William Thomas beat out two other architects in the contest to design the House of Industry. When he learned he had won, he refused to accept payment for his work and donated the architectural blueprints for free. (Image from From McArthur and Szamosi, xi.)
Thomas designed the House of Industry in the Tudor-Gothic style. This is evident in the narrow, tall windows and doors of the house, its steep roof, and the large chimneys adorned with decorative caps. The House was made of brick, stone, and wood components.
The House of Industry originally had two floors and a basement; all of the available space was used to provide for its occupants. The majority of the rooms in the House were bedrooms and dormitories, with a sitting room and lavatories on each floor. Men and women had separate sleeping quarters, dining halls, and sick rooms, with the male areas located in the west wing and the female areas in the east wing. The House of Industry also sported large gardens for people to walk in outside the building.
Several changes were made to the House over the years, often based on the need to expand, or for the welfare of its occupants. Dormitories were expanded at the expense of other, smaller rooms. Doctors and other caregivers sometimes made suggestions for the House’s improvement according to their patients’ needs. This led to changes in the ventilation and drainage systems.
The House of Industry underwent further expansion in the 1890s when another architect, Edward James Lennox, designed two new wings for the building, allowing for the accommodation of even more people in need of relief. In 1906, the House expanded further with the addition of a third floor, also designed by Lennox. Although he made a lot of changes to the building, he maintained William Thomas’ architectural style. (Image from “http://publications.kaleden.com/articles/2015.html”)
In 1947, due to the changing needs of the city, the building was transformed into a home for the elderly and renamed Laughlen Lodge in honour of its former superintendents. In the 1970s, Lennox’s wings were destroyed as the Rotary Laughlen Centre was built around the back of the building. The House was demolished on the inside as well, leaving only the front part intact. This facade is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.
Today, the House of Industry is closed, under construction as it is transformed yet again, this time into a YWCA. The front face of the building will be restored to its former grandeur.
(Image from “http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffstewartphotos