The Lunatic Asylum at the Barracks, long ago
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Friday February 23, 2018

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George Villanueva: This photo of the Seaview Hospital or the Asylum also known by other names was taken 1975. Many of us will remember walking near the wire fences on our way to the beach.

The asylum, inside the compound. was eventually blown up in the movie "The Dogs of War." This image is from that movie.
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Noel Escalante
Belize City resident, used to work for the Belize Tourism Board
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The Lunatic Asylum at the Barracks, long ago

The black and white image at the top is Wilson Street at Barracks Road.

The madhouse in the barracks...

Dr. Mason Bwowne is in... Was on Barracks Rd on the shore side near MCC grounds. This is where the Mexican Cultural Institute is now located near the Princess Hotel. Belize City had a complex for the mental patients. This complex was well staffed with a doctor ( Dr Mason Brown being the last one. It had nurses, an Administrator and the staff. Riding a bicycle to St. John's College one would pass there many times. It was located across the street from Mr Leo Castillo's family home next to Sydney Turton on Wilson St.

The Poor House was near here too. It's the same location and same poor house they just gave it a new name because a cement structure is now at the location housing old folks. There is only one entrance now and that's off Wilson street there's also new water storage for the water board and in one off the building house a fitness gym running by Mr McClaren etc. I believe a TB ward was at the same poor house now Sister Cecilia's home on Wilson street.

All these buildings together from this view (from the water) were the Crazy Houses! The ones on the left were the Men’s and the ones on the right side were the Women’s! The Poor Houses (Men and Women) were way behind, off Wilson Street! Sister Cecilia home currently sits there! The TB Houses used to be small individual one room houses behind the football field - in front of Where Princess Hotel is now located!

This Part of history was erased many years ago, when the film, " THE DOGS OF WAR " was produced in Belize. While the film was being produced, the whole Complex was destroyed. Now sit Minister luxury homes. At the barracks, we use to go swimming in the kraal. I remember the one at the Barracks. I used to go to the men's and women's Poor House and Hold Church Services on Sunday mornings.

This complex was called, " CRAZY HOUSE " or the Mental Asylum, and later named, " SEA VIEW HOSPITAL (Sea View Hotel)." I I believe this was between the football stadium where the Mexican Culture center is now.

It was called “Seaview”. Because they had closed it down, they took advantage of the opportunity that Dogs of War gave them when they imploded it for the movie. I remember the night that happened. For the special effects, we had no power and could hear the explosions from our house in Kings Park as they blew it up. Mirta Aguilar-Ragbir

I was born just across from the asylum, which I suppose, is why my brothers say that there is no hope for me !! Later on as a member of the Hospital Auxiliary we went several times to read to the inmates. Alison Bradley Young

I remember way back in 1977 during my schooling at SJC Sixth Form, we went there to clean the place. It was, as best as my memory serves me, an awful place to be. Eduardo Martinez

This looks earlier than Mason Browne's time. I believe he was here in early 70's and he shut down the "crazy house" and modernized things. No more Sunday's with the poking sticks.

As a kid attending St. Mary's School, I used to visit this Asylum, every lunch hour to deliver Lunch to the Head Nurse (Nurse Marter). This is the building they blew up as part of the Movie Dogs of War. in 1980.

I remember before MCC GROUNDS we used to cross the canal from Cinderella Plaza over too Poor House,TB ward and Sea View (Crazy House) 50-70's. Mason Brown then I believed LATE mother in law,Lita Lopez -Fuller and Bevan's worked there at the end.

My grandmother was also the head cook at the poor house just across the way. At that time they had a sanatorium in an area of the compound for isolation of those with contagious diseases mainly TB... Gregory Morrison

We used to sneak out there after school and take cigarettes to the inmates. ‘Clayto’ used to sing for his cigarettes!

This historic monstrosity was majestically located diagonally to where The Princess Hotel is currently located -between Wilson Street and the Stadium! This was pretty much the edge of the City, except for a couple of elite Clubs and the Radio Station (ZiK2)!

The building in the centre was the entrance and resident of the director! On the left, facing Wilson Street was the Men’s Ward. On the right was the Women’s Ward! Visitors and workers would enter the same large prison-like front gate and once inside they turn left if they are going to the Men’s Ward and to the right if they are going to the Women’s Ward! The front gate was always closed and unlocked; however, the secondary gates to the Wards were kept locked which were operated by a massive large prison-like KEY! So, how do I know all this? No I never worked there but I used to deliver lunch every day to the chief NURSE of the Women’s Ward - Nurse Mortar, who was my neighbor! I would go to that secondary gate and pull a long heavy cord and the bell would ring and then I peep through the key hole to see if the nurse would be coming! Sometimes the inmates would fly pass her to get to the gate and talk incoherently with me through the key-hole! Interesting! I haven’t thought about those days since! That was between 1947-1951! I lived in the Victoria Street and North Front Street (Price Alley) at the time and attended St. Mary’s School. The routine was to leave School at 12 o’clock, walked home, quickly swallowed my lunch, go over to Nurse Mortar’s home, get the three or Four Carriers of food, walked to the CRAZY HOUSE, as it was called, deliver the food and then Walked to St. Mary’s School in time for 1 o’clock resumption of school! That earned me 25 cents per week! All part of who I am today! Harold Usher

Ceasar Young: Yes I remember the crazy house and the Po House. Behind there was just a swamp. There was a radio station that got destroyed from a hurricane. That was before Kings Park was filled in. I use to go pick up old films mostly newsreel that the station used. Coleman was our neighbor. I remember the sound coming from the mental hospital. There was the bakery Zaldiver bakery where we bought our Army loaf fresh everyday. At Moho Caye there use to be a TB ward. The cemetery there got washed away and the human bones got bleached along with the shells. On the west side. We use to pick up sand there to fill our yard. I used to find human bones in the yard.

Bernadette Burns: I remember that pine tree, It's inside a compound. This place is now The Sister Cecelia Home is on the original property. (now in the back compared to this photo). This was a beautiful compound with qualified nurses and attendants Some of the patients were like a mom to me and taught me how to embroidery, The tales they had to share. Hurricane Hattie destroyed these houses. They extended the compound beyond that pine trees and new buildings were built. This was the entrance to these homes, Males and females quarters. Just before the hurricane,they removed the patients to these new quarters, I remember that tree was the back entrance to the new quarters facing the sea. This was inside the asylum, Don't like to term it crazy house. Many of these patients were there because of emotional problems. Yes I remember the inner yard. Some of them were so nice once they got their medications. Some were violent but they were still humans. My memories are all wonderful. It because deplorable because after Hattie they moved the people to a new site on the Boom Road. No way were they there in the 80's, those people were well kept and attended to. The asylum went to Gracy Rock and is still there. The infirmary was where the Present Kolbe Prison is. They relocated the people to the road that is now the Hattie ville junction, presently called Heaven House, taken over by a church, Sister Cecelia Home is now the original infirmary, The TB patients were released but had to go for treatment.

Dora Riverol: They had a volley ball court inside the compound ... a group of us athletes would on a regular basis play ball there mixing it up with the patients encouraged by management( mid 60s)... our biggest problem was patients often running away with the ball and us having to chase after them. I had a friend interned there once with just a temporary mental breakdown...the Belize Hospital had no where to place him other than at this mental health care brought a lot of shame on him as word got around that he was a crazy in the crazy home...a real shame.

George Villanueva: Since it became Sister Cecelia home for the elderly, it’s been great, they really take care of the elderly, I see it everyday. Great care providers I must add.

Rosenda McCulloch: Bernadette Burns's mother, a remarkable nurse, worked on these grounds, and she was a regular visitor.

Kent Edgar Thompson Sr.: Dats sea view rite beside it is the poor house two long barracks one for make d other female n a staff office d head shrinker den was Mason Brown Mr Coleman who lived I Amara Ave was second Mr Palacio 3rd.

Rafael Chavez: We use to go there after school to listen to Polo Beeks sing at his window "BURST CUNU" which is one of Lord Rayburn songs.

George Villanueva: Then we had clato clato tingiling fire ants de bite me tingiling and we gave him cigarettes.

Consolidated Laws of the Colony of British Honduras

15. It'shall be 'lawful for any district magistrate for this colony, where any person shall be discovered under circumstances that denote a derangement of mind and a purpose of committing some crime for which, if committed, such person would be liable to be proceeded against by criminal information, to cause such person to be apprehended and brought before him, and such district magistrate shall call to his assistance some medical practitioner, and if upon view and examination of the said person such medical practitioner shall certify, according to the form marked A in the schedule hereunto annexed, and such magistrate shall be satisfied that such person is insane or a dangerous idiot, the said magistrate may, if he shall so think fit, by an order under his hand and seal, directed to any constable or peace officer, cause the said person to be conveyed to the lunatic asylum at Belize' where such person shall be received by the colonial surgeon and kept under medical care and treat, ment : Provided always that nothing herein contained shall be construed to extend to restrain any relations or friends from taking such insane person or dangerous idiot under their own care and protection, if they shall enter into sufficient recognizances for his or her peaceable behaviour or safe custody before the chief justice or any district magistrate.

16. Every medical practitioner who shall sign any certificate under or for the purposes of the preceding section shall specify therein the facts upon which he has formed his opinion that the person to whom such certificate relates is insane or a dangerous idiot, and distinguish in such certificate facts observed by himself from facts communicated to him by others ; and no person shall be committed to the lunatic asylum under any such certificate which purports to be founded only upon facts communicated by others.

17. The original medical certificate and warrant of commitment shall be delivered with the insane person at the lunatic asylum at Belize, and copies of both these documents' and all depositions taken on the inquiry shall be transmitted by the committing district magistrate, as soon as practicable, to the governor.

18. If any person while imprisoned in any prison or other place of confinement under any sentence of imprisonment, or under a charge for any offence, or for not finding bail for good behaviour or to keep the peace, or to answer a criminal charge, or in consequence of any summary conviction or order, or under any other than civil process, shall appear to be insane, it shall be lawful, if such person is confined in a prison to which visiting justices are appointed, for two or more of the visiting justices of such prison, or, if such person is in any other place of confinement, for the district magistrate, and such visiting justices, or district magistrate are or is hereby required to call to their or his assistance a medical practitioner, to be by thorn or him selected for that purpose, and to inquire with his aid as to the insanity of such person, and if it shall be certified by such medical practitioner, in the form marked A in the schedule hereunto annexed, and by such visiting justices or district magistrate that such person is insane, it shall be lawful for the governor, if he shall think fit, upon receipt of such certificates, to direct by warrant under his hand that such person shall be removed to the lunatic asylum at Belize ; and if at any time it shall be made to appear to the governor that there is good reason to believe that any prisoner in confinement under sentence of death is then insane, either by means of a certificate in writing to that effect in the form marked B in the schedule hereunto annexed and transmitted to him by two or more of such visiting justices or by such district magistrate, or by any other means whatsoever, the governor shall appoint at least one medical practitioner to inquire as to the insanity of such prisoner ; and if on such inquiry the prisoner shall be found to be then insane, the fact shall be certified in writing by such medical practitioner to the said governor, and on the receipt of such certificate the governor shall direct by warrant under his hand that such prisoner shall be removed to the lunatic asylum at Belize ; and every person so removed under this chapter shall remain in imprisonment in such asylum until it shall be duly certified to the governor by the public medical officer that such person is sane, and upon the receipt of such last mentioned certificate the governor is hereby authorized to issue a warrant under his hand, directing, if the period of imprisonment or custody of such person shall have expired. that he or she shall be discharged, or if such person shall remain subject to be continued in custody, that he or she shall be removed to any prison or other place of confinement, in which he or she may be lawfully confined to undergo his or her sentence of death or other sentence, or if not under sentence to be dealt with according to law, as if no such warrant for his removal to a lunatic asylum had been issued : Provided nevertheless that it shall be lawful for the governor to issue his warrant to remove or discharge any insane prisoner who shall be in custody under the provisions of this chapter, if it be duly certified to him by at least one medical practitioner that such insane prisoner is harmless and may be discharged from restraint without danger to himself or others in like manner as if it had been certified to the governor that such person had become of sound mind.

19. The reasonable charges attending any inquiry under this chapter into the state of any insane person's mind and conduct, and of his commitment and conveyance to the asylum, and of his maintenance, clothing, medicine, care and treatment therein during his confinement, which shall be for such time only as his lunacy or madness shall continue, shall be defrayed from time to time by and out of his own property, and, on proof thereof, may be recovered by sale of his goods and chattels and receipt of the profits of his real estate by order under the hand and seal of any district magistrate, if such person has sufficient property, which can be so applied, over and above what may be necessary for the maintenance of any wife, children, and indigent parent which he may have ; but if he has not such property, then the said charges shall be satisfied and paid out of the public revenue of this colony.

20. Any medical practitioner who shall sign any certificate contrary to the provisions herein contained, shall for every such offence forfeit any sum not exceeding one hundred dollars recoverable upon summary conviction before any district magistrate : and any medical practitioner who shall falsely state or certify anything in any certificate under this chapter, and any person who shall sign any certificate under this chapter, in which he shall be described as a medical practitioner, not being a medical practitioner within the meaning of this chapter, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

21. Every criminal lunatic now confined in the lunatic asylum shall be detained, treated and dealt with in all respects as if he had been committed under the provisions of Part III., of this chapter.

Today the site is the Mexican Cultural Institute, photo by George Villanueva.

Top photograph by courtesy Noel Escalante

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