Woodlands Institution

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Woodlands Institution

Main Building
Construction Began 1876
Opened 1878
Closed 1997
Demolished 2007
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Single Building
Location New Westminster, BC
Peak Patient Population 1,400 in 1959
Alternate Names Provincial Insane Asylum


The Woodlands Institution, a notorious asylum on scenic, wooded lands that slope down to the Fraser River in New Westminster that became known as the "prison for the insane" shortly after it opened in 1878.

It was B.C.'s main facility for people with mental disabilities until it was closed in 1996. The property has been sold to private developers who are building condominiums at various locations on the site.


  • May 17, 1878: Opens as the Provincial Asylum for the Insane.
  • 1900: Woodlands, now called the Public Hospital for the Insane, has a capacity of 310 patients.
  • 1930s: Emphasis changes to the housing of people with developmental disabilities, and training and education become factors.
  • 1950: Its name is changed to Woodlands School.
  • 1959: Woodlands' resident population peaks at about 1,400.
  • 1970s: Woodlands houses about 800 residents, 75 per cent of them described as severely or profoundly retarded. It has about 1,200 staff, including nurses, housekeepers, dietary staff, social workers, psychiatrists and physicians, and vocational instructors.
  • 1980s and '90s: Woodlands residents are gradually de-institutionalized and placed in community settings. By January 1996, only 70 residents remain, and later that year it becomes the last institution of its kind in B.C. to be closed permanently.

Source: B.C. ministry of children and family development.


In July of 2008, most of the remaining original building was destroyed by a 4 alarm fire. Article here