Two friezes by British Columbia sculptor Beatrice Lennie flank the main entrance of the former Shaughnessy Military Hospital, at 4500 Oak Street in Vancouver.
The carved stone panels are about five by eight feet. The left panel shows a nurse helping an injured soldier, with the crest of the Canadian Medical Corps at the bottom. The right panel shows a doctor holding a wounded soldier, over the Latin phrase “on sibi sed omnibus” – not for oneself but for all. The upper corner ornamentation, sunbeams and clouds suit the streamlined art moderne style of the 1940s building. Lennie signed each panel on the bottom right corner.
The military hospital closed in 1993 and the BC Children’s Hospital and BC Women’s Hospital have grown around the original building. Finding the friezes is a challenge: what was the main entrance is now a second floor entrance to an internal courtyard, and the courtyard is currently a construction yard for the new acute care centre. We went in the main entrance of the Women’s Hospital. Normally, one could access the courtyard through the cafeteria. Instead, we went past the cafeteria, up to the second floor, and out the doors to the landing. We were aided by directions from the information desk, an escort from a helpful clerk, and a trail of breadcrumbs to find our way back.
The friezes were worth the hunt. But the photos show that they have seen better days. Hopefully the construction plans include restoration of and access to the doorway and excellent sculptures.
Thanks to Susan, fellow adventurer in finding this and other out-of-the-way Vancouver treasures.