Shady Island – Man-Made by Nature

One of the best loved features of the Steveston waterfront, Steveston Island, known as Shady Island to locals, is something rare in an urban landscape, an untouched, undeveloped piece of natural land. Home to rare species of plants and many types of birds, the island was little more than a sandbar as far back as the 1920s. Rivers are natural island builders and the Fraser would have formed the island on its own but the process was accelerated by the interference of man, leading to the treed sanctuary we see today.

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In this image of the Steveston Waterfront from 1889 no island protects the waterfront. City of Richmond Archives, photograph # 2004 40 1.

In Steveston’s early days, a naturally formed sandbar protected the waterfront by diverting some of the river’s water away from shore. A natural, protected channel formed behind the bar, suitable for the moorage of fishing boats and the construction of canneries.

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A 1921 map based on a Dept. of Mines geographical survey shows the natural shape of Steveston/Shady Island at the time. A small, permanently dry island near the end of No.2 Road existed, along with a couple of small bars that showed at low tide. A submerged bar extended as far as No.1 Road. City of Richmond Archives, Reference Files.

As European immigration increased, swelling New Westminster’s population and increasing the size and amount of traffic on the river, it was necessary to keep the main river channel navigable by regular dredging. Spoils from dredging were dumped on the Steveston bar forming two distinct parts which were exposed at low tide and were connected by the submerged part of the bar. At high tide, smaller boats could still be taken across that part of the bar, although the route became closed after further dredging and natural build-up closed the gap.

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By 1947 the addition of wing dams and dredging spoils have begun the process of building the island we know today. City of Richmond Archives, Reference Files.

In the 1930s two wing dams were built on the south side of the island to keep sand from being washed back into the channel. Later, a long training wall was built just upstream. The effect of the wing dams and training wall were to divert the river’s water toward the main channel, increasing its rate of flow and helping to keep the channel clear. This also increased the rate of natural silt build-up on the island. The island now had an important function other than a place to deposit dredging spoils. It formed a well protected harbour along the Steveston waterfront.

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The island before the installation of the rock dam or the breakwater. The western end of the island is still little more than a sandbar. City of Richmond Archives, photograph # 1977 1 14.

In order to to prevent the infill of the harbour channel and to provide access to the island for potential moorage facilities, a high rock dam was built across the upstream entrance to the channel. While the dam was effective, it eliminated flow through the channel, allowing effluent from the canneries to settle, creating a foul smelling basin that infiltrated the whole area with the stench of rotting fish. Within two years the top part of the dam was removed, allowing the channel to flush with each high tide.

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The rock breakwater can be seen in this image, shortly after its completion, ca. 1953. Also visible are the wing dams and the rock dam at the east end of the channel. City of Richmond Archives, photograph # 1977 1 15.

The island’s form was further changed when a long rock breakwater was built. It extends along the length of the island like a spine and gives it the geographical profile it has today.

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This image looking west over Steveston Island, ca. 1976, shows the two wing dams on the left, the training wall at bottom and the rock dam at the entrance to the channel. The photo shows how water can flow through the channel at high tide, flushing clean water through while preventing silt from entering. The end of the rock breakwater, now mostly buried, can be seen extending past the western tip of the island. City of Richmond Archives, photograph # 1988 10 136.

Steveston Island today is a gem on the waterfront of the village. Having resisted development proposals that have arisen over the years, it remains undomesticated and accessible only at low tide across the rock dam, a fact that many people learn each year when they lose track of time and are stranded by the incoming tide. As other parts of Steveston and Richmond change under the pressure of development, let’s hope this little piece of man made nature remains the same.

Arrested Development – Sturgeon Bank

Over the past century there have been many proposals to develop Sturgeon Bank for various uses. Projects included deep sea ports, landfills for garbage, airports and recreation areas. None of the developments got off the ground but it is interesting to see the vision that some people and organizations have had for the area over the years.

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The 1912 plan for Sturgeon Bank included rail and highway links as well as miles of dock space for shipping. City of Richmond Archives, accession 1264.

Probably the most ambitious of these proposals was put forward in 1912 by the Vancouver Harbour and Dock Extension Company. The plan included an enclosed deep sea port with six piers 1 1/2 miles long each, an enormous log pond, a direct highway link to New Westminster and a railway, complete with a five mile-long tunnel under Vancouver to the False Creek rail yards. The proposal was estimated to cost $30 Million.

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An artist’s conception of what the 1912 Sturgeon Bank Harbour development would have looked like. City of Richmond Archives, accession 1264.

A 1928 proposal suggested that Sturgeon Bank would be an ideal location for an airport featuring a large field for wheeled aircraft, two large enclosed seaplane basins, a pylon for mooring airships and a large terminal. Sea Island appears to remain undisturbed farmland.

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An artist’s conception from 1928 of the proposed Sturgeon Bank Aerial Depot shows a busy aerodrome with seaplane basins and airship mooring. City of Richmond Archives, photograph 1984 21 1.

Development proposals slowed down through the depression and war years but began again during the 1950s. In 1957 and 1958 proposals showed development on Sea Island as well as Lulu Island and for the first time included some green space.

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This 1957 proposal showed development of Sturgeon Bank on Lulu and Sea Islands with large commercial and industrial areas, docks on the North and South Arms and, for the first time, some recreational area with parks and a beach. City of Richmond Archives, Sturgeon Bank Reference File.

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This 1958 suggestion had room for airport expansion as well as industrial dock space. City of Richmond Archives, Industries Reference File.

In 1962 a project was brought forward by a company named Terra Nova Developments Ltd. suggesting that Sturgeon Bank would be an ideal place for a sanitary landfill. The concept would have had the twofold benefit of providing a place for disposal of household and industrial waste for the Lower Mainland and the creation of new land for use as industrial and/or recreational use.

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The 1962 proposal by Terra Nova Development Ltd. showed Sturgeon Bank plotted for land reclamation by use as a sanitary landfill. A deep sea shipping channel with turning basin is included in the drawing, allowing dock access for future industrial development. City of Richmond Archives, Industries Reference File.

The project would have seen covered barges filled with domestic refuse, hogfuel, millpond waste, demolition rubble harbour and river debris and other commercial tradewaste (excluding abattoir waste, distillery refuse and toxic chemicals) brought to the site at night and offloaded. The refuse would then be immediately covered with sand.

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The 1962 landfill project would have resulted in land reclamation for the purposes suggested on this aerial photo. The permissions from the Departments of Fisheries, Transport and Public Works had all been granted for this proposal. City of Richmond Archives, Industries Reference File.

In 1968 an enormous, but far greener project was proposed which would have seen the area transformed into a recreational paradise. A 1000 boat marina on the Middle Arm, three “lakes” with swimming beaches, two golf courses, a rowing channel between the Middle and South Arms, a nature preserve, wharves and a hotel complex were all envisioned as possible in this ambitious development. Proximity to the airport would have provided easy access for tourists who wanted to take advantage of the facilities and enjoy the panoramic views afforded by the location.

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A photograph of an artist’s model pf the proposed recreational development of Sturgeon Bank is shown in this photo. City of Richmond Archives, accession 2003 18.

None of these development proposals took hold, mostly due to a perceived lack of economic return for the investment, but you can be sure that a walk along the west dyke would have looked very different than it does today if any of these projects had gone forward.

Focus on the Record – The Ted Clark Photograph Collection

Long time Richmond resident Edwin Herbert Clark (1930-1997), known as Ted Clark, was born in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 2, 1930. Mr. Clark grew up in the Dunbar area of Vancouver and attended Lord Kitchener Elementary School and then Lord Byng High School.

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Passengers chat while waiting for the tram at the Marpole Station. The tram schedule is visible on the station wall behind them.

He left high school to complete a five-year apprenticeship as a Machinist, but upon completing the apprenticeship, discovered that there were no available jobs in his field. Mr. Clark pursued a number of different job options before going to work at Hi-Hope Kennels, a business established and operated by his sister. At Hi-Hope Kennels, Mr. Clark did woodwork and built items for resale.

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Mr. Clark’s images not only capture the tram and streetcar system, they also show images of the Lower Mainland from an earlier time. This image, ca. 1950, shows car 412 in Victory Square,Vancouver, operating on the No. 14 Hastings East – Dunbar line. The Marine Building can be seen in the centre rear of the photograph. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1999 4 2 220.

From a very young age, Mr. Clark was interested in streetcars and trams. During his childhood, he spent his weekends and summer days riding trams and streetcars, visiting the car barns, and talking to people who worked in the trade.

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Mr. Clark’s collection also includes the different types of rolling stock operated by the BC Electric Railway such as this freight locomotive and box car shown on the siding at Brighouse, 1952. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1999 4 2 1043.

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The popular sightseeing cars which gave tours of Vancouver. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1999 4 2 390.

He took pictures at every opportunity, gradually developing a significant collection of prints, negatives, and slides that was admired by traction enthusiasts across Canada.

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Advertising along the railway lines tended to be large as seen in this image of interurban tram cars 1205 and 1202 in front of the Continental Hotel, Vancouver, July 1951. The cars are operating on the Vancouver-Steveston Line. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1999 4 3 702.

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A large billboard advertises women’s undergarments as car 107 passes at Broadway and Arbutus, Vancouver, April 21 1951. The car is working the No. 3 Main Line. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1999 4 3 1189.

Ted Clark’s collection of images depict streetcars, trams and trains in various locations in and around Vancouver, Richmond, North Vancouver, Squamish, New Westminster, Burnaby and Chilliwack. Also included are a several images of trains in other parts of Canada, and in the United States.

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One of the problems of street level transit systems is the interaction with cars, as shown in this image of interurban tram car 1218 which collided with a Ford Prefect in Marpole en route to Steveston, August 1951. Bystanders gather around to survey the damage. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1999 4 2 656.

Mr. Clark also built models from scratch, creating his own blueprints based on photographs and measurements he took of different cars. He traveled to cities with streetcar and/or tram lines, and his collection of photographs reflects some of these travels.

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The tram and streetcar system was gradually phased out under a program called “From Rails to Rubber”, replacing lines with bus routes. This sign was probably used to promote the cessation of one of the BCER lines around 1952. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1999 4 2 284.

On September 11, 1981, he married May Leishman. They lived in Surrey until Hi-Hope Kennels was sold, after which they moved to Nelson, British Columbia where they remained until Mr. Clark’s death on November 6, 1997.

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Most of the cars of the BCER paid the ultimate sacrifice after removal from service. This image shows car 367 being burnt at the Kitsilano Yard, Vancouver, April 22 1955. Another car is also being burnt, as a worker inspects the ashes. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1999 4 2 334.

In 1998, concerned that Mr. Clark’s work be kept intact and in his community, his  sister Frances Clark and his widow May Clark donated the whole of the collection to the City of Richmond Archives.

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A few cars survived to serve in another form. This is a picture of car 712 that has been converted into the Red Racer Restaurant at Penticton, August 1955.

In 2014 Mr. Clark’s collection of more than 5000 still images and one reel of movie film was digitized in a project jointly funded by the City of Richmond and the Friends of the Richmond Archives. It can now be searched and viewed on the Archives website at http://archives.richmond.ca/archives/interurban/.

 

 

Focus on the Record – The Preservation of Family Photograph Collections

Some of the most interesting images at the City of Richmond Archives come from donations of family photograph collections. Family photographs are often thought to be of little interest to anyone outside of the family involved, but nothing could be further from the truth.

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Three girls take a swim at Whiterock in 1913 in this image donated by the Thompson Family. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1985 39 287.

Family photograph collections may show locations of interest and significance, portray activities of historical value and add social context to Richmond’s history.

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Irine McDonald is shown here in a duck punt on the still waters of the North Arm in 1924 in this McDonald Family photo. The Celtic Cannery can be seen in the background. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2013 47 4 5.

The City of Richmond Archives is the official repository for the inactive public and private records of enduring and historic value to the City of Richmond and the community as a whole.

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This image of Richmond Photo is one of many donated to the Archives by the family of Noel McConnell, a well known and prolific Richmond photographer who worked out of this building. He took countless photographs in Richmond, from aerial photos to wedding, sports and school photos to pictures of life around the area. Much of his work is now preserved at the Archives. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2012 2 a.

It is the work of the City of Richmond Archives to preserve and protect these records and to make them accessible to City officials and the public, as set out in Corporate Records Management Program Bylaw 7400.

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This image, donated to the Archives by the Russell Family, shows winning horse “Fair Ruffles” and jockey Wells at Lansdowne Park on June 21, 1952. Also shown are trainer Jackie Russell, Phyllis Russell, Barry Blair, Archie Blair and Roberta (Blair) Diamond. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1998 29 16.

The Archives acquires both public and private records by scheduled transfer, gift, bequest, purchase, exchange or any other action by which title to the material passes to the Archives, with the understanding that ownership is held in trust for future generations.

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This photograph of young couple walking their dog near Garden City Road between Saunders and Francis Roads, ca. 1958, is a good example of a family photo that has been donated to the Archives. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1985 5 7.

Significant photos may come from any time period, right up to the present. If you have any photographs that relate to Richmond and you are not sure what to do with them, please do not throw them away!

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A farmer raises his hat while sitting on a haystack in this photo. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1978 35 13.

Donating your original family photographs to the Archives ensures their long-term preservation and accessibility by you and your family members for generations to come. Contact the Archivist by telephone at 604-247-8305 or by email at archives@richmond.ca to determine if they might become part of the Archives’ collection.

New Archives Search Page

Online researchers will find an improved search experience for the Archives holdings on the City of Richmond Archives’ website.

There are 5 entry points, depending on the type of record you are interested in, and each one has the option of Quick or Advanced searching.

search tabs

The All Records search is just that, you have access to all the descriptions which are available online, from high level descriptions of particular fonds such as The Steveston Community Society fonds, to individual items, such as architectural drawings.

If you are looking for photographs only, use the Photos search pages. Both Advanced and Quick Search screens provide a “Digitized material only” checkbox, which will provide search results for those materials available as high resolution JPGs:

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The Maps search pages have the same Advanced and Quick Search options, but also include a new graphic interface for browsing by geographic location. Click on “Map Search” and you will see 3 “clickable” maps: two for Planning Areas (one pre-1999 and one post-1999) and one which divides Richmond into Section, Block and Range squares (this is the survey system used in legal descriptions of property.) Use your mouse to hover over the area of Richmond you are interested in; clicking on any section will perform a search of the maps for that area.

The BC Packers search includes a large amount of photographs and maps digitized in 2007 which was presented as a Virtual Exhibit on our previous website. The new search interface will retrieve these records as well as other records of the BC Packers fonds.

A recent and large addition to our digitized holdings can be accessed from the Interurban Tram link. This consists of the images created by traction enthusiast Ted Clark. Over 5000 images can be found, either by keyword or content searching such as tram line or station.

Quick vs. Advanced Search

The quick and advanced search options, provided in the types of searches described above, both access the same information.

The advantage of the Quick Search is that any keyword or phrase will search a number of database fields simultaneously. For instance an All Records Quick Search for “garden” will retrieve records with the word “garden” in the description as well as “Garden City Road” in the title. If you find your search results are too lengthy there are ways to improve your search. Search Tips are instructions found on every search page which will help you construct a more focused search.

Use of the advanced search pages will give you even greater power to combine and limit searches. Each of the 5 Search areas will have Advanced Search fields particular to the type of record. Photos for instance has subject and name fields which can be searched, in combination or alone. The Interurban Tram advanced search has car number, tram line number and station fields.

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For many of the advanced search fields, terms used in them are very specific. For these fields you need to click on the link beside the field to browse a list of terms, then choose the terms you would like to use:

list of terms

For really precise search results keywords and terms can be used in combination by using the AND / OR / NOT option for any field (this is called a Boolean search). For instance, the following example will search for all photographs with the subject term “British Columbia Electric Railway”, excluding those which are part of the Ted Clark fonds:

search example

Reference Files and Biography Files

You will notice that you can no longer search Reference Files and Biography Files on their individual pages on the City of Richmond Archives’ website. This is because they have now been incorporated into the new Archives search page along with the rest of the fonds/collection/series. Simply use the above search tips to locate the record(s) you are interested in.

Other New Features

If you would like to create a list of your search results just flag each record “Add to List” as you go. Once you are done searching, go to “View Selection’s” near the top of the page you are working in. Your list is automatically generated and can be emailed, saved to your home computer, or printed out on your printer.