This Week in History, 1901: Plans for a “New” Saint-Paul Hospital Unveiled

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When the original St. Paul’s Hospital opened on November 20, 1894, it was housed in a relatively modest wooden structure that only had room for 25 beds.

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Construction crews have started building a new St. Paul’s Hospital on the False Creek Plains. The $ 2.174 billion project is expected to open in 2026 or 2027.

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St. Paul’s will move to a massive site that is almost three times its current footprint at 1081 Burrard Street. But this is not the first time that the hospital has undergone a major expansion.

When the first St. Paul’s opened on November 20, 1894, it was in a relatively modest wooden structure that only had room for 25 beds.

A photo in the Vancouver Archives shows a beautiful Victorian structure with floor-to-ceiling windows at the northeast corner and a four-story central section topped by an open-air dome and cross. It looks more like a school than a hospital.

St. Paul's Hospital on Burrard Street, circa 1898. Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: Bu N426
St. Paul’s Hospital on Burrard Street, circa 1898. Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: Bu N426 PNG

But the city exploded during the Klondike Gold Rush and demand increased. On July 27, 1901, the Daily Province unveiled a “sketch plan” for a “new” St. Paul’s “almost exactly doubling the current capacity” to 100 patients.

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“A new operating room with the most modern equipment, with sterilization rooms and sterilizers, will be at the corner of Pendrell and Burrard,” the description of the illustration reads. “The whole building (is) an exact copy of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Portland, one of the most beautiful on the continent.”

This would make sense, because the founder of St. Paul’s, Mother Mary Frederick, had come from Portland, Oregon, to build the hospital. Both St. Vincent in Portland and St. Paul’s were built by the Sisters of Charity of Providence, a Catholic order of nuns founded in Quebec.

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Illustration of “New St. Paul’s Hospital” from the Vancouver Daily Province dated July 27, 1901. PNG

St. Paul’s was named in honor of Bishop Paul Durieu, the first Bishop of New Westminster. According to a 1969 Aileen Campbell story in the province, the original four-story building was 78 feet long and 48 feet wide and was built in the current location of the South Wing.

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The addition was opened on October 1, 1904.

“The new wing has a 45-foot frontage on Pendrell, with wide verandas facing the sun all around and on each floor,” the province reported.

“This veranda feature was particularly commented on (on opening), as the modern idea of ​​giving the patient plenty of sun and fresh air is now universally adopted.

“The building is four floors. On the ground floor there are nine private bedrooms, a large dining room and a common room. This room will most likely be used as a sailor’s room, the hospital being the port’s navy hospital.

The examination room was on the first floor. The second floor had 11 private bedrooms and three common rooms, while the top floor was “entirely for the use of the sisters” and included “a beautifully appointed chapel, a community hall and a dormitory”.

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The hospital operating room remained in the original building from 1894, but has been updated. A separate two-storey building was constructed behind the main structure for contagious diseases.

A photo of St. Paul’s from 1904 shows that it was also made of wood and attached to the original 1894 building on the south side. But it also turned out to be too small for Vancouver, which nearly quadrupled from around 27,000 in 1901 to over 100,000 in 1911.

St. Paul's Hospital, April 24, 1923. Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: Bu N251
St. Paul’s Hospital, April 24, 1923. Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: Bu N251 PNG

Thus, in 1912-13, present-day St. Paul’s was built. It was originally just the central part, but was enlarged with a north wing in 1931 and a south wing in 1940, which added 500 more beds between them. Modern 10 story additions were added in 1983 and 1991.

It is not known what portion of present-day St. Paul’s will be retained in the redevelopment of the Burrard site. It is listed as an A heritage, the highest ranking, on the Vancouver Heritage Register. But it is not designated, so it could be demolished. The structure is reinforced concrete with a brick and terracotta facade, and requires an expensive seismic upgrade for earthquakes.

Developer Concord-Pacific has reportedly paid nearly $ 1 billion for the St. Paul site. At the time of the sale, Concord Vice President Peter Webb said: “I imagine that by working with the city and the heritage group within the city, we will ensure that the heritage element is taken into account, that’s for sure. “

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Addition of a new south wing to St Paul's Hospital, circa 1939-45.  Leonard Frank / Vancouver Archives AM1376-: 2015-044.01
Addition of a new south wing to St Paul’s Hospital, circa 1939-45. Leonard Frank / Vancouver Archives AM1376-: 2015-044.01 Photo by Léonard Frank /PNG
The Sisters of Providence established St. Vincent Hospital, Oregon's first permanent hospital, in 1875, at NW 12th and Marshall in Portland.  The second St. Vincent Hospital, shown here in 1909, was opened in 1895. It was located on hilly land on NW Westover Rd. Between Glisan and Irving streets.  This building was demolished in the late 1970s. Postcard from the Portland Archives;  Vintage Portland site description.
The Sisters of Providence established St. Vincent Hospital, Oregon’s first permanent hospital, in 1875, at NW 12th and Marshall in Portland. The second St. Vincent Hospital, shown here in 1909, was opened in 1895. It was located on hilly land on NW Westover Rd. Between Glisan and Irving streets. This building was demolished in the late 1970s. Postcard from the Portland Archives; Vintage Portland site description. PNG
Population Growth in Western Cities, 1901-1-1911. From Norbert MacDonald's A Critical Growth Cycle For Vancouver, 1901-1914 in BC Studies, Spring 1973.
Population Growth in Western Cities, 1901-1-1911. From Norbert MacDonald’s A Critical Growth Cycle For Vancouver, 1901-1914 in BC Studies, Spring 1973.

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