Description of Historic Place
Riverview is the site of a provincially-owned psychiatric hospital, located on an east-sloping site bordered to the east by Lougheed Highway. The 98.75-hectare site is comprised of the uphill portion of a 405-hectare site that first housed the Hospital for the Mind at Mount Coquitlam. There are numerous buildings on the site, including several massive masonry wards, hospital structures, housing, service buildings and an active cemetery. Access roads are arranged in a linear manner that follows the natural topographic contours, and there are long, open vistas to the east across the Coquitlam River. Associated with the site and the buildings are thousands of mature trees and plantings, including many notably rare and large specimen trees. Natural meadows, ravines and watercourses provide an ecological connection to Colony Farm to the east and Riverview Forest to the west. Riverview is a legacy of over a century of therapeutic care, and remains a working hospital and a sanctuary for patients.
The grouping of buildings, landscape features and infrastructure at Riverview forms a unique campus of mental health care unparalleled in western Canada.
Value: Therapeutic Integration of Buildings and Landscape
Riverview is valued as the showcase of a revolutionary therapeutic paradigm reflected in the integration of a grand designed landscape of buildings, horticultural features and therapy. In addition to its hospital function, Riverview was the site of western Canada's first true botanical garden. John Davidson, the first Provincial Botanist, and Edward Bence Stinchcombe, overseer of the grounds and works, were responsible for this vision and its execution. In 1917, some 25,000 trees and shrubs were transferred to the newly-established UBC Botanical Gardens, and an integrated landscape design for Riverview was developed, based on the English romantic tradition. The exotic tree species on the site, as well as stands of mature indigenous trees, are some of the oldest and largest in the Lower Mainland. In 1951, staff member Art Finnie, an occupational therapist, and patients built a pioneer horticultural therapy garden later known as 'Finnie's Garden', still maintained to the present day. The site was also used as a nursery that supplied trees for public work projects throughout the province; some rows of nursery trees are still visible on the site.
Value: Henry Esson Young and Innovations in Mental Health
The driving force behind the establishment of the site was Dr. Henry Esson Young, Provincial Secretary and Minister of Education. Convinced of the therapeutic benefits of a natural setting in the treatment of mental illness, Young integrated highly successful occupational and recreational therapies into the design of the complex. Patients were tasked on a voluntary basis to maintain the gardens, buildings and farms, providing outdoor recreation, purpose and valuable job skills. Recognized as a model of psychiatric health care, Riverview was one of the most progressive asylums in North America, and later received funding from the Rockefeller Foundation.
Riverview is valued as a modern legacy of a self-sufficient, contained community with strong ties to the broader community in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam, as well as a vital part of the regional economy. In combination with Colony Farm, Riverview supplied its own vegetables, fruits, dairy and meat products for both patients and staff, had its own power plant, central steam heat system, water supply, train station, employee housing and school. At its peak year in 1956, there were over 4,300 patients and 2,200 staff. Public recreational and educational use of the site continues to this day.
The value of Riverview also lies in its high-quality architecture, orchestrated for many decades with remarkable consistency in scale and materials, by the Provincial Department of Public Works. Several massive red-brick hospital buildings, laid out in a campus arrangement, demonstrate an early large-scale use of reinforced concrete. Structures for many different functions were added over time, designed in varied and changing styles but in a complimentary and coherent manner. Elegant detailing and high-quality construction demonstrated the province's pride in the site and concern for quality mental health care.
Riverview is an important ecological matrix, positioned between the Coquitlam River, Colony Farm and Riverview Forest, and harbours natural wildlife trails, salmon runs, and remnant meadows. With the site's sloping natural topography and unparalleled views to and from the site, Riverview is an ecological oasis preserved in a rapidly growing urban region.
Source: City of Coquitlam Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of Riverview include its:
- continuous use as a psychiatric hospital, represented by a unique collection of buildings, landscape and infrastructure developed over a century as a mental health care facility
- outstanding collection of architecture that supported a self-sufficient mental health care community, including massive masonry structures grouped around a lawn setting, and many other institutional, recreational, service and residential buildings located throughout the site
- elements of historic infrastructure, including early road alignments and access roads
- associated landscaping, including a collection of significant heritage trees, Finnie's Garden with associated fishpond, dry rock retaining walls built by patients, and remnants of a provincial nursery
- ecological features, such as natural meadows, watercourses, wildlife trails, salmon spawning areas and ravines