Farming in the Round – The Ewen Cattle Barn

The Ewen Cattle Barn, also known as the Keur Barn, was one of Richmond’s more unusual heritage structures, a type of barn that was unique in British Columbia and rare in Canada. Although it looked round, the barn was in fact polygonal, having 12 sides. It was representative of a time when agricultural practices in Europe and North America were undergoing reform through mechanization, the development of modern farming practices and the redesign of farm structures for increased efficiency.

1990 13 Ewen Barn aerial second from last in series

This aerial view shows the Ewen Barn’s location in relation to the Lafarge Cement plant at upper right and the Annacis Channel. Lion Island, the location of Alexander Ewen’s Ewen Cannery, is just visible at top right. No. 9 Road runs left to right in the photo. (City of Richmond Archives Accession 1990 13)

One of the aspects of this “High Farming”, as it was called in agricultural journals of the day, was the design of appropriate animal housing, with a focus on efficient use of space to allow animals to be kept warm and well fed over the winter. Round or polygonal barns fit this requirement well, although their more complex structure and higher construction costs compared to conventional barns made them less appealing to the average farmer. As a result, they tended to be built by farm owners who had an interest in the new farming practices and who had the capital to buy and outfit large farms.


An upper level plan of the barn shows the granary and ramp leading to the second floor space. (City of Richmond Archives 1990 13 6)

This was the case with the Ewen Barn. It was built by pioneer salmon cannery owner Alexander Ewen, who had purchased 640 acres of land in east Richmond in the 1880s. The barn was erected around 1893. It was built of red cedar, logged and cut in the Lower Mainland and used a combination of traditional heavy timber framing and light timber framing systems.


A drawing showing a cross section view of the barn with its cattle stalls below and second floor space. A cow and a man are added for scale.(City of Richmond Archives 1990 13 5)

Unusually large for a barn of this type, it was 100 feet in diameter and 50 feet high with two floors, the lower floor being the stable floor with the capacity to house and feed 100 cattle and the upper floor used for hay and equipment storage. The stable floor took only one quarter of the building’s height, leaving three quarters of the interior volume available for storage. Cattle stalls were arranged in a circle around the outside of the lower floor and openings in the upper floor allowed feed to be dropped down to the hungry mouths below.

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A team of horses haul a wagon of hay with the Ewen Barn in the background in this image, ca. 1900. The barn’s roof is still fitted with the rooftop ventilator which was removed in the 1940s. (City of Richmond Archives photo 2009 2 19)

A rectangular granary was added to the outside  of the barn shortly after it was built, and a ramp was provided from the ground to the barn’s second floor so that wagons could be driven up to unload hay and feed, circling around the circumference of the structure and down the ramp again. Built before electrical power was available, daylight was the only illumination available. Fitted with few windows, open doors admitted most of the light. An eight foot wide roof ventilator mounted atop the barn’s huge conical roof admitted light to the upper floor, although this was removed during reroofing in the 1940s.

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The Ewen Barn in 1979. The rectangular granary and ramp to the second floor are clearly visible. (City of Richmond Archives photo 1984 4 58)

The farm served by the Ewen Barn became one of the largest beef producers in Richmond, with as many as 4500 cattle a year being fattened and sent to slaughter at its peak. It also grew to be the largest Jersey cow breeding  establishment on Lulu Island. The barn continued to house cattle until the mid 1970s when it fell into disuse and began to deteriorate.

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A view of the deteriorating barn, ca. 1996. (City of Richmond Archives photo 2003 17 1)

In an attempt to preserve the barn, work was started by the Richmond Heritage Advisory Committee, spearheaded by Committee member Graham Turnbull, which included detailed reports on the barn’s historical context, architectural details and history. In 1995, at the request of the Committee, the barn was designated a National Historic Site by the Canadian Historic Sites and Monuments Board. In 1998 the Committee contracted Architect and Heritage Advocate Robert Lemon to prepare a report and facilitate a Conservation Workshop aimed at exploring options for the barn’s preservation. It was determined that the building could be stabilized at a cost of $112,000. A non-profit Society, The Friends of the Ewen Barn Society, was formed in order to begin the process of raising the money for the stabilization work and to negotiate with the property’s owner.

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In February 1999 the old barn collapsed in a windstorm. (City of Richmond Archives photo 2006 24 57)

Unfortunately, nature cares nothing for the preservation of old barns and in February 1999 a windstorm caused the collapse of the barn, at the time believed to be the oldest structure in Richmond. The barn was a total loss, although some of it remains as part of another heritage structure in Richmond. Salvaged lumber from the barn was used to repair the wharves at Britannia Heritage Shipyards.


Wells Air Harbour

Lulu Island was the location of many of BC’s pioneering aviation milestones but since the opening of the Vancouver Airport and Seaplane base on Sea Island on July 22, 1931 the majority of Richmond’s aviation activity has taken place there.

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A float plane taxis on the Middle Arm of the Fraser River in this photo, ca. 1930. (City of Richmond Archives photo 1989 19 11)

One exception to this was Wells Air Harbour, a seaplane base and repair facility on the Lulu Island side of the middle arm. The facility was built by Air Land Manufacturing and started operations in 1929, becoming an important base for seaplane operations. It became generally known by the name of its operator, Hunter Wells, during the early 1930s.

water map

This waterworks map from the late 1930s shows the Wells Air Harbour building, labelled “Aeroplane Plant”, on the upper left, just south of the end of Bridgeport Road. (City of Richmond Archives map – Sea Island and No.3 Road Water Linens)

The business was located on River Road near the present end of Bridgeport Road, easily accessible from Vancouver via the Marpole Bridge. Aircraft that landed on the Middle Arm could moor at the terminal’s floats or, if in need of repairs, could be hauled up the ramp into the hangar.

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Bush pilot Ginger Coote operated his airline out of Wells Air Harbour. Shown here is his Waco YKS-6 in a hangar. (City of Richmond Archives photo 1985 1 21)

The Harbour was the base of operations for many aviation companies. Wells Air Transport, Alaska-Washington Airways of BC, Commercial Airways and Canadian Airways all used the facility. Ginger Coote Airways, run by legendary bush pilot Russell L. “Ginger” Coote also used the base. Coote was a WWI fighter pilot and after the war personified the image of the daring bush pilot.

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Russel L. “Ginger” Coote, in the pilot’s uniform, stands on the float at Wells Air Harbour, ca. 1935. In the right foreground is the ramp to the hangar where Tommy Jones repaired and rebuilt aircraft. (City of Richmond Archives photo 2012 12 1)

Tommy Jones ran a profitable aircraft overhaul and repair business at the Air Harbour as well. Many of the classic seaplanes were serviced there, with work from regular maintenance to complete overhauls taking place. It was not unusual to see groups of women at the repair shop stitching and fitting fabric to the wings and fuselages of various aircraft.

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This aerial view shows the former Wells Air Harbour hangar building at the end of Bridgeport Road in 1953 with the ramp used to haul aircraft into the hangar removed. The building has seen many uses over the years, from an aluminum factory to a restaurant, and survives to this day. (City of Richmond Archives photo 1977 1 99)

Wells Air Harbour and Jones’ repair business closed as better facilities became available around the Lower Mainland with the onset of WWII. The hangar building is still standing, tucked between the two bridges to YVR, and for many years has been home to the Richmond Boathouse Restaurant.


A Google Street View capture shows the Boathouse – West Marine location on River Road. The large hangar door openings can still be seen, a leftover from the days when this building was one of the busiest seaplane bases in the Lower Mainland. Infill has separated the building from the Middle Arm and provided a parking lot.


New at the Archives – The Richmond Review

One of the top news stories for Richmondites in 2015 was the end of the local newspaper, the Richmond Review. 

Last Review

The front page of the last edition of the Richmond Review, July 24, 2015.

The Review began life in 1932, a gesture of optimism in an otherwise depressed period of time. After a few issues published by founder Bill Carruthers, it was sold to Ethel Tibbits, who ran it until 1948.


The police news was a popular feature of the Marpole-Richmond Review where the latest police activities could be followed and names were named, even for minor infractions. This clip from 1937 relates the fallout from illegal liquor sales in Steveston.

For much of its existence it was known as the Marpole-Richmond Review. By the 1970’s it was BC’s largest circulating biweekly. The last issue came out on July 24th 2015; the publishers citing market forces as the culprit, making competition with another newspaper impossible to carry on.

Review staff

The Richmond Review staff, ca. 1990; left to right – Publisher Susan Tweedie, Composing Room Foreman Fred Meyer and Editor Diane Strandberg. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2015 19.

Before the offices of the Richmond Review were completely vacated, the City of Richmond Archives was invited to visit the location to retrieve records which we would consider important to the community.


The Review was an important source of information for readers during elections, featuring interviews, candidate’s platforms, etc. This clipping shows well-known local politician Harold Steves beginning his successful run for the NDP in the 1972 Provincial election.

The bulk of this accession is more than 50,000 images taken by Review reporters, now housed in the climate-controlled and secure stacks of the Archives. These photographs are both in 35mm and digital formats, and represent the transition to the use of digital cameras.

1988 121 - Richmond Review - Oct.21, 1989

The sports section of the Review showed images from many Richmond games, including this one from October 21, 1989. This is just one of the many thousands of photographs form the paper, now housed in the City of Richmond Archives. (City of Richmond Archives – Richmond Review photo 1988 121)

These recent images are in addition to previous accessions of photographs from the Review which date back to 1982, bringing the date range for Review photographs held by the Archives to about 33 years.


Advertising helps pay for the operation of any newspaper and the Review was no exception. Local advertising allowed Richmondites to choose which sales they would attend at local stores or, in this case from 1957, which local theatre they would attend to see Hollywood’s latest offerings.

The Archives has also newly acquired the collection of the Richmond Review from the Richmond Public Library, both recent hard-copy and historical issues on microfilm. Combined with the hard-copy and historical issues already in our holdings we now have a complete run of the paper to 2015 available to the public.

[Note – this is a version of an article first published in the Spring 2016 issue of the Archives News]

Focus on the Record – Production and Mapping Centre, Planning and Development Photographs

As part of the City of Richmond Archives’ ongoing digitization program, Archives volunteer Graham Turnbull has digitized 3,621 colour slides from the City of Richmond’s Production and Mapping Centre.

Graham with new scanner

Archives volunteer Graham Turnbull is shown here digitizing photographs using a new scanner purchased by the Friends of the Richmond Archives in 2015. The Production and Mapping Centre, Planning and Development photographs were the first photographs to be digitized using the new scanner. Richmond Archives photograph.

The slides date from 1981–1995 and were taken by Production Centre staff. The photographs record natural features of Richmond along with buildings, subdivisions, community events, farming and industrial activities.

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An aerial view looking south-west over the intersection of Westminster Highway and No.3 Road, the Park Towers and Minoru Park. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 39 5 61.

These photographs were used in various Richmond municipal publications and in public presentations of the Planning Department. The slides document a time of changing landscape in Richmond’s history.

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Woodward’s Store at Lansdowne Mall, 1982. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 39 2 70.

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Bridgepoint Market children’s play area, 1990. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 39 2 202.

To view these images, either the original slides or digitized copies, researchers are welcome to make an appointment to visit the Archives. These images will also be described and made available online when the Archives Database and Web Search Upgrade project is launched in 2016.

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Working on a helicopter at the BCIT Aerospace Technology Campus. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 39 1 148.

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Loading seafood for export into an aircaft container. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 39 3 235.


[Note – this is a version of an article first published in the Spring 2016 issue of the Archives News]

From Soup to Nuts at Grauer’s Store

Grauer’s Store was a Richmond institution which had a history going back to pioneer days and the development of the community of Eburne, built along the banks of the North Arm of the Fraser River. Located on the northwest corner of Sea Island and across the river in Vancouver, Eburne was serviced by businesses on both sides of the bridge that connected the two halves of the community and provided the only road access to Richmond and the village of Steveston.

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Eburne on Sea Island, ca. 1906. The post Office, General Store and butcher shop are on the left in this photo, taken from the end of the Eburne Bridge. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 1977 2 34)

Harry Eburne, who gave his name to the community, opened a general store and post office on Sea Island which he sold in 1898 to Churchill and McKay. In 1894 Jacob Grauer and his wife Marie opened a butcher shop near the store and ran it until 1910, when it was sold to Pat Burns & Co. who operated it as part of a chain of butcher shops. The Burns company moved their operation across the bridge in 1911 to the part of Eburne which would rename itself Marpole in 1916.

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Grauer’s Butcher Shop in Eburne, shown here in the 1890s, became a focal point in the growing community. (City of Richmond Archives photo RCF 87)

 When Burns moved in 1911 the property was purchased by the Grauer’s son, R.M. “Rudy” Grauer, who expanded and developed it into “the largest independent business in the Fraser Valley”.


R.M. Grauer, ca. 1930. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 34 6 15)

Rudy Grauer’s Store was one of those nostalgic things from our more rural past, a place where locals would drop by to stand around the stove and hear the latest gossip, talk about agriculture, the weather, politics, sports or whatever, early networking at its best. A true General Store, it carried all the goods that anyone might need. As reported in the May 26, 1951 Vancouver Sun, “It is virtually a department store on one floor. The stock includes hardware, dry goods, groceries, meats and produce. On one floor you can purchase lamb chops or a garden tractor, corn flakes or a refrigerator, cow medicine or rubber boots.”


Grauer’s Store in the 1930s. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 34 6 86)

Mr. Grauer was very involved in community life. He served as President of the Richmond Agricultural and Industrial Society, President of the BC Amateur Lacrosse League, Richmond School Board and was the longest serving Reeve of Richmond from 1930 to 1949, through the Depression and World War 2. He retired from the store in the late 1940s, leaving his sons, Lester and Carl to carry on with the business, Lester in charge of produce and groceries and Carl in charge of hardware and meats.


Lester Grauer, left, and Carl Grauer, right, took over the operation of the store after their father’s retirement and ran it until it closed. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 34 6 92)

The store had a diverse customer base. Local householders, farmers and business owners could drop in to shop, or phone their orders in and have them delivered. The Grauer property included a water lot and wharf where fish boats could stop and stock up before heading off to the next opening up the coast. Tugs would often call in their orders by radio-telephone while towing booms or barges toward the North Arm, their supplies ready for pick up when they were heading back out.


The Grauer property on Sea Island was slightly over one acre in size and included a water lot and dock. Several buildings were on the property, including the old Grauer family home, later converted to two rental suites, the store building, which had four rental suites on the second floor, the old post office/print shop building, which had two rental suites on the second floor, a small building used as a meeting hall and numerous sheds and storage buildings. (City of Richmond Archives accession 2008 34)

The Grauers estimated that during the store’s peak, 75-85% of business was carried out over the telephone. Customers could phone their order in to one of the store’s three telephones where a clerk would take the information and go to work filling the request at a special counter at the rear of the store.


A sales clerk makes up an order for delivery at Grauer’s Store, 1956. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 34 6 95)

The order would be packaged up and, if for delivery to nearby areas, would be delivered the same day by one of the Grauer’s fleet of three delivery trucks.


Grauer’s fleet of delivery trucks. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 34 6 80)

Deliveries to more distant locations would be done according to a scheduled route. The store carried a staff of 14 , including salesclerks and delivery drivers. Many were long term employees.


An advertisement for Grauer’s Store with the grocery delivery schedule. (City of Richmond Archives accession 2008 34)

Pressures started gathering against the store’s business in the 1950s when the Federal Government began the expropriation of land on Sea Island for the expansion of the airport. Quoting Carl Grauer in a March 1972 Vancouver Province article, “Every time they took a house they took one of our customers.” Their losses were gradual, but after the Oak Street Bridge was opened in 1957, the tolls on that bridge shifted drivers toward the old Marpole Bridge. In response, the Provincial Government shut the old bridge down.


Carl Grauer assists a customer with a selection at the store in 1956. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 34 6 81)

“People kept on using the old Hudson Street Bridge,” said Les Grauer, “because they didn’t have to pay the toll. So Gaglardi had to get that bridge out of the way, and he did. Right away, our business dropped off two-thirds.”


Grauer’s Store was a true General Store, carrying everything from gumboots to baby food, veterinary and beauty supplies, appliances and pork chops. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 34 6 90)

The brothers complaints to the government about the Marpole Bridge closure fell on deaf ears for the most part, and hopes for a fair expropriation deal from the Federal Government were not forthcoming. In the early 1960s a deal was almost struck to sell their property to a developer who wanted to build a large hotel on the site. That deal was quashed by the Ministry of Transport. According to Carl, the Ministry of Transport was against it. It said that the pilots objected to a hotel at that point, since it would be in line with a proposed runway.


The back of Grauer’s Store in 1967. Four rental suites were located on the top floor of the building. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 34 6 84)

In the 1970s the final blow came with the construction of the Arthur Laing Bridge. Isolated behind the bridge construction while the vibration from the pile drivers knocked stock off the shelves, broke windows, shook holes in the plaster and bricks from the chimney, business evaporated. Tenants in the other buildings on the property left because of the noise. Finally on May 31, 1976 the Grauer brothers were forced to close the failing old store.

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This photo from 1977 shows the last remnants of old Eburne, lying in the shadow of the Arthur Laing Bridge which opened the year before. The two large commercial buildings are the old Post Office / Print shop building on the left and Grauer’s Store on the right. Rental units were located on the upper floors of these buildings as well as in the house to the right. (City of Richmond Archives photo 1997 42 1 258)

Once work on the bridge was finished some of the rental buildings on their property were rented for a time but finally the Grauers sold the  property to the North Fraser Harbour Commission and on January 13, 1981 the store and the other buildings on the property were demolished. A plaque at the Harbour Commission’s building commemorates the site of the Grauer Family Home and R.M. Grauer Stores, 1895 – 1980.

1988 121 - Richmond Review - Jan. 14

An image taken through the front window of Grauer’s Store just before it was demolished in 1981. (City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 121-Richmond Review- Jan.14)