of the building here.
Further expansion of the Mental Health Center happened over the years. Another two-storey Women’s pavilion, later known as Pine Ridge was build between 1931-1932 for female patients. In the 1950’s and 1960’s new farm buildings were constructed as well as a physicians residence. There is also a cemetery on site. Burials between 1898 and 1925 were done in the south cemetery while burials after 1925 happened at the north cemetery. The cemetery is open to the public.
Brandon Mental Health Centre closed the Valleyview Building in 1992 and the other buildings closed in 1999. The culinary school bought the property after and has already converted and re-purposed the nursing residence and the pine ridge building. It has plans to use the entire side and eventually develop parkland and Valleyview. Currently Parkland has power and heat and Valleyview has power but no heat. All buildings are on private property and are secured. Security does actively go through both buildings.
Links to more history and information:
Manitoba Historical Society
After the Asylum
We explored Parkland, the largest building on the site. Built in 1912, this 172,000sqft building is 4 stories high and is heated from the power plant behind it. It was built to house 1000 patients. It’s home to muliple wards, countless rooms, kitchen, auditorium, theater, caged stairwells, nursing stations, isolations rooms and tunnels connecting it to the power plant.
*Click on images for large view*