Abandoned Bluewater Youth Detention Centre in Goderich, Ontario

Talking Walls Photography

Talking Walls Photography

Bluewater Youth Detention Centre

The abandoned Bluewater Youth Detention Centre is a 300 acre property located along the Lake Huron Shoreline in Goderich. Bluewater Detention Centre was built in 1961 by the province of Ontario to serve as a mental health facility known as the Ontario Hospital (Goderich Psychiatric Hospital) with 204 beds.

In 1976, it became the Bluewater Centre for the Developmentally Handicapped. The Bluewater Centre was closed around 1985. The facility received a $10 million upgrade and re-opened as a youth-only secure custody and detention centre.

There are 90 beds which include isolation cells.

At the time of my first visit in 2016 the power was working and it was fully intact. There was no vandalism. We were able to open the main gate by turning on the power in the guard booth.

It’s a long walk down the road to get to the Bluewater guard entrance.

Bluewater Youth Detention Centre in Goderich
The main operations building of the Bluewater Youth Centre in Goderich

Master Control Room

This is the master control room where access to the building was managed. Visitors would sign in here and be escorted to their destination. A separate security booth outside controlled access to the sliding entrance gate. The height of the fence ensures it couldn’t be climbed by any youth looking to escape.

master control room of the abandoned Bluewater Detention Centre, Goderich. Abandoned ontario
Control room


Control room at Bluewater Youth Detention Centre, Goderich. Abandoned ontario
Another view of the master control room


Bluewater Youth Centre, Goderich. Abandoned ontario
A view of one of the hallways


Bluewater Youth Detention Centre, Goderich. Abandoned ontario


the gymnasium at Bluewater Youth Detention Centre, Goderich. Abandoned ontario
Inside the gymnasium at Bluewater Youth Centre. We found a set of keys allowing us inside here.
shower area at Bluewater Youth Detention Centre

Bluewater Riot

In 1996 OPSEU workers began a strike against the Harris Government. On February 29, 1996 it’s alleged that unionized guards at Bluewater incited the youths to riot as a way of supporting the strike action.

It was alleged that guards may have “planted” matches and barbecue lighter fluid.(1)

The inmates caused $175,000 in damage. Some of the youths were transferred to the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London, Ont. Managers at the EMDC took the place of striking guards during the strike.

The youths alleged they were humiliated, kicked and tossed naked into their cells.The youths later won a lawsuit filed against the Ontario government for injuries as a result of their treatment by managers.

(1) Applied Social Psychology – Jamie A. Gruman, Frank W. Schneider, Larry M. Coutts

cell doors at Bluewater Detention Centre
I could not imagine the mental anguish living behind concrete and bars

Decline in Custodial Youth

Changes to Ontario’s youth justice system focused on more community-based programs seeking to reduce the number of youths put into jail. As a result there was a decrease in the number of youths in Bluewater Youth Centre.

By March of 2012 there were only 17 youths at Bluewater.  Children and Youth Services Ontario released a statement that same month indicating, “we can’t afford to operate facilities with so many empty beds”.

The facility closed on March 6, 2012 putting almost 200 workers out of a job.

Employees held a rally in an effort to persuade the province to reopen the facility. It was not successful.

Bluewater Detention  Centre - B-Hall


Bluewater Youth Detention Centre - youth's room
youth’s room
shower area in Bluewater Youth Centre
shower area in Bluewater Youth Centre

Military Training

The property sat idle for several years. In October of 2017 and September of 2018 the Canadian Armed Forces used the property for military training. Local residents were cautioned that they might hear the sound of explosives being detonated.

Many cell doors have been blown apart and walls have been breached with explosive charges. 

The property is currently owned by Infrastructure Ontario (IO).

Bluewater Youth Detention Centre


Georgian House
Georgian House section of Bluewater


television room at Bluewater Youth Correctional
television room

The television room with plastic chairs that if thrown, are less likely to cause injury.


segregation cells
segregation cells – emotionally draining just to look at
youth cell at Bluewater



Bluewater cafeteria

On our first visit here we were able to enter the guard’s shack. There we found a circuit breaker which when turned on, allowed us to open the main gate. With the turn of a key, it was like a scene out of a movie… the loud “Brrrr” tone and the gate slowly opening. 

Post-Military Training Photos (2018)

These photos are from 2018 after decay had begun and the military had set off explosives.

Bluewater hallway photo
television room
Photo of Bluewater Youth Centre
Bluewater Youth Centre gym area now
Bluewater Youth Centre
Georgian House as it appears today
The damaged shower area
A decayed and sooty youth cell at Bluewater

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  1. It is a shame something wasn\’t done with it before it got to this condition. I worked their back in the 1960 s when it was the Ontario Hospital. .What a beautiful place it was. I think its too far gone now !

    1. The article is a bit strange
      The kids always had matches. They were searched and tobacco and matches and lighters where a constant. To say matches were planted is ridiculous. There was always matches and contraband. I am not surprised the managers are found to be abusive. Dealing with transferred kids to a new institution where you have no relationship from a riot would have been worse than the riot itself. It seemed also however the most uncaring and cold guards became managers for some reason. The most impatient dictators seemed to move up. It really made you wonder what was up at times. Just when you thought someone was fired they would pop up as a higher position somewhere else. It seemed the old system of adult jail guards came over to manage the youth. They liked punitive as it was safe. Or was it?
      There was no reward for caring or listening as a staff it was a subversive fight to try to help these kids. For me the biggest issue was the lack of outside time. One issue with a leave and all leaves province wide would be cancelled. All thr good programs would be cut out of safety concerns. There was no care for the kids future. It was all about safety of the staff and public perception. There was always a tension and a feeling like we were to make life miserable as a deterrent. I remember having a huge issue because I gave an extra peanut butter sandwich to a kid at snack. A common phrase to kids was you don\’t like it don\’t do crime. Still the public feels justice is a deterrent not a way to improve a persons life so they can make better choices in the future. People came out of there scarred and traumatized often. More desperate and deranged. It was a strange mix of nice kids who made a mistake and hardened family criminals all in the same place. Not a good system at all. However we are all to blame. We discourage any show of mercy or care for those in custody. It is amazing we don\’t have capital punishment returning. Violent youth from the city and simple farm kids who smashed up a car one Saturday night and all the in between in the same boat. It was a disgrace on so many levels to put 14 year olds in these situations. Taking them to bus stations in leg irons only to let them go free to the public. Why was it ok for a greyhound bus to take a kid that was handcuffed 5 minutes ago with two officers. Jails and kids not a good mix just like institutions and mental health also not a good mix. A huge place where bullying on every level was the rule all day long. It might be good that it closed. However the other jails seem to be not much of an improvement but hey thats what we the public want.

  2. I was there in the 80\’s likely around 86, there were 3 wings.. Georgian, Huron and superior. rooms were large dorms with 4 people per dorm.
    we had a gym,weight room, baseball, football/soccer field. not to mention a pool and a band room….electric guitars and a drum kit.
    school was fine and I even worked in the kitchen.
    in the day room we had couches not the plastic chairs and a pool table.
    things look like they changed after I was there but I can tell you it was a lot better there than at a lot of other places I was at.

    1. I was there back in the 80s also when there was a fake.roit I the kitchen cause they were filming there Nd each unit had dogs

  3. Very cool! I worked there on a short term contract doing work for the Ministry of Correctional Services back in the late 80s. The blank soul-less eyes on some of those kids was bloody scary, even moreso than the older tattoed dudes that were in the Guelph \”OR\” back then (at least to me). Great site!

  4. I was there as an inmate for the majority of my youth 16-18 which would have been around 2000. We used to go to school with the boys I can’t lie it felt super secure but we had fun. A lot of inmates were from Toronto area I was in segregation and it was definitely long drawn out days in segregation. We used to do obstacle courses outside, climbing the wooden walls, ropes, balancing through tires, we ran the tracks, there was a work out room with equipment and we played tennis. I remember so so much from this place it’s so crazy to see it like this now.

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