Riverview – An exploration of a closed down psyciatric hospital

Right off the Loughheed Highway in Coquitlam looms an enormous brick building fronting a large property that used to serve as a psychiatric hospital. The Riverview mental hospital was built in the early 1900s and was home to thousands of patients until it closed its doors in 2012 and is now a vastly empty and eerily intriguing location.

The West Lawn Building of Riverview Hospital
The West Lawn Building of Riverview Hospital

The property is over 90 hectares and has huge tall red brick buildings with boarded and broken windows, gardens spaces, and empty service buildings and housing. Even during the day there is an eerie feeling as we drove along the roads that wind between the large buildings. The occasional broken window and overgrown vegetation gives the old red brick buildings a sense of abandonment and neglect. If you peer into the windows there is nothing but darkness and dust. Yet I couldn’t help but anticipate seeing some dark figure flicker past the far window, which is unsettling to even the bravest explorers.

Peaking into the dark windows gave me the creeps
After only a few years the property is looking run down and abandoned – perfect for movie sets
The roadways and looming buildings felt like a bit of a maze
This window decal gave Riverview’s history some personality, and it made me sad

But as eerie as Riverview is, it is also very beautiful. The lush greenery that has settled into many of the building corners and the plentiful gardens and trees create a very enchanting landscape. The buildings are large and historic and their delicate decay is fascinating. The beautiful and creepy qualities of these old buildings are utilized by the film industry, and there were two movies filming at different locations of the property on the day that we visited. There were also a handful of people walking their dogs or just driving around gawking like we were.

The property is still maintained, but not to the extent that it used to be
Ferns and moss have made themselves at home
A lonely bench sits on the concrete base of an unfinished building
The West Lawn Building
The architecture and flora create a whimsical atmosphere
Steps leading to an unfinished lot are covered in lush moss

There has been controversy for Riverview in the past, including the use of patients in labourfor the neighbouring Colony Farms. The Canadian Register of Historic Places website states that the work was “a vital part of the therapy [that] included voluntary horticultural work, food production, and building maintenance.” The future of Riverview is uncertain, but in 2008 Riverview hospital was added to the register of Canada’s Historic Places.

One of the many large brick buildings at Riverview Hospital



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