Before the Asylum |  Asylum Design |  The Kirkbride Plan |  Challenges

The LAI had been quickly constructed due to the province's immediate need and the main building battled many structural problems after it opened. Superintendents often spent their time trying to convince the provincial government to fund renovations. The LAI was still an impressive structure for its time, being one of the first buildings to have such features as a heating system and indoor plumbing. Not many other buildings in London would have been able to implement this technology, and it demonstrates the high priority placed on these institutions by the government.

The fact that the Asylum was continually being upgraded shows the importance of keeping the building in good working condition. Roofs were repaired, fences were straightened, doors were reframed, new floors were constantly replaced, new steam heating was added in the late 19th century, and a new sewage system was devised around the same time. The LAI housed a large working community, and it was often work buildings that were being renovated: greenhouses were refitted, new stables and a slaughterhouse were built, and new workhouses were added to give patients plenty of space to practice their chosen trades. Superintendent Dr. George MacCallum wrote of these never-ending renovations in the 1907 Annual Report: "each year develops new needs, and we do not seem to be any nearer perfection than several years ago."

Despite added wings and buildings, however, the asylum was constantly overcrowded, and renovations were constant. When the LAI opened it boasted 12 sitting rooms for patients; by 1918 it had only one. Most of these rooms were used instead as nurses' dormitories, even after a nurses' house was opened in the Medical Examination Building. Rooms were constantly being converted for other uses. The old amusement hall became the new infirmary, and a workhouse was adapted into an employee dorm.

Other Ontario asylums were also growing as time went by; asylums in Hamilton and Orillia had more than 1000 patients each in 1922, while Toronto's population had remained around 700 due to its shrinking grounds. By 1924, the LAI had grown to accommodate almost 1200 patients, but Superintendent Dr. William J. Robinson pointed out in the Annual Report that they still had 150 extra patients and "there does not appear to be any prospect of relief." While superintendents strove towards creating an idyllic setting, where patients could recuperate and live peacefully, the realities of running a large provincial institution often made this a difficult task.