In 1894, Toronto philanthropist, Sir William Gage, began working to have a tuberculosis sanatorium built. After traveling the world studying how other countries were handling this disease, and traveling Canada looking for a suitable location, he accomplished his goal on a small peninsula of land in Gravenhurst, Ontario. The Muskoka Cottage Sanatorium opened in 1897 with 35 beds and was the first of its kind in Canada.
In the 1920's, a substantial expansion took place, bringing the total number of beds up to 444. With the addition of surgical facilities, laboratories, and homes for some of the residential staff, the sanatorium had become an impressive part of the health care system.
During the 1940's and 1950's, however, tuberculosis became better understood, and the need for this facility began to lessen.
In 1960, the property was acquired by the Ontario Department of Health to augment the capacity of the Ontario Hospital School in Orillia for those with mental retardation. By 1973, the Muskoka Centre looked after approximately 305 female patients between the ages of 16 and 80, and employed a staff of approximately 300.
Finally, in 1994, the Muskoka Centre was closed.
Since then, the site has been used frequently as a training location by K9 and SWAT units of the Ontario Provincial Police.
UPDATE - March, 2017: Plans are underway to possibly redevelop the property into the Bethune Maple Leaf School, a facility for foreign students to upgrade and meet requirements for further studies in Canada. See video about the proposal and an external link to additional information below.
UPDATE - April 20, 2017: The Province of Ontario has rejected the municipality's bid to purchase the facility. See the attached article below entitled April 19, 2017 - Province rejects Gravenhurst's offer to purchase Muskoka Regional Centre.
I arrived in Gravenhurst with eager anticipation, and happy to begin my exploration. There was, however a fly in the ointment as I first did a quick drive-by to have a look at what was happening there. Parked on the property, within easy sight of the front gate, was an easily recognizable black suburban with white doors.
I left, waited a while, had some lunch, and took a small tour of the town before returning to the site. Patience had paid off as no one was there, and the gate was once again closed.
The history of this place can easily lead one's imagination in so many directions. The state of decay in this building clearly indicates it will never likely see useful service. A shame, really, as we I so many new, much uglier buildings going up all over, that this old, stately monument, on such a beautiful piece of land, was now largely forgotten and discarded.
I spent several hours wandering its corridors from floor to floor. While many rooms were vacant and repetitive, many others offered hints of something to tantalize and intrigue.