Finding a hidden treasure: the modernist relief sculptures of Shaughnessy Hospital

Last week I located a hidden treasure! 

Before there was Women’s and Children’s Hospital, there was Shaugnessy Hospital, a faciility for veterans and servicemen, built in 1940. And the entranceway was designed to make a big impact, with two dramatic and moving relief panels on either side, portraying, consecutively, a Canadian Medical Corp nurse and a doctor, each helping an injured soldier. The overall scene is a wonderfully preserved mid-century modern facade. 

W&C hospital has since swallowed up what is now just called the Shaugnessy Building, but it is still there… and so is the former main entrance and scultpures are now hidden away. But you can get to them. 

I doggedly followed the instructions on the Heritage Foundation’s site, but it was still tough – like all hospitals, the grounds of W&C are a maze, and figuring out where the Shaugnessy Building even was, determining where to park, and how to reach the old entrance took some time, plus lots of squinting at maps, and much tentative strolling down the antique corridors of the Shaugnessy Building, trying not to look too out of place. 

And then I found the plaza next to the cafeteria, went outside, turned, and suddenly I was transported from a drab 80’s modern space… to 1940. It genuinely took my breath away.

The sculptures are by a woman artist, Edith Beatrice Catherine Lennie. You can find out more on the Heritage Vancouver website.

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