First RCH Building 1862

The original Royal Columbian Hospital was on Agnes Street at the corner of Clement (now 4th St.) in New Westminster.

The first RCH on Agnes Street

The whitewashed weatherboard structure had two 15-bed wards on either side of the building with a steward’s room, center hall and surgery between them. A corridor at the rear joined the two wards and a veranda graced the front of the building. The plan drawn up by J.C. White of the Royal Engineers has the chilling notation, “Brick-hogged partition in both wards so as to keep out the sounds from the surgery, also Steward’s room as marked on Plan.”

Original plan sketched by Cpl.J.C. White, RE


There was one portable bath, and water for washing and all other purposes came from a well on the hospital grounds. Total cost for the hospital was $3,396. Another $495 was spent on fencing and painting, while furniture cost $312.52.

When the Royal Engineers disbanded in 1863, Governor Douglas allowed RCH to take the furniture, bedding and supplies from the military hospital at the Camp. Colonel Moody, the Commanding Officer, also gave the hospital a “large and valuable bath with pipes and fittings” which we assume had been used at his residence.

Due to the outbreak of a smallpox epidemic in the spring of 1862 a temporary structure was built for $170, but the hospital “proper” was not completed until September of that year. Dr. Macnaughton Jones was appointed medical officer and all applications for admission to the hospital were to be addressed to him.
Even by the standards of the day, the hospital was pretty basic, but the colony now had what the first Annual Report described as “a monument to the indomitable energy and determination of British Columbians to accomplish a noble and munificent enterprise”.

What was it like to be a patient, a doctor or a nurse in the hospital? Well, that’s another story – watch for it soon.

To donate to the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation and the next 150 years of medical excellence and compassionate patient care, visit http://www.rchcares.com or call 604 520 4438.

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