Riverview Mental Hospital was first located in Victoria and named Royal Hospital. Open in 1872, it was the first mental healthcare facility of British Colombia. In 1878, Royal Hospital was closed because of overcrowding and its patients had to move to the new Provincial Asylum for the Insane, which also happened to face overcrowding later on. In 1904, the provincial government bought a thousand fertile acres (405 hectares) where the Coquitlam and Fraser Rivers meet, to be used as a farm to provide both food and an oppotunity for rehabilitative labour for patients of a mental health facility to be built on the adjacent uplands.
Between 1924 and 1955, Riverview Mental Hospital kept on growing, opening several new units: Acute Psychopathic Unit, Female Chronic Unit, Veteran's Unit, etc. However, during the following decades, fewer and fewer people received healthcare. This was largely due to the financial cut backs of mental health treatments and the idea of trying to shift the costs to hopefully a more humane and effective community-based health service. Although generally people attribute this shift due to the advances in medications, scientific review shows that there has been a long-term worsening of recovery among mentally ill people since the introduction of chronic medication protocols. This brought about the closure of some units and the provincial government sold part of Riverview lands which are now residential areas. The activity of Colony Farm itself started to reduce and be less and less regular. When a further conversion into residential lands was suggested, the city refused and announced that lands and buildings of Riverview Hospital would be protected in order to remain a place of mental healthcare facilities. This place was added to the Canadian register of Historic Places in 2009.
However, after the closing of several units these last decades and the last removal of patients from the Hospital to Centre Lawn, Riverview mental Hospital closed in July 2012.
As Riverview Lands have been registered on the City of Coquitlam's Community Heritage Register and therefore on the British Columbia Register of Historic Places and the Canadian Register of Historic Places, their value is very important and the heritage part cannot be denied in the plans for their future.
The overall issue of the future development of the Lands considering the preservation of the heritage values has been meticulously studied and analyzed in the Heritage Conservation Plan that was published online on the September 24th of 2013.
This plan presents with details how to manage the preservation of the buildings while managing the best future and development as possible for these Lands. We not only want to promote these ideas but we also want to preserve the heritage of the mental healthcare notion. Indeed, when Riverview was first built, it was the most advanced center in the World for mental healthcare, with gardens where the patients could walk, entertain and take care of plants for their rehabilitation.
What we suggest is not only to preserve the heritage of the buildings but also to preserve the heritage of the mental healthcare centre. This is why we want to reopen Riverview as a Wellness Centre and aiming at having this centre becoming the most advanced mental health medical centre and methodologies.
Riverview Hospital, first called Essondale (for Dr. Esson Young, the provincial secretary and minister of education), was formally dedicated in 1911. Its agricultural component was called Colony Farm. "The fertile fields", says a 1995 report written by Michael McPhee, "produced vegetables, meat and dairy products as well as hay for the Clydesdale horses used to till the fields. Colony Farm became one of British Columbia's earliest and most outstanding agricultural successes". Using the rehabilitative labour concept, patients of the Hospital contributed to the Colony Farm production of crops and milk. As gardening and taking care of plants was proven to have health benefits for the patients, an arboretum, nursery and a botanical garden were set up on the hospital land. Today, the arboretum and nursery still remain.
Fires and the 1948 flood dealt severe blows to the farm, but it came through and survived until 1983, when the economic restraint policies of the provincial government of the time forced its closure after more than seventy years of productive life.