Once upon a time at BC’s beginning “New West” was the capital of the Colony of British Columbia, well before Vancouver existed. Its riverside location and what remains of it colonial architecture are pleasant enough draws, but we love it most of all for its hugely improved food and drink scene. If you haven’t visited it in ages, go back and let Scout be your guide…
THINGS WE’VE SEEN HEREABOUTS
ESSENTIAL FOOD & DRINK
THINGS TO CHECK OUT
EVERYTHING AT MID-CENTURY MODERN
GET ECLECTIC AT THE GOOD OMEN SHOP
WATCH A PLAY AT THE ANVIL CENTRE
TAKE A MEETING AT HIVE CITY
WATCH THE NEW WEST SYMPHONY PLAY AT THE MASSEY
WALK THE HISTORIC BROW OF THE HILL FOR THE VIEWS
CHILL ON THE RIVERSIDE BOARDWALK
FASCINATING THINGS OF NOTE
– New West has been holding an annual May Day Celebration since 1870. It is the longest continuing event of its type in Canada.
– Built in 1865 for Captain William Irving, known as “King of the River”, Irving House is one of the oldest extant buildings in BC. It now operates as an historic house museum.
– For 102 years New Westminster was the home of the British Columbia Penitentiary, the first federal penitentiary west of Manitoba. “BC Pen” or “The Pen” opened in 1878 and was decommissioned in 1980. It was infamous for several riots and hostage takings, most of which occurred in the 1970s.
– In the 1930s and 40s New Westminster’s Columbia Street was known as the “Golden Mile” for its commercial value and productivity. If a business was located on “The Mile” it was virtually guaranteed success.
– New Westminster was briefly the capital city of the Colony of British Columbia. Victoria supplanted it as the capitol city in 1866 when the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island united as “British Columbia”.
– Queen Victoria rejected New West’s original name “Queensborough”, and chose to name the city New Westminster in 1859 after her favourite part of London – Westminster. It is for this regal reason that the city is also known as “The Royal City”.
– New Westminster’s “Great Fire” of September 10, 1898, destroyed one-third of the city, from Royal Avenue to the waterfront. The fire originated in several tons of hay stored on a wharf on Front Street. Fanned by stiff winds it spread quickly through the waterfront. Total damage was estimated at $2.5 million in 1898 dollars.
– New Westminster was once home to not one, but two Chinatowns – today nothing remains. The first “Gold Rush” era Chinatown, destroyed by the Great Fire of 1898, was located at the eastern end of Front Street, between Columbia St and the Fraser River. The second Chinatown relocated to a low-lying area of the waterfront known as “The Swamp” and was situated roughly between 8th Street and 12th Street, from Columbia to Royal Avenue.
– One of the city’s most famous sons, actor Raymond Burr was born in New Westminster in 1917. Along with acting in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), Burr was famous as the lead character in two TV crime shows, Perry Mason (1957-1966) and Ironside (1967-1975). He is interred with his parents at Fraser Cemetery in New Westminster.
– One of the more unique and quirky Royal City traditions is the annual Victoria Day 21-shot anvil salute by the Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery. The tradition started in the 1860s when local residents wanted a 21-gun salute to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. With no available cannons to fire the salute, the Hyack Company used gunpowder between anvils to fire the salute.