Just past McBride Boulevard at Royal in western Sapperton, you'll find the Victoria Hill development - seeming almost like a "neighborhood in a box," with townhomes and condo towers dotting the hill that slopes down to the Fraser. In the middle of it, you'll find a field enclosed in barbed wire, an expanse of hard dirt and meltponds and the standing skeleton of what was obviously a much greater building one day. I didn't know what it was at the time; the only writing on it now is graffiti left by those who defied the No Trespassing signs.
It was the Woodlands School, closed in 1996, but it first opened its doors in 1878 as the Provincial Lunatic Asylum - and apparently it had something of a reputation as being haunted, not to mention a great deal more prosaic horrors. Whatever may have been there, it was reduced to ashes in the summer of 2008 by what CTV British Columbia described as "the biggest fire in the history of New Westminster" - and considering that the Great Fire of New Westminster burnt down much of downtown back in 1898, it must have been damn big.
This is all that's left standing today.
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