The cultural landscape that is the Riverview Lands (Lands) is the result of the integration of built features and the natural environment. This is reflected in the built, cultivated and natural landscape elements we see on the site, patterns of human activity and use of the Lands, and shared community and cultural meanings among people.
For nearly 100 years, the Lands have been a centre for the treatment of mental illness and addiction, expanding over the decades to accommodate new health care facilities and other institutions such as the Provincial Industrial School for Boys. In August 2012 the use of the Lands as a provincial mental health hospital will come to an end.
The 244-acre site currently holds almost 80 buildings with construction dates ranging from 1913 to 2008, with a wide range of functions related to the hospital and other site uses. The tree collection is extensive, with1900 inventoried trees representing 230 varieties from the temperate climates of North America, Europe, Asia Minor, and Africa.
A detailed chronology of the site recognizes five major eras in the site’s history:
- A natural territory since time immemorial, the natural areas, ravines and watercourses provide an ecological connection to the natural world.
- The colonial and post-colonial period to 1904 focuses on the early uses of the land, its connection by the CPR Railway and early roadways and its subdivision. By 1901 the four district lots that made up the Provincial Hospital for the Insane Lands had been crown granted to individual owners. The purchase of the Lands by the provincial government in 1904 set the stage for the beginnings of the hospital – originally called Essondale.
- Essondale beginnings characterizes the site from 1904 to 1930, a time defined as a non-interventionist and moral therapy period. This was a time when work, recreation and restraint were the primary modes of treatment. During this period, the Boys’ Industrial School was completed at the north end of the property, emphasizing work as a cure for delinquency. John Davidson arrived to establish his botanical nursery, while subsequent gardeners implemented the beginnings of a grand landscape theme.
- During the era of institutionalized intervention, Riverview Hospital’s mental health patient numbers grew. By the 1950s the hospital, designed for 1800 patients, had grown into a self-sufficient community with 4300 patients plus employees living on the site. The treatment model shifted to intervention through science. Essondale is renamed Riverview Hospital (1966).
- De-institutionalized care was the result of decline of the asylum/institution model and a shift in focus to the use of anti-psychotic drugs, allowing more patients to be treated in the community.
Throughout each era, the characteristics of the buildings and landscape changed and evolved, resulting in the layered cultural landscape we see today.
For a chronology of the Riverview Lands visit http://www.bcmhas.ca/AboutUs/History.htm
To learn more about the Riverview Lands visit http://accommodationandrealestate.gov.bc.ca/Major_Property_Updates/Riverview/