Abandoned Muskoka Regional Centre Urban Exploring
The history of the now abandoned Muskoka Regional Centre spans over 120 years. The intriguing story of the Muskoka Regional Centre began in the last decade of the 1800s during the rampant global spread of tuberculosis. Gravenhurst is firmly entrenched in the history books as being the first site in Canada and only the third in North America before the turn of the century to treat patients who suffered from tuberculosis
Medical experts preferred Muskoka for its climate and moderate elevation, which provided more oxygen for patients, and was concluded to be unsurpassed by any place on the continent according to doctors. Gravenhurst was specifically liked for its rocky surroundings, dense forests and natural drainage enabling the soil to dry quickly.
The V shaped MRC building was designed at minimum expanse by Charles S. Cobb, a Toronto architect. The main structure of the facility paid homage to Sir William Gage and was named the Gage building. Cobb said that the building was absolutely fireproof, and the flat roof along with its hospital like appearance reflected the evolution of tuberculosis treatment.
On July 5, 1922 a ceremony to lay the cornerstone of the Muskoka Regional Centre took place and the hospital’s official opening day was July 26, 1923.
As treatment and prevention of tuberculosis improved, the sanatorium found itself being less and less needed and as a result no new TB patients were admitted to the Muskoka hospital after June 10, 1960. The facility was sold to the provincial government and was then converted to care for the developmentally challenged and continued to serve the function of a group home until its final closure in 1994.
By 1978, a plan of de-institutionalization was placed on the political agenda and had been carried forward by each political party while in office.
The Muskoka Centre was finally closed in 1994. Some buildings still do witness use by the Ontario Provincial Police for SWAT tactical forced entry training as well as ‘K-9’ Unit training.
Early 2006: The first photos out of this large abandoned hospital came from OG Explorer Copy 6 AKA Bob Barrie AKA Urbex Barrie. The SAN had been abandoned for roughly 12 years and was used for training by the OPP for K9 and SWAT style training. All of the windows were still intact and no boards had yes been placed. Inside, there was much paint peel and some damage done from the police training but the facility was in great condition overall.
The photos posted by the original explorers to first document the SAN show a completely different picture than what you see inside today.
My first visit to the SAN was in November 2012, one of my first solo explores of a large institution, I would return in the Fall of 2018 and then again this year in 2020.
March, 2017: Plans are underway to possibly redevelop the property into the Bethune Maple Leaf School, a facility for foreign students to upgrade and meet requirements for further studies in Canada. See video about the proposal and an external link to additional information below.
April 20, 2017: The Province of Ontario has rejected the municipality’s bid to purchase the facility. October 2012, my first large institutional explore
July 13, 2017: The OPP reports that Dozens of people are trespassing at the Muskoka Regional Centre and a media campaign is launched. “So far this year, police have dealt with at least 50 people who were found trespassing on the grounds. They say it’s only getting worse now that summer is here. Provincial police say anyone caught on the property will likely be charged with criminal mischief and trespassing.”
October 4th, 2018: Gravenhurst municipal candidates presented their platforms to voters at last debate on a number of issues including the future of the Muskoka Regional Centre. Many candidates acknowledge that the MRC is a very hot topic and its eventual sale and development should become a top priority for the current Ontario Provincial Government
Autumn 2012 – My First Explore of the Abandoned Muskoka Sanitarium
The Abandoned Muskoka Regional Centre was my very first large explore when I first started Urban Exploring back in 2012. In the Fall of 2012 I had collected a bit of intel from friends and fellow explorers who had been recently, I woke up bright and early and made the long drive up north. With gear packed for a whole day I knew this would be a long day so I came prepared to spend the day and I did.
Knowing there was a 24/7 security patrol I followed the instructions I was given and followed my instincts moving to areas that would not be accessible by the security SUV. Points of Entry for this location are usually sealed up just as quickly as they are opened so i was pleasantly surprised when I found that the open basement window I had been told to look for was still available.
I found it very easy to get lost and turned around as I navigated this massive abandoned facility, having seen many photos from others I passed and photographed many familiar scenes. I would try and get my bearings but with so many hallways and stairwells I kept losing my place. I would make my way to the roof where I watched the security doing his patrol and then sit in his van. I enjoyed my lunch and captured some photos from the roof and the fall scenery before I made my way back inside to try and get back to the single open window in the basement, this was no easy task!
I knew that somewhere there was a chalk board with the names of all the explorers who had been here before me, I was happy to finally locate it and add my name to both chalk boards.
Come late afternoon I found my way to the exit, used the trees and heavy brush for cover from security and zipped back around the fence and took the long walk back to my car. I had finally and successfully explored the Muskoka Regional Centre, also known as “The San”
Autumn 2018 – My Return to Muskoka Regional Centre
2018 was a great year of exploring, lots of Time Capsule houses as well as many mansions and large homes, however many of the locations this year lacked the decay, peeling paint and all of the good stuff that only a location like the San can provide.
I had planned a roadtrip to Northern Ontario for the Fall of 2018 and had the San on my list of locations, I had a solid 2 days so I knew I could afford the time to explore the building again. Upon arrival I noticed an SUV parked right at the front gate, this is a sign that someone is inside, a rookie or a lazy explorer….you never park at the front gate!! I parked far off-site and made the long walk back and in. As I approached the building two women emerged from the cut open fence, they were ghost hunters but were too afraid to go inside. One of the girls stated that her mother had been a patient many years ago.
I said goodbye and made my way around, I wasn’t having much luck finding a way inside until I finally came across a window that had a board ripped off and a table to allow for easier entry. Relieved that I hadn’t wasted my time I made my way into the San once again and right away knew where i was. I managed to keep my bearings the whole time I was inside, unlike my first explore I knew where I was the whole time. First observation, much more graffiti this time around….LOTS more! Also much more vandalism, I didn’t think it was possible to vandalize this place more than it was, but they found a way!
I spent much less time inside this time around as i was quickly losing sunlight and I arrived later in the day than I had planned. I actually originally planned to just come and do a quick walk through, confirm that i could get in and then return the next morning, however since I was in I just completed the whole explore in less than two hours or so.
On my first visit, due to the security patrols I was unable to explore the grounds and the exterior, however now there seemed to be no security patrol so I was able to enjoy the entire exterior, including the enclosed gazebo on the lake, the playground and i also had an encounter with a family of deer.
With the sun setting and the air getting colder I made my walk out and back to my car, another successful explore of the San and possibly my last.