For this post, I wanted to write about the history of The Assembly Hall and its relationship with the Lakeshore Grounds. Like most students who attend the Lakeshore campus of Humber College, it is a building that I walk by frequently while on campus. I was interested in learning more about how the history of the building when the property was a psychiatric hospital.
Located at the corner of Colonel Samuel Smith Drive and Lake Shore Boulevard West, The Assembly Hall has become an entertainment and cultural hub both for the local community and for the Humber College community. Though the building has been renovated in recent years and now features a contemporary glass addition on its exterior, it was originally constructed to serve the Mimico Asylum. Much like today, The Assembly Hall was used for entertainment purposes for Hospital patients and staff. It was also used for religious worship on a weekly basis.
As part of what was known as “moral treatment” in the nineteenth century, the patients assisted in constructing The Assembly Hall – as well as the various other buildings in the surrounding area. Moral treatment emphasized the influence of the environment and what one did in that environment as a means of healing mental health symptoms. In particular, gendered labour assignments and assigned recreation events were emphasized. Female patients were tasked with domestic chores, while men were outdoors doing physical labour as part of their “moral treatment”.
When it was completed in 1898, The Assembly Hall was used for concerts, dances, and religious services. The main floor acted as office space and storerooms and the second floor, where the auditorium is located, was The Assembly Hall’s entertainment center. Today, these areas essentially serve the same purposes.
Today, The Assembly Hall is owned and run by the City of Toronto. It regularly holds art exhibits, plays, and other community and cultural programming. You can visit Assembly Hall’s website or Facebook page for more information about them and their events.