Historical Context

Homewood Sanitarium Advert..jpg

This image is from Flickr from the user Jamie and is freely available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/jbcurio/7398311286 under the Attribution-Share alike 2.0 Generic License. No changes were made to the original image.

              The Homewood Sanitarium, formerly the Homewood Retreat, was a breakthrough in the treatment of those living with addictions, as well as mental, nervous disorders.  John Woodburn Langmuir, a former inspector of Ontario asylums, wanted to improve and change the manner in which patients were cared for (The Homewood Sanitarium: 100 years of service, 1883-1983. The Homewood Centennial Committee pg.1). In cooperation with Dr. Stephen Let, a doctoral graduate from Upper Canada College in Toronto, they established a new treatment and ideology regarding treatment and rehabilitation of those struggling with addictions and mental disorders. They believed in the benefits of a healthy diet, rest, occupation, and entertainment as a way to improve and alter lifestyles and mental illnesses (Volume XIII (1901-1910) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography. ). This resulted in them looking outside of Toronto for suitable grounds to build their ‘retreat’ from the city, where they settled on Guelph Ontario. The 19 acre lot with the former home of Donald Guthrie, a former Guelph politician, they began expanding and preparing the grounds to host and provide for their plans. In 1884, the Homewood Retreat opened its doors, and was capable of caring for 25 men and 25 women. While it took some time for people to become aware of the services and the care being offered, soon after they were finding themselves with many patients hoping to receive care (Moments of Unreason, Warsh 38).

              Using an open, communal approach towards care of the patients and the nurses who cared for them,the Homewood Retreat grew, and allowed for study of the effects of the treatment they were administering. Using the large grounds surrounding the main buildings, Lett and Languir started small gardens of vegetables or flowers, which they then had the patients take care of. This encouraged exercise, fresh air, and a sense of purpose that could distract from the issues they were working through, and helped to maintain a self sufficient kitchen within the retreat (Canada (Moments of Unreason, Warsh 37-38). 

             The Nurses’ Residence, as seen on the postcard, was built as a way to encourage young nurses to take work outside of the city, and participate in the growth of the rehabilitation program being developed in the Homewood Retreat. This could have been the reason for the creation and publication for this postcard, as it is seen as a very picturesque building with a beautiful lawn surrounding it. As an advertisement or as a souvenir of the new building being built, this postcard proves the importance of the growth and development of the Homewood Retreat, as it was valued enough to be produced and painted, despite the fact that an asylum was not exactly the dream destination for the public. 

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