Riverview Hospital

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Riverview Hospital
Construction Began 1904
Opened 1913
Closed 2012
Current Status Preserved
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Coquitlam, BC
Peak Patient Population 4,306 in 1956
Alternate Names
  • Essondale


In 1872, Royal Hospital in Victoria was converted to British Columbia's first facility to house mentally ill patients. Due to overcrowding, Royal Hospital was closed and the patients moved to the new Provincial Asylum for the Insane in 1878. Again facing problems of overcrowding at the turn of the century, in 1904 the provincial government purchased 1,000 acres in then-rural Coquitlam for the construction of Riverview Hospital and the adjacent Colony Farm lands.

Patients were originally housed in temporary buildings, and in 1913 the building that would eventually be called West Lawn began treating the 300 most seriously ill male patients. By this time, Colony Farm was producing over 700 tons of crops and 20,000 gallons of milk in a year, using mostly patient labor. British Columbia's first Provincial Botanist, John Davidson, established an arboretum, nursery and a botanical garden on the hospital lands, often with the assistance of patients as there was a belief in the therapeutic value.[3] The botanical garden was moved to the new University of British Columbia in 1916, but the arboretum and nursery remained.

In 1924, the Acute Psychopathic Unit, later called Centre Lawn, opened. Then in 1930, the 675-bed Female Chronic Unit (later called East Lawn) opened. The first phase of what would eventually be called the Crease Clinic, the Veteran's Unit opened in 1934, with the second phase opened in 1949, giving Riverview its most iconic building. Finally in 1955, the Tuberculosis Unit (now called North Lawn) opened, marking the peak of patient residence.

Over the following decades, regional clinics began drawing patients from Riverview, and both advances in treatment and eventual cutbacks in funding resulted in fewer people receiving mental health care province-wide. In 1983, West Lawn closed and farming operations at Colony Farm were discontinued. In 1984, the provincial government sold 57 hectares (141 acres) of Riverview lands to Molnar Developments. Shortly afterward, this land was subdivided and became Riverview Heights, with about 250 single family homes. In 1992 the Crease Clinic closed, in 2005 the East Lawn building closed, in 2007 the North Lawn building was closed, and in early August 2012, the Centre Lawn building is scheduled to close as the last patient is moved out. Although most of these original buildings are all closed or closing, three new buildings, owned by the Fraser Health Authority, have opened in the last decade. The first being Connolly Lodge, which opened March 01, 2002; Cottonwood Lodge opened a few years later and last to open was Cypress Lodge on April 23, 2010. Together these three lodges have beds for around 72 patients.

Other buildings on Riverview Hospital grounds continue as mental health facilities, however their future is uncertain. The remaining 240 acres of this still-active hospital has been the subject of much controversy between developers, environmentalists, and conservationists. In 2005, the city's task force on the hospital lands rejected the idea of further housing on the lands and declared that the lands and buildings should be protected and remain as a mental health facility.


Main Image Gallery: Riverview Hospital


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