Did you know Saskatchewan was home to a huge asylum rich in history and stories?
Welcome to Weyburn Mental Hospital.
History of the Weyburn Mental Hospital
Weyburn Mental Hospital had a few purposes throughout its long life. It was an asylum, also known as a mental hospital, a long term care home, a school and a daycare. During it’s final years it sat abandoned waiting for repurpose, which never came. It was built in 1920 and closed in 2005. It was closed as a mental hospital in 1971 and repurposed as a long term care facility among other things.
The hospital was the second oldest hospital in Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Hospital in North Battleford) being the oldest. It was one of the largest mental institutions in Canada known for its cutting edge treatments and psychiatric drug research.
Built in 1920, Weyburn Mental hospital was the largest building in the commonwealth at the time. The hospital opened its doors December 29, 1921 and had room for 900 patients and 120 staff. An addition was made a few years later to make space for over 2000 patients. The Weyburn Mental Hospital was almost always over capacity. The hospital became its own community with its own power and water, farming, nurses residence and doctors cottages, barber shop, bowling alley, tailor and much more. These huge facilities were self sufficient and the patients and staff became close as they all lived nearby.
Weyburn Mental Hospital was one of the most notorious and is rich in history. This hospital was known for its research, treatments and drug therapy. Most of the stories you here about the hospital are about the LSD testing. It became known for its cutting edge treatments and psychiatric drug research. The treatments used in the hospital include insulin therapy, hydrotherapy, lobotomy and electroshock.
Having this building be demolished and nothing saved except a few pallets of bricks is just another example of Saskatchewan destroying our heritage buildings. Yes, there are a few pieces that the museum was able to get but your telling us that they couldnt have saved a small portion for a museum? We continue to destroy our heritage in this province which why we try to document as many historic buildings we can before they are demolished.
Documenting the inside…
Crazy to think that a 500,00sqft asylum located in the small city of Weyburn, Saskatchewan was and still is, a secret to most people. It took Corey until 2002 to learn about it and Alicia didn’t find out about it until she started exploring with Corey.
Corey first visited the hospital in 2004 when it was still open with about 300 patients (remember it was designed for 2000). It was called the Souris Valley Extended Care Centre which was located on two floors of one wing. Other parts of the hospital were used for a daycare, offices for the Sun Country Regional Health Authority and a school. Big sections of the hospital were already mothballed and unused. A new facility was being constructed at this time to house the 300 patients of the former Weyburn Mental Hospital.
Corey spent the next few years documening the building. In 2005 it was being boarded up and listed for sale. It was up for sale for 5 million dollar which included the main building, power plant and land. With no interest, they boarded up the entire building in 2006 but was still heated with power. In 2007 it was sold to a chinese company for $1 with the deal that it would be converted and construction would begin within a year. Northing happened and by 2008 the deal was dead and the property fell back into city hands. Power and heat was cut from the building and it demolished.
Alicia will never forget the fall of 2008 when she showed up to Weyburn Mental Hospital only to speak with a local who told her how to get in without vandalism. It worked and she quickly called Corey to let him know that she was holding the door open to the mental hospital. They decided to explore it together the next day. This building was massive and it was hard to see it all, even with most of the day. On the second trip there were doors open and boards ripped off – the police had a hard time securing it. Inside we ran into kids skipping out of the high school nearby. The next attempt we found the doors welded shut and a few weeks later the abatement started followed by demolition in the spring.
With a building this size it was hard to see it all but we did our best. Our photography is very documentary style as we raced through the building. We tried to have a balance of enjoy the moment while documenting what we could. Our photos are from 2008 and our photography gear at the time was not the best but we made the most of it. We can sit back today and still remember what it was like to the wander the halls of this mental institution and the stories it must have held.
Photography Inside the former Asylum
Power Plant and Steam Tunnels
The building was sold to a chinese company for $1 on the condition that they would repurpose the building but it sat for years with no sign of development. The building was demolished by the city of Weyburn in 2009. Today, a few smaller buildings from the original complex remain and are occupied. The property on which the main building stood has been redeveloped and new houses have been built on it.