Tucked away near the gigantic Victoria Hospital in the Westminster Ponds lies a forgotten gem of the London Health Sciences Center: a quaint village made just for the rest and recuperation of war-weary veterans.
Built in 1946, the Western Counties Health and Occupational Center served as a rehabilitation center for World War II veterans, not only as a physiotherapy center where tired vets could recuperate, but as training grounds to re-enter civilian life. In an era in which nature was seen as an effective remedy to many ailments, the center was built on 400 acres of what now lies the Westminster Ponds Conservation area.
At its height, the center consisted of eleven buildings (all named after Southwestern Ontario Counties: Wellington, Middlesex, Elgin, Bruce, Essex, Huron, Kent, Waterloo, Lambton, Oxford, and Perth) and housed 196 patients. In this era, it was believed that patients who had active interests would have shorter recovery times, thus the center bustled with a strange energy. Within the main pavilions lay an automobile shop, a darkroom, a bowling alley, a swimming pool, a radio lab, and a print shop.
Nature was considered to aid recovery, so the nearby Walker Pond was routinely stocked with fish, two baseball diamonds were constructed nearby, and a golf course was constructed in 1956 on what now are the grounds of Parkwood Hospital. Eventually, in 1947 the center was combined with co-existing operations for tuberculosis treatment, however tuberculosis treatment ceased in 1950. Over time, the patient population began to dwindle, and by 1984, patients were moved to the new facilities at Parkwood Hospital. The grounds were briefly used by the Board of Education before becoming completely abandoned by 2000.
In its current state, the center consists of four standing buildings; the rest has been demolished, their foundations left bare. The remains of the Elgin, Lambton, Kent, and Oxford pavilions can be seen along the pathways overlooking Walker’s Pond. The foundations, hearths and fireplaces can all be seen, though they are now overgrown with wild grasses. The Wellington Administrative Building is perhaps the jewel of the ruins, a grand beauty covered in ivy.
Know Before You Go
Accessed through Western County Road beside Parkwood Hospital off of Commissioners Road. For the most scenic route, park near the Tourism London Center, and walk up the northern portion of the Westminster Ponds trails.
As of October, 2016, a basement window has been pried open, with evidence of recent human activity noted. Please be aware that the buildings still fall under city jurisdiction, and therefore any attempts to explore the interior of the building is considered trespassing.