Building one on the site of the former Coqualeetza Institute Residential School at 7201 Vedder Road. (Eric J. Welsh/ Chilliwack Progress)

Building one on the site of the former Coqualeetza Institute Residential School at 7201 Vedder Road. (Eric J. Welsh/ Chilliwack Progress)

‘Historically controversial’ building being demolished on site of former Chilliwack residential school

Building 1 at the Coqualeetza site served as a tuberculosis hospital for nearly three decades

After nearly seven decades of use, a building on the former site of Chilliwack’s Coqualeetza Institute Residential School is coming down.

Building one, which is visible from Vedder Road, will be demolished in September.

The doors were closed for good on June 30, and once it’s turned into a pile of rubble the book will be closed on a historically controversial place.

After the residential school was closed in 1940, the building was converted into a federally-run tuberculosis hospital in 1941. In 1948, fire destroyed nearly two thirds of the building, and it took six years to fully reconstruct the ‘new wing’ of the hospital that stands there today.

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The hospital was closed in 1969, and Stó:lō members of Skowkale and other First Nations took over the grounds and renovated the building. Most recently it’s been used as central offices for the Fraser Valley Child and Family Services Society (Xyolhemeylh), a First Nations operated Aboriginal Agency providing Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) services.

The building is not meeting the wrecking ball because of any demand from staff or the public.

Stó:lō Service Agency executive director Willy Hall said it needs extensive, expensive repairs and an assessment done in 2018 showed it would be more costly to fix the building than to replace it.

In the final weeks before it comes down, the building will be filmed as a documentary is created to preserve its history.

Building 1 will be open to the public for final walk throughs on Aug 5 (2-6 p.m.), Aug 6 (2-6 p.m.) and Aug 7 (10 to 4 p.m.)

Final demolition will begin September 10 and is due to be completed by September 29, and there are currently no plans for a new structure.


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eric.welsh@theprogress.com

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