Political debate continues to boil around the issue of whether or not St. Paul’s Hospital should be moved from its original site in downtown Vancouver to a completely different location in the False Creek Flats.
If so, what happens to the venerable red brick hospital building on Burrard Street, a landmark in downtown Vancouver?
The first St. Paul’s was a wood frame structure built by the famed Mother Joseph in 1894, just eight years after incorporation of the fledgling city; a new, Renaissance Revival-style structure replaced it in the great Edwardian-era boom. The German-born architect, Robert F. Tegen, had worked in architectural offices in New York and other eastern cities before moving to Portland. Tegen’s earlier work for the American Sisters of Providence made him a natural choice to design their new Vancouver facility.
With a floor plan shaped as a cross, the hospital was built of red brick, banded at the base, with extensive terracotta trim and a pantile roof. Terracotta came from Gladding, McBean & Company in Lincoln, California, and the new hospital opened in 1913. Flanking wings were added between 1931 and 1936, designed by architects Gardiner & Mercer. The hospital was later greatly expanded to the side and rear.
St. Paul’s Hospital is one of the city’s most significant heritage buildings and yet it is not legally protected. Serious alteration or even demolition is a possibility.
Providence Health Care has worked to maintain the core heritage building with new roofs and partial upgrades but significant challenges remain, including the need for seismic upgrade, additional space to handle projected patient volumes, and the need to provide modern patient-care standards.
If the hospital continues to operate in its current location, will the hard decisions sacrifice heritage? On the other hand, if the hospital moves, the fate of the historic structure is at best uncertain, as retrofitting a former hospital for new purposes would likely prove challenging.
Update January 2011: There appears to be renewed hope that St. Paul’s will remain at its downtown location – that it has occupied since 1894 – and be substantially rehabilitated. This will likely include retention of the heritage Burrard Building, which consists of the central block (R.F. Tegen, architect 1912-13) and the 1930s wings (Gardiner & Mercer, architects). The Burarrd Building is A-listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register and is a West End landmark.
Summary of the Heritage Vancouver & Vancouver Community Forums, “Does Heritage Matter”
Thursday, Nov 16, 2006, at the Vancouver Museum
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