Early days at St. Paul’s Hospital.

St. Paul’s today.

West End landmark St Paul’s Hospital was founded in 1894 by the Roman Catholic order of the Sisters of Providence. It originally consisted of 25 beds and was dedicated in the name of Bishop Paul Durieu OMI, of New Westminster. The land had been purchased for this purpose in 1892 for $9000, and consisted of seven lots on what was then the outskirts of Vancouver.

The building began as a four-story turreted wood frame structure, at the very end of Burrard Street, with nothing more than wagon trails to Beach avenue and English Bay. During the great Edwardian-era boom, it was replaced with a new, Renaissance Revival-style structure. Built entirely of red brick, banded at the base, this landmark building was tastefully decorated with extensive terracotta trim and topped with a pantile roof.

A decade after its founding, St Paul’s added 25 beds to its ward, bringing its total bed count to 50, and in 1907 the hospital officially opened its School of Nursing

With the completion of the North Wing in 1931, and the South Wing during World War II, St. Paul’s expanded to 500 beds.

The construction of the new South Wing of the hospital in 1939/40 cost $500,000. It was a six storey structure with 216 ft of frontage providing 200 additional beds, 13 solariums, a special pediatric ward and an ultra modern physiotherapy clinic. This addition also created the new entrance on Pendrell Street.

This wing and a three-story addition added in 1949 cost $225,000. It projects from the front of the building and was primarily built with reinforced concrete and a brick and terracotta front. The architecture was by Smith Bros and Wilson Ltd Gardiner and Thornton.

But the need was greater than the supply and in the 1970’s plans were made to remake the whole institution to efficiently fulfill its new role as a referral and tertiary care centre. To respond to the rapidly expanding and changing needs in Vancouver community care, two ten-story towers were added to the hospital in 1983 and 1991.

In 1911, there were 115 beds and 19 sisters with 1,864 admissions keeping all beds in use on a continual basis. 1,185 free meals and 3,972 free prescriptions were given, and special assistance was given to 12 needy families. By 1993 there was 581 beds, 17,877 admissions, 48,428 emergency treatments, 10,291 treatments to day-care patients, and 7266 in-patient surgeries with approximately 1000 nurses and 450 doctors working there.

Over a hundred years after opening its doors, St Paul’s Hospital is now renowned as a teaching hospital with a strong research focus, recognized provincially, nationally and internationally for its work in the areas of heart disease, kidney disease, nutritional disorders, HIV/AIDS and the care of the disadvantaged.

Providence Health Care, the entity that owns and operates St. Paul’s Hospital, has a controversial plan to develop a new St. Paul’s hospital on the False Creek Flats, east of Main Street. The new hosptial will feature an integrated health campus to combine critical, emergency and acute hospital-based care with community and primary care.

The architecture of St. Paul’s Burrard Building on Burrard is a historical Vancouver landmark. Although the building is “A” listed on the Vancouver Heritage Registry, it is not protected and could be legally defaced, or demolished. Currently, no protection is in place to preserve this historical Vancouver landmark and no plans have been revealed for the site’s future once the new St. Paul’s is opened.

Read more about the plans for a relocated St. Paul’s Hospital and take a simulated aerial tour here.

An artist’s rendition of plans for a relocated St. Paul’s Hospital.