Monday, August 24, 2015

The Decline of Riverview

These photos were taken from a moving bus so I apologize for the weird angle they are on.

In 1904, a community for the mentally ill was in existence in the lower mainland. Then called The Hospital for the Mind and Essondale, this community was where the mentally ill could live productive lives in their own sanctuary. It was a community farm, which the mentally ill took care of. What a great idea!

For most of the twentieth century, this hospital - known today as Riverview - was at the forefront of mental health theory and practice. An important part of the therapy was voluntary horticultural work, food production and building maintenance. At its peak, Riverview housed 4,300 patients but by 2009, only 250 active beds remained and by 2012, that number was reduced to 70.

This psychiatric unit consisted of 244 acres and 80 buildings overlooking the Fraser River. Five of those buildings were brick wards. It was gorgeous in its heyday.

But the 1990s, many of Riverview's programs were closed the province was selling off many of the land parcels. The future of this grand property was becoming a concern for the residents of Coquitlam. The park-like setting, gardens, architectural heritage and history of the grounds, struck a chord with people in the area.

In 2005, the City of Coquitlam called for the lands to be held in public ownership and to protect the architectural and botanical heritage. Two years later, the province announced its intention to turn the grounds into high-rise market housing as well as social housing and homes for the mentally ill. 7,000 units of more were going to be created.

The reaction was swift. And negative. The City of Coquitlam stated the land should remain publicly owned and market housing not be considered. A petition was drawn up and more than 13,000 signatures were gathered. The province backed off.

Thanks to National Trust Canada for the above information. On Wednesday, I will tell you more.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you Barb. Keep watching, I write Monday, Wednesday and Friday and this week is all on the history of Riverview. Next week probably as well.