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In pictures: Riverview at the centre of evolving attitudes toward mental health

The B.C. government is seeking public input on the future of the buildings and grounds of the former mental hospital. The head of the B.C. Schizophrenic Society wants the facility to stay involved in health care, pointing out that many former patients discharged in the move to deinstitutionalize are now living on the street

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A look towards the grounds at Riverview Hospital, a former mental health facility, from the West Lawn building.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

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Farm Cottage, Essondale, B.C., Jan. 20, 1930. In 1907, medical superintendent Charles Doherty tried a new way of treating the mentally ill. His experiment involved transferring patients from the New Westminster Provincial Hospital for the Insane to the new 1,000-acre (400-hectare) Essondale site in Coquitlam, where they were put to work. Male patients cleared forests at the junction of the Coquitlam and Fraser Rivers, and constructed dikes and 42 miles (68 kilometres) of underdrains. By 1910, they had converted 500 acres (200 hectares) into agricultural land. Colony Farm, created to provide food for the New Westminster Provincial Hospital for the Insane, became one of the province’s outstanding agricultural successes. In 1913, male patients worked on the neighbouring stock farm. Seventeen years later, female patients joined in, attending to domestic work.

Charles Stride/The Stride Studios, New Westminster, B.C. / City of Vancouver Archives

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Female Chronic Building under construction, October 7, 1929. This building was opened in 1930 and later became known as the East Lawn Building. Established in 1904, the Riverview Hospital is a provincially-owned psychiatric facility and an extraordinary cultural landscape comprised of 244 acres and 80 buildings (including 5 massive brick wards) on a hillside overlooking the Fraser River.

City of Vancouver Archives

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Eddondale Provincial Mental Hosital "Colony Farm", c. 1914. For most of the 20th century, Riverview was at the forefront of North American mental health theory and practice. Originally called The Hospital for the Mind and Essondale, it was developed as a community where the mentally ill could live purposeful lives in their own sanctuary. A vital part of the therapy included voluntary horticultural work, food production, and building maintenance. Housing over 4,300 patients at its peak, by 2009 only 250 active beds remained and this was reduced to about 70 by 2012.

John Davidson / City of Vancouver Archives

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Essondale Provincial Mental Hospital (now Riverview Hospital) -- the botanical garden [between 1911 and 1916]. 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. The botanical garden was moved to the new University of British Columbia in 1916, but the arboretum and nursery remained. The provincial government had purchased 1,000 acres in then-rural Coquitlam for the construction of Riverview Hospital and the adjacent Colony Farm lands in 1904.

City of Vancouver Archives

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The Crease Clinic building at Riverview Hospital, a former mental health facility, in Coquitlam.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

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A bench outside the West Lawn building at the former Riverview Hospital.

Rafal Gerszak/Rafal Gerszak

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The Centre Lawn building at the former Riverview Hospital in Coquitlam, B.C. The picturesque surroundings bely the facility’s dark history.

Rafal Gerszak/Rafal Gerszak

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A worker prepares the Crease Clinic building for a movie shoot at the former Riverview Hospital, February 25, 2014.

Rafal Gerszak/Rafal Gerszak

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Empty cottages on the grounds of Riverview Hospital, a former mental health facility, in Coquitlam, B.C.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

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West Lawn building at Riverview Hospital, a former mental health facility, in Coquitlam, B.C.

Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

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View of Essondale on the slopes above Colony Farm. Essondale was named in honour of Dr. Henry Esson Young, the Minister of Education and Provincial Secretary who heavily advocated the new hospital. c. 1914. Now known as Riverview Hospital.

John Davidson/City of Vancouver Archives

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Male Chronic Building (West Lawn) at the Provincial Mental Hospital, Essondale, near Coquitlam, British Columbia, ca. 1915.

W.J. Moore/City of Vancouver Archives

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Veteran’s Unit under construction, c. 1931. The Veteran's Unit opened in 1934 and would eventually become part of the Crease Clinic.

City of Vancouver Archives

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Exterior of Essondale Provincial Mental Hospital (later Riverview Hospital) - Female Chronic Building (later called East Lawn Building), c. 1931.

City of Vancouver Archives

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