Heritage Vancouver Society highlights uncertain fate of historic Burrard Building at St. Paul’s Hospital

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Last summer, Providence Health Care announced the sale of the Paul’s Hospital site in Vancouver’s West End.

      Concord Pacific bought 1081 Burrard Street from the Catholic nonprofit for nearly $1 billion.

      Started in 1894, St. Paul’s is almost as old as the City of Vancouver.

      It will continue to operate until a new hospital is completed at 1002 Station Street in the Downtown Eastside in 2026.

      As Heritage Vancouver Society notes in a recent report, the “question of what comes next is crucial”.

      The heritage group states that the “gap caused by the moving of St. Paul’s” raises a number of concerns.

      “The vacuum that the moving of St. Paul’s would create is significant in terms of its importance for the local community as well as the potential loss of an architectural landmark,” Heritage Vancouver Society writes in its new Top 10 Watch List.

      It notes that the fate of the historic Burrard Building at St Paul’s “remains uncertain”.

      “Although the building is listed on the heritage resister as an “A”, it is not designated and therefore not protected,” the group stresses.

      In a 2012 report, Heritage Vancouver Society provides a detailed history of St. Paul’s:

      The original St. Paul’s Hospital was a 25-bed, 4-storey wood frame building designed and constructed by Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart. An accomplished carpenter and reputedly the first woman Architect of the Pacific Northwest, Mother Joseph was responsible for more than 30 hospitals, schools and homes for those in need. The land, then a piece of wilderness on Burrard Street, had been acquired for the purpose by the Sisters of Providence to serve the fledgling City. The Hospital cost $28,000 and opened in 1894, just eight years after incorporation of the City of Vancouver. In the years that followed, twelve more buildings would be built by the Sisters.

      In the Edwardian-era boom of 1912 the original building was demolished to make way for a new reinforced concrete structure finished in the Renaissance Revival style with brick, terra cotta and granite. Now known as the Centre Block of the Burrard Building, the cross-shaped floor plan accommodated 200 patients and cost $400,000. The Architect was German-born Robert F. Tegen, who 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 the new Vancouver facility. The terracotta came from Gladding, McBean & Company of Lincoln, California.

      In 1930, the north wing was added followed by the south wing in 1939. Both were designed by architects Gardiner & Mercer, and demonstrate remarkable consistency with the design of the original 1912 building.

      In the 1970s more land was acquired to the south and the ten storey Providence Buildings, designed by Unecon Architecture, were constructed. Phase 1 opened in 1979, Phase 2 in 1988.

      On December 31, 2020, Heritage Vancouver Society released its complete 2020 Top 10 Watch List.

      St. Paul’s made it to the list, and according to the group, the “hospital as whole, has a significance for Vancouver that goes far beyond its beautiful façade and long history”.

      “Over the years, St. Paul’s has become an important fixture in local public memory, contributing to the hospital’s community value,” the heritage association notes.

      According to the group, the hospital forms part of the “public memory” of the West End.

      “St. Paul’s has played a large role in the community as it has developed over the years, and remains a fixture in the community,” the association notes.

      It cites as an example the hospital’s role during the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s.

      “The physicality of St. Paul’s helps to root the history of the West End and serves as a reminder of the neighbourhood’s unique feel,” the group notes.

      Heritage Vancouver Society suggests “sympathetic heritage retention of the site” when it is redeveloped by its new owner.