Friday, September 4, 2015


From 1920 to 1921, a group of five Tudor-Revival cottages were built on Essondale property. These were to house incorrigible youth. The Provincial Industrial School for Boys was the start of the provincial juvenile reformatory system. 

The school took the boys who were confined by law and saw they received an education, industrial training and moral rehabilitation. Essondale was chosen for the location because it was isolated.

The school became known as BISCO - Boys Industrial School, Coquitlam - and it made use of the medical and psychiatric care at Essondale. The boys weren't isolated from the patients and staff at the hospital. They participated in social and recreational activities on the grounds. The school had its own farm, which provided, milk, beef, veal, pork, chicken, eggs and vegetables to the school kitchen.

The Colony Farm was recognized as one of the finest farming operations by the 1920s. Most of the food for Essondale was produced through the piggery, land, dairy and cannery. The Holstein herd was the largest in BC and the cows were milked four times a day by hand thus making the milkers the majority of the workforce at Essondale.

The farm grew grain, pumpkin, turnips, celery, onions, beets, rhubarb, lettuce and corn. Fruit such as pears, peaches, apricots and apples, as well as various vegetables, were preserved in the cannery. Jam was also made in the cannery.

The Acute Psychopathic unit, Essondale's second building, opened in November of 1924. It was later known as Centre Lawn and originally held 300 beds.

Another event in November of 1924 was the arrival of Miss Van Wyck. Van Wyck was first Lady Superintendent, the first registered nurse at Essondale and the hospital's first nurse with post graduate training in mental illness.

Centre Lawn eased the overcrowding at Essondale but the women's department at the Public Hospital for the Insane in New Westminster was overflowing with female patients so plans were put in place to open a permanent Chronic Building at Essondale for those patients.

Here's a brief look at mental care in the 1920s at Essondale.

Occupation continued to be the main source of therapy, women's duties included sewing and mending of clothing and linens. Men who were too mentally ill to engage in industrial work were found work in other areas.

The most common ailment for those admitted to Essondale in 1925 was manic depression.

In 1925, 1,884 patients resided at Essondale. 73 were at home, on probation. Only 2 patients escaped. There was 475 new admissions and in total, 2,434 patients were treated. 142 died and 297 were discharged.

Thanks to the PDF, Riverview, A Legacy of Care and Compassion for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill


  1. Mental health at that time in BC was way more caring than in other parts of the world. Koodos for their compassion.

    1. A lot of that area has been redeveloped. But there is still a Colony Farm. In a year or two when I get a vehicle, I want to go out and see it.