Stories from Tri-City News headlines of decades past is a recurring feature as the publication approaches its 40th anniversary in 2024.
The Colony Farm Forensic Psychiatric facility is a familiar sight to commuters barrelling along the Mary Hill Bypass.
The current 190-bed building was opened in 1997, the culmination of more than 16 years of lobbying and planning to replace its aged predecessor that Tri-City News reporter Kate Poole described in 1992 as “Government Gothic, with vomit-coloured walls, cold floors and blown insulation hanging from exposed pipes.”
The original structure was built in 1948 as a hospital to serve veterans suffering from shell shock and other pyschiatric maladies. When it was converted to a psychiatric facility, its wide open wards that could accommodate 13 patients were never remodelled. And with no kitchen on-site, food had to be cooked and then transported from nearby Riverview Hospital.
"It's a depressing, dehumanizing facility," said Peter Kane, a trained psychiatric nurse who'd worked at Colony Farm for 20 years and was charged with helping design its replacement.
"I've travelled Canada, the U.S. and the UK, and this is one of the worst facilities I've ever seen."
Kane said the hospital's replacement, with a budget of $55 million, would be "a model for this continent," with private rooms, a village hall for recreation, classes and worship, a guest house for visiting families and sleeping residences with laundry and cooling facilities for patients transitioning to freedom.
Kane said the new setup would be more conducive to rehabilitating patients, where they’d be able to learning how to cope better in the outside world by doing their own laundry and preparing meals.
"We take any skill a patient has had in the past and rob them of it by doing everything for them," Kane said.
"I'm sure most patients perceive this as punishment."
The Tri-City News has covered civic affairs, local crime, festivals, events, personalities, sports and arts in Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody since 1983. Bound back issues of the paper are available at the Coquitlam Archives, while digital versions of several past years can be found at issuu.com.