Abandoned Bluewater Youth Detention Centre

I always love a big location & the Abandoned Bluewater Youth Detention Centre was perfect!  Massive, creepy & having a checkered past checked all of Zenning with Zay & my boxes!

Originally built in 1961, The Ontario Hospital was a mental health facility.  15 years later it was renamed to Bluewater Centre for the Developmentally Handicapped & operated as such until 1983.  Two years later the facility was given a face lift at a cost of $10 million to accommodate young offenders.

The Facility reopened in 1985 as  Bluewater Youth Detention Centre.  In 1996, just one day into a public service strike against the Ontario government, a riot, then a fire broke out at the prison.  The inmates were incited by the guards to riot to help support their cause.   The inmates were more than willing to kick off caused $175,000 in damage & that night 40 inmates were transferred to Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre where they claimed they were humiliated, verbally & physically intimidated, prodded, struck & kicked, with some sustaining injuries at the hands of prison managers who were filling in for striking guards.   6 years later a settlement was made with a dozen former inmates who received a considerable sum of money & apology from the province.  The incident  caused significant changes in the youth justice system in an attempt to reduce the number of youths incarcerated by implementing community-based programs.  The facility, located near Goderich could accommodate hundreds of youths however when it closed there was it was at a mere 26% capacity.  In 2015 Bluewater closed suddenly putting nearly 200 people out of work.

In 2017 & 2018 Canadian Forces visited the facility to perform training exercises on several occasions.  Explosions & gun shots echoed through the air for a week at a time.

The damage done by Canadian forces was extensive but certainly made for some awesome shots!  Breach training was done throughout the facility with walls blown apart, doors cut open.  It was pretty cool to see the damage & must have been incredibly loud during the exercises.

Former staff made attempts to have the facility re-opened however the gate was sealed.  The province has decided that the sprawling 300 acre property should be sold & locals hope that the land is used for a resort or some sort of year round attraction.  The buildings have extensive damage & will likely need to be demolished.  Hopefully a new use is found quickly & new jobs created for those put out of work when it closed.

46 thoughts on “Abandoned Bluewater Youth Detention Centre”

    1. hey I was shipped Y.O. first day this place opened for females….. R.i.p. Racheal Markle I will forever hold her close to my heart. Stacey Parent Nov. 21st. 1998 I believe can someone check dates

    2. Oh did you also help beat us to near death after hosing us down zip tied and cold? Or did you drive us to emdc where some of us were killed and all of us beaten with their 36 inch batons one after one naked before being thrown in a empty cell where the lights never turned off not once never ….fuck you pos… I should come for you ….

  1. The homelessness in Huron and Perth County is mind blowing! There is no affordable housing and people with mental health disorders are suffering the most. They aren’t taking medication properly, nutrition is lacking to say the least and to add to the mix not getting sleep or proper rest. Addictions is on the rise and wonder in shock why the crime rates are so high. We have closed institutions (and in some ways for good reason) but now we put those individuals in jails and call it something different. Maybe Goderich doesn’t need a “resort” but in fact a way to deal with mental illness and homelessness?

    1. I agree. We need to take better care of people in general & not worry about hoarding money that essentially becomes useless once we, as a society are gone.

    2. The Ontario Government can leave this vacant for so many years as a tax right off…why doesn’t the Government do some good and take this land 300 acres and make it into low income housing? Actually support some Ontario family and people on Odsp Ontario works..seniors etc ..

      1. I would love to live back to Goderich. I like the idea of affordable housing. I miss my old town but can’t afford to live here.

      2. Kathy,
        I agree with you 100%. I attempted to have that facility reopened as a treatment facility for women as there are none in Ontario, and it failed. The government would not listen to what we wanted to do whether a treatment facility or otherwise. Instead they decided they wanted nothing to do with it and let it go.

  2. Very cool to finally see inside this building! I’ve lived in Goderich my entire life and have always been curious to see what this building looked like!

    My in laws actually worked at Bluewater for many years until it finally shut down.

  3. Don’t need more housing just need the people taking advantage out plus they are building more right now at the old Victoria school, we need industry bad or better paying jobs so people can stay living here

  4. I infact stayed here for a couple years as an inmate. I would be so interested in going back to live my feelings once again. To get closure. I could really use it.

      1. Ya i was there around the same time I was the first phase one to got into St clair and then to St Lawrance there was so much bad shit that happened and so inhumane.

    1. Bro , I would have to agree with you , I think it could defiantly help.. I was 3 years on Georgian house and in the riot … also thinking a trip back could do me some good

  5. I worked therefor many years including the riot. At no time did I ever see or hear any staff encourage the residents to riot. 99% of the staff cared about helping the young people. BUT when the child advocates office “carte blanche” said children do not lie! then that government position helped induce greater instability in the youth justice system. Staff became liars and 17 – 20 year old children were telling the truth.

    1. Thank you for commenting. I found a lot of conflicting articles while doing my research & was hoping someone who worked there would ssee this post & tell me their truth!

    2. Thank you for doing the blog & research .
      I was there for the riot (inmate) , the guards absolutely did incite us to riot , even leaving keys behind to access the front office. We were telling the truth! And we were beaten after arriving at Elgin Middlesex Detention , and even received compensation for it . During our ensuing stay at EMDC (no supervision , 23.5 lockdown) there was many horrific beatings on inmates by other inmates including a murder. Ridiculous cover up by all those guards involved, apparently still unwilling to take responsibility.

      We were all kids at the time , easily led and influenced with judgement difficulties, hence the incarceration.
      How on Earth they think we all managed to collude to conjure up the same story when we were all separated at a super maximum facility beggars belief. Just dumb !

      Thanks again though

  6. This is a 300 acre spot. Canada’s Wonderland sits on 330 acres.
    I’m sure with that much available land for growth, some business person could make this a wonderful spot to visit and provide jobs to the area. There is a huge financial problem for most with one bedrooms going for $1600.00 month in Cambridge. Who can afford that? I don’t make that much with my entire monthly disability income. How can we afford to live. No wonder so many are homeless. Start paying descent wages and put some rent controls on the savage property owners looking for the first billion dollars by the time they are 30-40 years old. It used to be we would work for our fourty years and then could retire with a paid off house, car and a bank account. Maybe even a cottage. Now, only the one percent can do this. The rest of us have to pay what the greedy property owners ask for. What a shame we have turned into a – everything for me at the cost of everyone else – attitude. We used to care about each other. Politicians used to work for the people. The last 50 years has been nothing but greed, hate and anger. Something has to change.
    To sum up my comments, the governments of Canada/Ontario must do something with this spot to benefit the entire community as a whole. Not the already rich looking to scam more money from us 99%ers. Thanks for listening.

  7. I was there as an inmate in “Huron house “ I was there for the roit ..no guards Told us to riot ,..At ALL … there was a lot of tension between the different houses during the strike it got to the point where they would only let one house at a time to the yard instead of all the houses at the same time .. there were a lot of fights and that’s what kicked it off … it was house against house … it started with some inmates throwing pool balls through The duty office windows…(yes we had pool tables in the house .. it was also unlocked cells …we had no bathrooms in our cell so we could walk out our cells and go to the bathroom at night … so when the roit kicked off it was every man for himself…… when they took us to London we got our asses kicked from when the roit ended until we got to London and beyond … it was brutal I can still remember everything the noise the smell the ass kicking we all took …

    1. The food was beyond shit when I was there I actually built the stage in the one picture We had to use screwdrivers because they won’t let us use drills because a drill was a weapon even though one guy was in there for stabbing a guy in the neck with a screwdriver

  8. This was a psychiatric hospital back in the ’70s. My mother was a Physician here until it closed down. As part of the treatment programs, they had vocational training. They made furniture, stuffed animals, clothing, and artisanal metalworking.

  9. I was an inmate here right after the riot and the reopening phase. When I arrived there was only about 90 or so inmates with dozens arriving each day. Some returning, some (like myself) new. There was a lot of tension, and it was a really rough place to be at that time. Guards and prisoners were on edge. I arrived and went to the phone once placed on my range, (I don’t remember which one, I feel as though it was Huron house. My window looked out towards the main parking lot and lake) called my mom to tell her where I had been transferred to and got jumped while on the phone with her. She had to listen to me try and fight off 4 other kids. There were fights daily. I saw and experienced many traumatizing events that I will not dive into on this post, but I am glad I experienced what I did. I was heading down a very dark path and there was a guard that was once a Young Offender and his stories resonated with me and caused a change. Although majority of the staff and teachers were great, there was a handful that were pure evil. I have tons of stories and have thought numerous times about writing a book about my 9 months in Bluewater. I would love to see all of the inside one last time to get some closure, but unfortunately I now live on the west coast.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience! These experiences help shape who we are today. I know I was headed down the wrong path in my teen years but was fortunate to turn things around!

  10. I was there as a youth and was there for the riots , it was a rough go for sure !! I was on a secure unit After being in trouble to much in a less secure unit , I remember bits and pieces of my time there , I remember the riots though !! And I remember getting out asses kicked and having to lay in the snow in our boxers cuffed up In or belly’s until we all got transferred to various places , I went to Toronto

  11. I did 2 stints there both as a phase 1 in old dorms, and then again as a phase 2.My second stint there was in the new buildings and the old dorms were made into the school.Was there for the riots but in no way did staff encourage this.I vividly remember doorknobs put in socks,and guys snuck up and smashed the windows out with guards face down in paperwork on the other side.Those guards must have had near heart attack experiences.The majority of the staff truely cared for us kids.God bless you Gwen and Barb(nurse)

  12. Hey I was there the first day as an inmate for females. I believe it was Nov.28th 1998… representing Windsor 12 months secure custody

    1. It was never for staff. It was only 4′ deep and I swear it was filled with ice water but hey it was a nice perk in place that there wasn’t much to look forward to.

  13. I arrived shortly after the riot, on or about December 11, 1996. I came from the hole in Cecil Facer on suspicion of attempting to instigate a riot so was dressed up in the blue jogging suit two sizes too small and sent into Saint Lawrence House, home to some of the most unruly boys in the Phase II. The boys had a role playing game running and it was all about Crime – and everybody had to play or else. TV had rabbit ears but there were lots of violent movies and music videos to study. Staff were never a problem for me. After getting knocked around a few times and left with a crooked nose, eventually I found peace alone in my room with books, finishing out my sentence in Saint Clair House on May 1st, 1997.

    1. Why would you go to St. Lawrence and not St Clair if you were this badass you claim to have been. St Lawrence was the high security range for guys coming off of St Clair which was the spot for worst guys in the province. Minimum 3 weeks of 22.5 hrs lock up the first time you were there and the time got longer each time you ended up back down there. Those 2 security units were only open for the first 3 months I was there Sept- Dec 1997. Im not sure they may have even closed earlier than that. St Clair closed then there was a riot on St Lawrence and it was closed. I left end of June 1998 and they were going to reopen those 2 with girls units.

  14. I was there in 91/92 and was on St. Clair and St. Lawrence. Staff there were horrible. Only maybe 2 I can think of that were actually nice, especially Karen. Went to Portage later on.

  15. I was incarcerated at ( Bluewater correctional centre ). Back in the 1986, they were building the jail back when I was there, it was a Young offender jailed there for 2, years. Robert,

  16. I still enjoy coming onto this article regarding Bluewater. It brings back so many memories from working there from 2008 till closure. It is a shame that the Ministry or the Province as a whole wouldn’t do anything with it. I tried but no avail. But I did want to correct one thing in your article, and that is Bluewater closed in March of 2012 and not 2015. The decommissioning was completed in 2013 and the gate was sealed for good.
    I am happy though that Central Huron purchased the property in 2022 and there are plans for it and to bring much needed jobs back to Goderich!!!

  17. Umm… no its not a shame that its been close cause they shouldn’t have put kids in jail to make jobs for the community. It’s about to come out in the wash with some major lawsuits. Bluewater was wrong on so many levels and now it’s about to be exposed for what it really was !!

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