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A small cluster of buildings once played a role in the treatment of war veterans

January 2020

In the south-east corner of the Parkwood Institute Mental Health Care property in London, Ontario, sits a cluster of four buildings; three that are still in use and one boarded up and deteriorating, along with a small, dilapidated guard shack. This is the remains of the Western Counties Health and Occupational Centre.

Formerly run by the Department of Veterans Affairs, it was established for the treatment of mental and nervous casualties of the Great War in 1920. The facility took advantage of specialized buildings and landscape features that emphasized therapeutic purposes. Nature and the peaceful setting was considered to aid recovery, along with a variety of sporting activities.

Over the years, veterans were able to take advantage of fishing in the nearby Walker Pond, which was routinely stocked with fish, two baseball diamonds, a swimming pool, a golf course and a bowling alley.

The federal government purchased an additional 418 acres of land to expand the hospital in 1940 and by 1946, it was one of only seven facilities specializing in the treatment of severely wounded and psychologically affected veterans from World War II.

Originally the facility housed 6 patients, but this quickly reached the maximum of 196.  The Western Counties Occupational Centre had eleven buildings, with each named after one of the counties in South Western Ontario.

From 1950 until closing in 1989, the centre, then known as the Western Counties Veterans Lodge, served a as home for aging veterans. The facility also briefly treated tuberculosis patients, from 1947 until 1950.

When a new veterans wing was added to Parkwood Hospital in 1984, residents of the lodge were re-located there, spelling the end for the aging facility.

Over time, the patient population began to dwindle, and by 1984, patients were moved to the new facilities at Parkwood Hospital. 

By 2000, seven of the buildings had been demolished, leaving only the Wellington Pavilion administration building, the Guard House and the Bruce, Perth and Huron Pavilion residential buildings standing.

The Huron Pavilion housed The Secrets of Radar Museum from 2003 until it re-located to the former Airmans’ Canteen at the London International Airport, formerly known as Royal Canadian Air Force Station Crumlin.

The foundations of Pavilions 78, 79, 80 and 81, along with their fireplace and chimneys, remain as well. The basements were filled in and steel grates were placed over the openings of the fireplaces.

Reforest London and the London Environmental Network currently occupy the Huron Pavilion.

Sources: https://hikingthegta.com/2019/06/29/western-counties-occupational-centre/?fbclid=IwAR0zIHI2qPprmTcbs2Ofz4FzZPaH8Af-AnkYiNFqhhZl3usbDMBK2BCeoPM, https://lfpress.com/2013/05/28/the-plan-for-the-former-western-counties-health-and-occupational-centre-south-of-parkwood-hospital-is-pondered-by-planning-committee/wcm/01aafa49-bfbc-ecb5-7b16-27299d40b280, https://www.london.ca/About-London/heritage/Pages/WesternCountiesCHL.aspx, https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/abandoned-veterans-village-at-westminster-ponds, http://www.mhbcplan.com/Western-Counties-Health-and-Occupational-Centre, http://thamesriver.on.ca/wp-content/uploads/WestminsterPonds/Presentation-2012-WesternCounties.pdf

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/a-small-cluster-of-buildings-once-played-a-role-in-the-treatment-of-war-veterans/

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