One of the landmarks of downtown Vancouver, the venerable red-brick St. Paul’s Hospital built on Burrard Street, may soon be just a memory.
Political questions swirl around the issue of whether or not the hospital should be moved — from its original site in downtown Vancouver — to a completely different location in the False Creek Flats.
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. During the great Edwardian-era boom, it was replaced with a new, Renaissance Revival-style structure.
With a floor plan laid out in the shape of a cross, this landmark was built of red brick, banded at the base, with extensive terracotta trim and a pantile roof. Terracotta for this project was ordered from Gladding, McBean & Company in Lincoln, California, and the new hospital opened in 1913. 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.
As the city’s population expanded, so too did the hospital, and 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 A-listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register and is considered one of the city’s most significant heritage buildings. However, it is not legally protected and therefore could be subject to serious alteration or even demolition.
Should the hospital move, the fate of the historic structure is unknown. We only need to look up Burrard Street at what will remain of the YMCA — a partial façade — to see what could await St. Paul’s, even with a sympathetic private developer.