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Edward Heights (PEH) was a school for developmentally disabled adults.
it opened in 1971 in brand new buildings built for the purpose and was
called the "PEH Hospital school for the Mentally Retarded." The
institution was built on land that was once occupied by Camp Picton,
belonging to the Federal Department of Defence. PEH was one of 17
institutions across the province.
May of each year, as "Mental Retardation Week" was celebrated, the PEH
must have been seen as a boon by many supporters of the rights of the
In June 19, 1971, the Belleville Intelligencer
reported that the
facilities could accommodate 1,500 people, and would be a "centre for
the care of mentally retarded children." In fact, the institution dealt
mainly with adults.
in 1971, PEH was celebrated as being ahead of its time. For over a
decade, it grew. A June 5, 1971 Intelligencer article by
Barnes was headlined "PEH a revolutionary new setting for the
In 1975, the institution held 456 patients, the most it would ever
May 7, 1992, in an article by Henry Bury). Robert Mackenzie,
first administrator, referred to older institutions in Orillia and Smith
Falls as "factories."
ex-piano in the smaller of two main buildings on the property. Notice
hammers on the floor behind the body of the piano.
In a quote in a newspaper article psychologist Brett Mann praised the
PEH for its "village-type setting" (Belleville Intelligencer
the main institution (the present abandoned building) held patients in
a hospital-like setting, most residents lived in individual houses that
once were used by military personnel. Each resident had his/her own
room in a four-bedroom house.
In 1984, Ontario's Community and
Social Services minister, Frank Drea, praised the institution as being
"an exciting new vista, not only for the developmentally handicapped,
but for their parents and those who work with them." Centre 84, a
building completed on the site in 1984, was "the first building
designed specifically by staff for the care and training of residents" (Picton Gazette
June 6, 1984). Centre 84 had 2,100 square metres (22,950 square feet)
of floor space.
living at the institution and in a nearby community were referred by
the Picton folks as "living on the hill." The area, including the old
military base, is still referred to
as "the hill."
The main building had an area that
cared for children. In the adult
section — the "Craig Complex" — patients were housed four to a room.
The third floor housed patients who were severely handicapped.
1984, the population had dropped to about 370
workshops employed about 200 developmentally disabled people.
A first-floor hallway.
the mid-1980s, efforts increased to move people from the institution
into the community. By 1989, the population had dropped by 40% to 210
patients as a result of what the Intelligencer
referred to as a "new policy of integration and deinstitutionalization"
(August 19, 1989).
1996, continuing efforts were made to close the place.
were made that the government was dragging its feet. In that year,
there were 240 residents and 320 staff members. The
with a payroll of
$19 million per year, was the area's biggest employer.
also resistance to closing the place, particularly from employees. In
1996, PEH contributed $102,000 in property taxes for the year (Intelligencer
In 1996, Ontario
provincial member of Parliament, John Gerretsen from Kingston and The
Islands presented a petition to parliament asking that the institution
stay open (selection from Hansard, October
It was to no avail. The institution closed its doors in 1999.
were made to find other uses for the buildings. In the late nineties,
with Conservatives ruling in the provincial legislature, one idea was
to develop a "boot camp" to deal with young criminals — a sort of
"short, sharp shock" institution.
information here is mainly from Belleville Intelligencer
collected in a folder at the Belleville Library. Internet information
is slim to nonexistent.
usual caveat: wandering around abandoned buildings can be dangerous. I
don't advise it. Below is a description, not an invitation.
The front door stands open. A
short walk from the road across a field is necessary. The building can
clearly seen from the road.
While the building is wet in places where
the weather has penetrated and the basement is a shallow pool, it is
still reasonably well-preserved. It has the air of most modern
institutions — a high school, hospital or prison — with cinder block
walls and hard stone hallways designed for heavy use. At four to a
room, the living would be fairly communal, to
put it politely.
main building has three floors, with two-floor wings. To the right
(west), as you face the main building, there's a smaller two-floor
building. Off to the left (east) is a garage/storage area.
The kitchen on the
the main building, rooms of interest include what may have been
examination rooms with washroom facilities, the patients' bedrooms, a
furnace room, a kitchen area, a dock area out back, the furnace room, a
large workshop area in the front and in the eastern back end a complex
of rooms used for recreational purposes. There is some interesting
also a gym in good shape — with a little cleaning, the
nets lowered and some lights (it's pitch black), it looks almost
usable. Weights and exercise equipment line the walls. A large
rolled-up screen hangs from the ceiling.
There's a narrow stairway leading to a room at the top of the building,
full of pipes and the central air conditioning.
To the west, a connecting corridor leads to a building extension.
A well-equipped gym is still in
pretty good shape.
separate building to the west has a kitchen on the second floor and a
large open area with interesting windows. At the back are smaller
On the ground floor, a couple of rooms are stacked high with old (but
still usable) desks. In the back room, are two pianos, both well
beyond repair, although one still can make sounds enough to plunk out a
wonky out-of-tune piece.
An old painball sign lies on the floor.
Apparently at one time, there was a paintball operation here. Here and
there you can see unused paintball ammunition.
garage to the east is pretty straightforward, although the old truck
with the lawn on its truck bed is interesting.
How to get to
Picton is in Prince Edward County, the "almost-island" south of Trenton
and Belleville. From Highway #401, take Highway #62
County Road #1, turn left (east) to Highway #33 and turn left again to
Picton.. It's about 39 kilometres to downtown Picton. Another route, if
you're coming from the east, is to take the Marysville cutoff from
Highway #401 — County road #4, which is 23 kilometres east of
Belleville — and drive 28 kilometres to downtown Picton. There are also
much more picturesque routes.
Prince Edward Heights is near Kingsley Road.
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