VIEW-1980 | Protestant Insane Asylum, Douglas Hospital, Verdun, QC, about 1890

Protestant Insane Asylum, Douglas Hospital, Verdun, QC, about 1890
Wm. Notman & Son
About 1890, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , medical (125) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

Although the government played a larger role in the care of the insane, often considered a threat to social order, than it did in relation to poverty, philanthropy was still important. The move to create specialized insane asylums spread across the western world in the mid-19th century. The model used in Quebec differed from that in many places, since the government paid per-patient fees to private institutions rather than open state-run asylums. As was the norm, the Montreal Catholic asylum was run by nuns. Protestant philanthropists held a public meeting in 1881 to organise a separate asylum. This hospital, finally opened in 1890, was largely paid for by public subscriptions and donations. Doctors applied the treatment method common at the time-a combination of work (largely farm work), recreation, religion and good nutrition. The number of patients increased from 139 in 1890 to 1,200 in 1936, as people gradually accepted the idea of committing family members to asylums.

  • What

    This is a photograph of the early Protestant Hospital for the Insane. Private donations were crucial to its survival, as government grants never covered actual costs.

  • Where

    The hospital was built out in the countryside, on 110 acres of land on Lower Lachine Road overlooking the Saint Lawrence river. Another 60 acres were later added. The site is now part of Verdun.

  • When

    The Act of Incorporation was granted in 1881 and the first Board of Governors elected. The land was purchased in 1887, but the hospital was not able to receive patients until 1890.

  • Who

    The hospital's name was officially changed to the Douglas Hospital-Hôpital Douglas in 1965 in honour of Dr. James Douglas (1800-1886), a pioneering Quebec psychiatrist whose son was a major donor in the early twentieth century.