Riverview Hospital by iPhone

Riverview-5Riverview Hospital was a mental health facility located in Coquitlam, BC.  Construction on this site began in 1904, and the site provided mental health care until its closure in 2012.  At it’s peak Riverview Hospital had a population of 4,762 mental health patients and 2,200 staff members.

For several years I worked at an ambulance station located on this site, and would stop often and take pictures on my iPhone driving to or from the station (all of these pics were taken and edited on my phone).  Though the picture quality isn’t that of my dSLRs (or my beloved Fuji x100s) I have to say they capture the feel of this historic site.

West Lawn, one of the 5 main buildings at Riverview, opened in 1913.  It was originally called the hospital for the Mind.

Riverview-13West Lawn opened with 340 patients, but within 3 years was overcrowded with a population of 687 patients.  It seems hospital overcrowding was problem a century ago too.

The architecture of these buildings is amazing, though they now sit vacant and decrepit.

The grounds of Riverview, however, are beautiful park land… derived from a long term partnership with the UBC Botanical Society.

Riverview-1Other large buildings were soon built, including the Acute Psychiatry Unit, also called Centre Lawn, which opened in 1924.

East Lawn, a large building that housed 675 female mental health patients, opened in 1930.

Riverview eventually grew to about 80 buildings, and was a self sufficient city for all intents and purposes.  It had a fire hall, post office, bus station, bowling alley, cinema, cemetery, bakery, chapel, and sports fields.

A work farm was located on the south side of Lougheed Highway, and many of the residents of Riverview worked this farm.

Riverview-6At one point the farm, using mostly patient labour, produced 700 tons of crop and 100,000 litres of milk per year.

The 350 bed Crease Clinic opened in 1949.  It housed voluntary patients who could stay for a maximum of four months, and who could terminate their hospitalization at anytime.  This was considered a break through (allowing patients to seek voluntary admission), in that it put mental illness on par with physical illness.

Finally in 1955, the Tuberculosis Unit (now called North Lawn) opened, marking the peak of patient residence.








Many different psychiatric treatments were used over the years at Riverview Hospital, including drug therapy, electric shock therapy, lobotomies, and counselling.

In 1965 the Province of BC passed a new BC Mental Health Act that encouraged locally operated mental health services.  This was the beginning of the decline of services offered at Riverview, until it’s ultimate closure in 2012.









The buildings and grounds of Riverview are now empty except for a very few exceptions.  
 These pictures show the grounds as they sit now, a slightly creepy reminder of a time since past.










This final image of an empty chair sitting outside of Centre Lawn is my favourite from the shoot.  So many questions come to mind….


This photo essay was a reminder that you don’t always need a $5,000 camera, nor do you  always need a backpack of lenses.

Chase Jarvis said “the best camera is the one you have with you”.  It allows you to capture the opportunity in front of you, and forces you to think outside of the box with your photography.

Jim Richardson said “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff”.

I can’t think of many things more interesting than Riverview Hospital.