Centres of Government – Richmond’s Town Halls – Part Three

Part Three – The 1950s Office Building

In January 1955 the Municipal Building Committee recommended to Council that a new, two-storey Municipal Hall be built immediately behind the existing one on the Municipal property at Granville Avenue and No.3 Road. By February the plans had been broadened to include a school administration building and health services offices on the same site and approval to borrow $398,000 was given by Council. The architectural contract was awarded to Allen C. Smith and Associates, the construction contract to Narod Construction, heating and ventilation to Crombie Heating and the electrical contract to Canadian Comstock.

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Construction of the new Town Hall takes place behind the old one in this photo. When the building was completed and the old one removed, the Cenotaph was relocated closer to the entrance. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1997 42 3 47.

Construction on the site began with moving the Brighouse Fire hall to the southwest corner of the property, making room for excavation to begin. The building’s construction was of reinforced concrete and throughout the construction, changes and amendments to the plans were made, although one suggestion that a neon sign to identify the hall should be added to the plans was quashed. The location of the new hall allowed work to continue uninterrupted in the old Town Hall while the new building rose behind it.

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Work continues on the new Town Hall while business continues in the old one. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1985 7 14.

By May of 1957 the hall was ready for occupation and municipal departments began to move their operations into the new building.

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Municipal employee Nellie Grecan and her adding machine are moved into the new Town Hall on May 25, 1957. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 57.

The demolition of the old hall was started, and once complete, landscaping, paving of the parking area and relocation of the cenotaph was completed in time for the grand opening on August 9, 1957.

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Once staff had moved into the new building, the old building was demolished. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1985 7 31.

The opening of the new Municipal Hall was attended by the the Hon. Wesley Black,  Minister of Municipal Affairs, and the Hon. Leslie Peterson, Minister of Education who opened the new School Board offices.

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The crowd on the east plaza of the new Town Hall for the opening ceremonies, August 9, 1957. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 38.

The new hall departed from its predecessor’s use as community space and community activities moved to community centres, church halls and other buildings. It was an unpretentious office building designed to house the growing bureaucracy required for the rapidly growing town, one which was growing far faster than could have been imagined.

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The new council chambers at the Municipal Hall with Reeve E.R. Parsons in the chair, Municipal Clerk Ted Youngberg seated below him and Councillor R.A. McMath in the foreground, Councillor H.D. Hudson seated on the far left, and Councillor Robert G Ransford at the far right. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1977 1 146.

 

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Photograph of the general office and municipal employees in the new Richmond Municipal Hall, 1957. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1977 1 148.

By 1961 office space was growing tight in the four-year-old building and debate was taking place on expansion of the hall. In 1964 the decision was made to add a new wing to the building. A contract was awarded to L.D. Boyd construction for $166,900 and the new wing was completed in September 1965. This alleviated the space crisis for a few years but improvements and modernization continued through the rest of the 1960s.

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The front entrance of Richmond Town Hall, ca. 1960. City of Richmond Archives photo 2004 11.

Growth continued and in 1969, with the hall once again bursting at the seams, plans were being debated for further expansion. In 1971 $1,278,000 was borrowed for the construction of a third floor on the existing building and for the construction of a new Public Safety Building. The new building would allow the RCMP to vacate their space in Municipal Hall and move to their own building, freeing up valuable office space. The additional space provided by the third floor and the space cleared by the RCMP only lasted a short time in the rapidly growing municipality.

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This photo from 1979 shows the Municipal buildings complex. Municipal Hall, with the third floor and additions at each end is in the foreground. The old Brighouse Firehall is in the space between the Hall and the RCMP Building and the School District Offices. To the right foreground is the Post Office and in the mall parking lot is the Richmond Square Theatres. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1992 20 F.

By January 1978 an architect had been commissioned to produce a report on the state of the council chambers and offices and how to increase the efficiency of the use of space in the hall. This report led to changes in the Health Department, a new Personnel Department and an addition to the north end of the building in 1979.

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Richmond City Hall, ca. 1992. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 39 6 705.

In 1990 the Corporation of the Township of Richmond was reincorporated as the City of Richmond. Over the preceding decade Richmond’s growth had continued and accelerated with increasing immigration. Richmond’s old Town Hall’s days were numbered, the city once again outgrowing it’s office space.

Next: The Modern Tower.

 

 

 

Centres of Government – Richmond’s Town Halls – Part Two

Part Two – The Tudor Manor

In 1918, with the First World War over and Richmond Town Council meeting in Bridgeport School due to the disastrous fire which destroyed the original hall on River Road, more and more pressure was being exerted to have a new Town Hall built in a more convenient, more central site. Council began looking for a new location that would meet the requirements of the growing Municipality.

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The Steveston Police station, jail and fire hall, shown here in 1915, had been built in the late 1890s. Its location and the fact that Steveston was the area with the highest population in Richmond was used as an argument for construction of a new town hall there. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2006 39 64.

Steveston was mentioned most of the time as the best location for the construction of a new Town Hall, as it had the highest residential population, was already the location of the police station and jail and was at the end of the BC Electric Railway Interurban line.

In January 1919, after due consideration and support from the Brighouse and Garden City Ratepayers Association, the decision was made to build the new hall in Brighouse. A deal was struck with Michael Wilkinson Brighouse, Sam Brighouse’s nephew and heir, to exchange the old Municipal Lands at River Road which had originally been purchased from the elder Brighouse, for about four acres of land at the southwest corner of No.3 Road and Granville Avenue next to the Brighouse Racetrack. The location of the new hall would help the area grow into the main commercial centre of Richmond.

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The new Richmond Town Hall, ca. 1920. Behind the hall is the Minoru/Brighouse Racetrack grandstand. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1987 97 1.

The Reeve and Council passed a by-law stating that the cost of the new hall would not exceed $15000, the cost to be covered by a public levy over three years. The new building was designed by Architect W. Jones and was much different in appearance from the simple old hall it replaced, looking much like an English Manor House. Mr. D. Gray was given the contract for the construction with his bid of $10519 and a further amount was awarded to the company of Barr and Anderson for plumbing and heating.

Construction problems arose early during the build, first in the foundations, which were found to have been laid six inches short of the required width, and then in the flooding of the coal furnace, which for some unknown reason was constructed below ground level, not the best building practice in Richmond. The new Town hall officially opened on December 13, 1919 and 300 citizens looked on as Reeve John Tilton called the Council meeting to order. When the meeting was over a celebration was held, the first of many to be held in the building which would serve the community nearly four decades.

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In 1941 the hall was renovated and a new vault was built. This blueprint shows the second floor with the council chambers, Reeve and Clerk’s offices, public service area, etc. City of Richmond Archives image.

The Police Department moved into the new hall in January 1920. By 1922 a resident janitor had been hired who was tasked with janitorial duties, answered the phone when the Police Chief was out of the building, took care of any prisoners in the jail and otherwise made himself useful around the hall.

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The ground floor of the hall was also renovated in 1941. Shown here are the police offices, jail cells and living quarters for the resident janitor. City of Richmond Archives image.

The hall, like its predecessor, was used as a social gathering place as well as for municipal business. Dances and concerts were held in the council chambers as well as meetings for many organizations. The Great War Veterans Association held meetings there, leading to the erection of the cenotaph in front of the building in 1922. The Agricultural Association leased a portion of the property for the construction of a building and tennis courts and lawn bowling greens were set up on the lawns adjacent to the hall.

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The cenotaph was erected outside the Town Hall in 1922. It still stands outside the present City Hall. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1977 21 8.

Four large light standards were installed on the grounds around the hall in January 1927. It was reported that when they were illuminated it would cause the lights inside the hall to dim, requiring an upgrade to the wiring in the place.

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During the Second World War the Town Hall provided office space for the War Loan Drive. Shown here are members of the Richmond Volunteer Fire Department/ A.R.P.  during a War Bond Drive.. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1984 7 1.

During the Second World War an office in the hall was provided to the War Loan Drive. A renovation of the hall took place in 1941 during which a new vault was built and changes to the interior spaces were made. After these renovations the hall remained as it was until 1955 when plans were approved for the construction of a new hall to replace the aging structure. The Municipality had out grown its centre of government and it was time for an upgrade to the post war modern era.

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This 1848 aerial view of the intersection of No.3 Road and Granville Avenue shows the Richmond Town Hall and its surroundings. On the left is Brighouse Park with its field and lacrosse box. The lower right shows the hall, works yard and outbuildings. On the far right is the grandstand and clubhouse at Brighouse Racetrack. The bottom of the photo shows the commercial buildings along No.3 Road. Granville Avenue and the BC Electric Railway tracks run diagonally from bottom to top. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1997 16 1.

Next – The 1950s Office Building

 

 

Centres of Government – Richmond’s Town Halls – Part One

Part 1 – The First Town Hall

On November 10, 1879, when Letters Patent were issued to incorporate the Corporation of the Township of Richmond at the request of 25 early settlers, the first order of business was to hold an election and form a council to run the fledgling municipality.  The election was held at the home of Hugh Boyd and Alexander Kilgour and, as required in the Letters Patent, a “Warden” and seven Councillors were elected. Hugh Boyd was the first Warden of Richmond, a title later replaced by Reeve and then Mayor.

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Hugh Boyd, the first Warden of the Corporation of the township of Richmond. The first Council meetings were held in the dining room of his house on Sea Island. City of Richmond Archives,  Oil Painting by T. B. Walker, 1911.

Council meetings were held in the dining room of the Boyd house on Sea Island until a better venue could be provided. In October 1880, Council approved the purchase of a five-acre field from Sam Brighouse. The property was located on the Middle Arm of the Fraser River near the present day intersection of River Road and Cambie Road. Land not occupied by the Municipal buildings was to be rented out to a farmer to produce crops. The contract for building the new hall was awarded to James Turnbull who built it for $434. The building was completed on January 4, 1881 and a few weeks later the outhouse and woodshed were also finished.

The first function to take place at the brand new hall was a party to celebrate its completion. Guests were transported from New Westminster to the party on the steamboat Adelaide, there being too few men and even fewer women in Richmond at the time to make a proper observance.

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A group of school children play baseball outside of the first Richmond Town Hall which also served as an early school. In this photo, ca. 1888, are William Garratt, Leo Carscallen, Peter Carscallen, James Sexsmith, Mr. McKinney, Jack Smith, George Sexsmith, William Mellis, Frances Sexsmith, Anna Sexsmith, Pearl Robinson, Kate Smith, Grace Sweet, Mae Vermilyea and Anna Noble. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1984 17 77.

The purchase of  property in that location was made based on an important fact about Richmond in those days. There was no infrastucture, –  no roads, minimal dyking done by private landowners and few trails. The location of the hall on the Middle Arm made arrival by boat convenient for many. In order to attend council meetings Councillor Walter Lee, who lived on the South Arm, would travel to Steveston by boat and then hike to the hall along the Crabapple Ridge. Travel overland was impossible in many areas due to the bog and gum boots were recommended even in the “dry” spots. Most Councillors carried slippers with them so they would have footwear during council meetings.

The new hall and the property it was built on became a centre of cultural activity for the community. Before long members of the Richmond Agricultural Society built an Agricultural Hall on the Municipal land near the Town Hall and many agricultural fairs were held there, starting in 1894. The Steveston Brass Band held concerts at the Town Hall, fraternal organizations booked the space to hold their meetings and it became a polling station for elections. Church services were held there and in 1881 permission was granted to the North Arm School Board to use the Hall as a school. Fourteen boys and twelve girls attended classes there with Miss Sweet as their teacher.

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Richmond residents enter the gates to attend the agricultural fair, ca. 1910. The board at the gate shows the fees, Admittance – 25 cents, Children – 10 cents, Horse and Buggy (with driver) – 50 cents. Lunch was available on the grounds for 25 cents. On the right in this photo is the Agricultural/Community Hall and on the left is the Richmond Methodist Church, now Minoru Chapel. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1984 17 78.

In 1891 a new schoolhouse was built by the North Arm School District and the Methodist Church was built nearby, freeing the Town Hall from those duties. In 1905 the hall got its first telephone and in 1911 the heat from the wood stove was supplemented with the addition of an oil stove. By 1912 Council started discussing the need for a new hall in a location more suited to the Municipality, which by now had built many roads and was serviced by the BC Electric Railway’s Interurban Tram.

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Horses and buggies and a crowd of people fill Richmond’s Municipal lands for an agricultural fair, ca. 1907. This image looks toward the present intersection of Cambie Road and River Road and shows the Town Hall (L), Agricultural Hall (M) and Richmond Methodist Church (R). The building in front of the church is the present location of the Richmond Rod and Gun Club. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1977 9 18.

The need for a new hall became more imperative in January 1913 when two auditors were going over documents in the hall. One of them, Mr. J.H. Lancaster, threw some gasoline into the wood stove thinking it was coal oil. The ensuing explosion caused the Town Hall to go up in flames. Mr. Lancaster was seriously burned and passed away some time later. The other auditor, Mr. J. Glanville  received less serious burns. Quick work by Reverend M. Wright and other bystanders resulted in most of the town’s records being saved.

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The first Council Minutes for the Corporation of Richmond were saved from the disastrous fire that destroyed the Town Hall and appear to be scorched around the edges. City of Richmond Archives photograph.

The loss of Richmond’s Town Hall meant that a new venue needed to be found for council meetings. The Mayor and Council used Bridgeport School as a temporary location until a new hall could be built in a more suitable location. The start of World War One dictated that the school would continue to be Richmond’s centre of government until 1919.

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Bridgeport School hosted Municipal Council meetings after the original Town Hall was burned in 1913. Shown here ca. 1940, the council met there until 1919.

Next – The Move to Brighouse.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.