Riverview Mental Hospital – West Lawn

Warning: this post is picture heavy as West Lawn is my favourite building on the property and the building that I have been inside the most.

Known as the “Male Chronic Wing”, West lawn was the first of the permanent buildings to be erected on the bench land to the north of Colony Farm, the area known at that time as Mount Coquitlam. The building was originally named “The Hospital for the Mind at Mount Coquitlam”.

In 1909 the BC provincial government announced a competition open to architects to design a new hospital complex to house 480 mentally ill male patients. The design of BC architect Henry Sandham Griffith was chosen, and construction was started in 1910 by the Westholme Lumber Company of Victoria. The Westholme Lumber Company is known as a contractor for other well known buildings such as the Craigdarrooch Castle in Victoria and the Dominion block buildings in Vancouver and New Westminister. Henry Griffith worked closely with Westholme, designing the Dominion block buildings.

West lawn is a four story reinforced concrete structure; the structure is cast concrete, with concrete walls backing the brick facades. The concrete base has been articulated as large blocks; stone blocks have been used for the window sills. The central entry portico is two storys high, with giant orderdoric columns. Carrera marble was imported from Italy for the stair wells and showers. There are 2 large balconeys above the front door entry; and there are sunporches at both ends of the structure fenced in by wrought iron bars to prevent patients from jumping to their deaths.

On April 1st, 1913, The Hospital for the Mind at Mount Coquitlam opened its doors for the reception of 340 of the most seriously ill male patients transferred from the Provincial Asylum (Woodlands) in New Westminister. The building was renamed Essondale after Henry Esson Young, the Provincial secretary at the time. By the end of 1913, Essondale housed 919 patients, heavily outdoing the buildings capacity.

At this time, the available treatment for insanity was simple: herbal tonics and lots of rest in a pleasant country setting, offering a safe and peaceful environment with plenty of fresh air. This new kind of institution was a breakthrough in mental health care. In the early days of Essondale, it was very distant and remote; it even had its own train stop across from the main entrance.

Along with herbal teas and relaxing, treatment included work therapy, somewhere along the lines of “farming as a cure for madness”. The theory was to take progressive steps away from earlier repressive measures such as confinement and punishment. The patients worked on Colony Farm, which at one point produced more than 700 tons of crops and one hundred thousand liters of milk a year. The men worked with teams of Clydesdale horses, helped care for pigs, and milked the largest herd of Holstein cows in BC.

Hydrotherapy, another treatment common in the early 1900s, replaced the use of opium and chloral hydrate as sedatives.

Years later, in 1950, Essondale was renamed as the West Lawn Building, as it was the westernmost of the Lawn buildings.

Regional clinics began drawing patients from Riverview, and both advances in treatment and eventual cutbacks in funding resulted in fewer people receiving mental health care province wide.  In 1983, West Lawn transferred its last patients and closed its doors forever.




12 thoughts on “Riverview Mental Hospital – West Lawn

  1. Great pictures I was in riverview in 1962 and 1968 for agrophobia I had a great time I was there on an adult basis to learn to teach myself relaxation exercises however I was fascinated with the place my first stay place was crease and later Wes lawn building I was on a1 and a 2 and c4 as punishment lol I love the suicide cage it on the west side I studied the entire building right up to tithe attic as I had all piviliges I would have my own rooms to hang out in the staff never went up in the attic and the dumb waiters elevator rooms I even had fun prying a window loose a1 but towards the back ares c4 ward was bad the patients where mistreated and killed I reported this to RCMP officer brookbank who put me under protection I had radio gear on a2 ward bedroom west dorm and a gun collection see my lawyer r Flynn marr in Canada as we where going to use this for a gun control case anyway dr Alice Cramer was the head doctor of weslawn yes LSD was used and also Hollywood hospital for my mother if you want to know anything about all if esdondale or west lawn write me I have all the names and events and can tell you what the pictures you took are awesome thsnks I would live to explore the place again the radio gear in west lawn I had took up a bed space so I had to secretly move all the beds a foot to gave my gear nect to me the staff gave permission the steel cages windows on a1 A2 where being replaced by picture windows lots of work

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am looking for information on my father James Farmer who was there in 1961. I was 9 years old then and knew nothing of what was happening to him


  2. hey im a photography student looking to use this as a shot location. i was curious what you had to do to gain access or if there is any sort of permission i’d have to get to shoot here. i’m assuming since you shot here so recently they have yet to tear this down, but correct me if im wrong. any info you could pass along would be great thanks.
    P.S. awesome pictures they’re what made me decide to want to shoot here.


  3. More to write about to whoever has this blog I was also in hillside from west lawn for a short time ,I made alternative energy devices that where taken away from me because I burned my eyes out I would often go off the grounds to teds tv repair shop and buy electronics components for my interests and guns as no permits where needed my storage area was A 2 ward and A 1 ward under my bed and beside my bed was all the electrical equipment plus a unit called a woppler a diathermy machine as behind west lawn was a gated scrap yard , on a hot summer day my friend and I hauled this up the back stairs of west lawn to A2 ward 50 bed dormitory I had to move all the beds at least a foot for acomidate my electronics collection , well Dr sliechter my doc said let’s put the guns in the dispencery I agreed and the Dr said if you ever get sick of this place let me know and I’ll give you the release forms well ok going back on my stay in crease clinic where I had huge fun lots of girl friends firing off miniatures cannons the staff did not like that and confiscated my cannon gave it to my dad when he visited anyway my first introduction to west lawn was I refused to go to school they put me up on C4 ward where I witnessed the beatings and abuse and murder that I reported to con brookbank of the rcmp who put me under protection as the staff cornered me in the old power house and laundry rooms ,they used to burn coal , and threatened me as I reported the beatings , I was in C4 3 times then later I was put on A1. Oh I got to read my files psychoneotic phobic react was my title Remember I was in crease early 60s three months 5hen later 1968 for 15 months my treatments where electro shock and insulin shock however they appolized after they realized what I had and my treatment was relaxation exercises Jim Quincy of c cure however I wanted to take Valium they did not want to give me drugs. However they had me in chloropalromzine in the early days but they realized it was a error so years later in 1968 I returned in crease on weekends the middle section administration myself and girlfriends would exspoles the offices and chapple plus labs it was easy to open the doors found a huge pile of pstientrecords tossed in the garbage I might still have these oh yes my mother was put in crease clinic after my visits and after the Lsd treatments at Hollywood hospital in new Westminster dr Maclean and dr macfarlane ok also in west lawn dr hitching s wanted to test Lsd on patients along with Dr Alice Kramer you see I had lots of time on my hands listing to these folks I found my own private section of west lawn the very top floors above the C4 And A4 wards where abandoned so I get up there and use them ha ha they had bars on these wards so I think it was used for criminals so if I wanted to get away I just went up to these wards top story , ok my jobs I had was janitor work in vallyview so I got to see all that my other job was DJ CLOSED circuit radio station playing records in the sound proof room oh I played a song they hated they are coming to take me away ,I got into truoble anyway I was helper to David steel of the electronics section as TV sets needed to be repaired so I got to see all wards threwout river veiw invluding colony farm the R series of wards that was scary lots of psycho paths elevators and lots of bars and we where protected mass murders one was trying to be prepared fir the outside world threw hillside Ron Miltilda who Sheba he got a bit strange he was sent back to the farm , lots suicides also crease clinic library a judge patient hung himself from the steam pipes I found him looking threw the windows outside it was a weekend I ran inside grabbed the culvert pipe ashtray holder and tried breaking the door staff came running I said whst I saw they got keys then the rcmp came I had to give a statement Other suicieds where. Covers up up loiui szabo hung himself due to inmproper meds he needed lithium salts for his depression mr Franklin of hillside wanted no mention of it
    Oh yes always remember mrs popavitch nurse telling me what’s insane in here or out there standing in dorm 1 A2 ward looking out the window rainy day hmm mrs vortich social worker was another interesting character I hung around with the staff a lot I had a girl friend nurse a candy stripper as they where called she wanted to take me out on weekends the senior staff objected oh well there where let’s say in the middle of crease clinic or the old dumb waiters in the tunnels rooms long forgotten wink wink and west lawn upper floors wink wink Marie wow fun in the psychological room ,Ann Coulter wow
    Rose jones wanted to Mary me oops ok oh my love Nancy Jane snider are you out there my love god she was hot pheww wow oh yes chloral hydrate we picked the lock on the dispensary and had a party Dixie cups size drinks bill ball and I plus others A4 ward crease it was ok it was used normally for helping sleepning oh yes and free tobacco Coco time was at ten o’clock on ward C4 it was peanut butter samwitches and coco on one of those hard dark plastic trays on A1 or A 2 it was served more civilized C4 was a back ward male staff only Vets and cancer of the brain and brain damage folks where there C4 was used for punishment for folks who did not conform like me usual a week long I had a week long and a month long other where there who simply smoked joints and got caught
    Lots of business men where there and in crease president of dominion motors escaping lawyers or law suites and or taxes had bottles of booze stowed away a journalist was there David comma a reporter lol ohhhhh I could go on forever to the reader it looks crazy but I can tell you show you every corners on the entire complex plus the river view files exist as when in1978 gun control case the crown was going to use these files my lawyer r Flynn mark mentioned this I told Flynn I had a gun collection in west lawn and almost fainted he asked me can I prove it I said yes I have all the receipts however the crown never used the files. The case was thrown out of court the judge Cronin reasons for judgment was he fel I was being entrapment he order all of my 50 caliber guns returned to me the rcmp officer was fired and provincial omsbudmsn Karl Friedman went after the rcmp the Vancouver news media’s covered the case for two years I got all the news papers clipping Alan Edwards of bctv Coverd my stories on this later on I had hundreds of tv show that’s another story but I hope somehow somebody will read this looking for answers or doing a documentary I get to see the building in many tv shows x files fringe and others
    Woodland school I broke into in 2004 but I met many folks who where inside and people investigating the place grave markers where stolen by developers one devolper was Dave pickton brother of willy pickton After all WESTLEY military surplus store on front street I met many folks and officials later Wes Baker was featured in one if my tv shows beyond invention but I seam to be invisible to folks the rcmp interviewing folks in Wes store I was sitting there listening the rcmp asked me anything or take there interviews private interesting stuff anyway that’s leading into a huge story Wes store got hit by fire , woodlands burned to the ground x files was filmed in there my interview with fix tv strange universe testiness ok I must stop now


  4. Sorry about my spelling errors but I get these bursts of writting lots to mention like our protest firing up a tractor going to bulldoze the pool across from hillside More later then Pennington hall east lawn the woman’s center wink wink the fish pond comes I n handy on hot days I wander if the patients records I found in the trash are still there ? It’s in the tunnel and the off room where the dumb waiters are inside on top also I stashed stuff on the large steam pipe crease tunnel to the main kitchen great food fresh from Colony farm the building behind crease tunnel to it hmmmm
    North lawn was a very odd place medical lobotomies going in there and tb folks vets nurses training building other places the tuck shop , the boiler screw fed coal black smoke nurses residents wink wink ok more another time


  5. I learned lots it set me to revaluate what is it all about in this human realm greatest learning school
    A very rare and very special to have gone threw all of this I see what the human situation realy is


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s