In the late 19th Century, a teenage boy arrived in Victoria from China and began working in a store owned by members of his family. A year later Ling Lam moved to Vancouver where he studied English at the Chinese Methodist Church and worked in the canneries in Steveston. He started out in business by teaching himself how to bake bread and peddled buns door-to-door around Steveston. In 1895 he bought property and opened a store which became one of those places that embeds itself into a community’s collective memory.
Ling Lam named his business Hong Wo, meaning “Peace Together” or “Living in Harmony”. Located outside the dyke near the foot of Trites Road and near the Nelson Brothers Cannery, the place was a true General Store. If you couldn’t get what you needed at the Hong Wo Store, you probably couldn’t get it anywhere. The building was located adjacent to a wharf where fishboats could tie up and get supplies before the next fisheries opening. To streamline the process an order form was developed and issued to the fisherman who could check off the items they needed and the order would be ready for pickup at the specified time. He sold provisions to fishermen, canneries, boatbuilders, farmers and the general public.
The lot that Mr. Lam had built his store on was approximately 235 feet wide by 425 feet long (2.27 acres), and extended over the dyke to the high water line. Mr. Lam also acquired acreage north of that lot which was bordered on the north side by the CN Railway right-of-way and on the east by Trites Road (1.3 acres). Open fields to the north of the railway line (11.03 acres) became his farmlands, another arm of his business.
Once Ling Lam had his retail and farming businesses running, he returned to China to get married. When he was joined by his wife in Canada they lived in an apartment above the store. Around 1908 the store was destroyed by fire and the family moved into a cannery house until the new store was built. The Lam children walked three miles along the dyke into Steveston to go to school. With the business and farm prospering, Mr. Lam moved the family into a house in East Vancouver around 1914.
To order stock for the store in the early days, Mr. Lam would ride a bike to New Westminster to his supplier’s offices. The order for the season would be delivered by boat to the wharf and shed behind the store. The bicycle was eventually retired when a telephone was hooked up in the store, one of the first in Richmond, and orders could be phoned in.
Around 1914 Mr. Lam began to act as a labour contractor to two canneries, providing seasonal Chinese workers. He also employed the workers on his farms, supplying accommodations, food and a cook for a temporary crew of about 30 during the growing season and harvest. A full time foreman, assistant and truck driver were also employed.
During its peak, the farms owned by Mr. Lam produced tomatoes from about 30 greenhouses. Potatoes and beans were grown in the open fields along with a large crop of cucumbers for pickles. A complex of buildings was built on the lots south of the rail line. These included a pickle factory, complete with at least 20 eight-foot deep concrete vats for brining, storage buildings and greenhouses. Several bunkhouses were located on the property as well as a cookhouse with a large brick and metal wok and a building where barrels were assembled. Mr. Lam also invented a machine to sort cucumbers for dill pickles, a product which formed a large part of his farming business.
As reported by his daughter Jessie Lam Ross in a 1968 Richmond Review newspaper article, “He was a big name among the Chinese growers. He contracted with Empress, Royal City, Nalley’s, and other companies, and kept about 250 acres under cultivation in Steveston. Day and night he was on the go. He used to haul cukes in and pile them in huge stacks for the dill pickles.”
Ling Lam was also very active in Vancouver’s Chinese community, acting as the chairman of the Chinese Merchant’s Association, serving as an Elder in the Chinese United Church and starting the Chinese Farmer’s Association. He was known as a dedicated, principled, hard working man.
“I never saw him in work clothes,” his daughter Jessie remembered,” He always wore a blue serge suit and, in the summer, a shirt and tie and blue serge pants. He only took two holidays in his life, and then it was to go to California to look for seeds.”
After Mr. Lam’s death in 1939, his son George Lam and daughter Jessie Lam Ross took over his business, operating his store until 1971. With the store’s closure the property and buildings on it began to deteriorate, causing concern for the owners of nearby cannery buildings after several fires had been extinguished by the Richmond Fire Department. Efforts by the Steveston Historical Society to have the Hong Wo buildings declared a heritage site proved to be in vain and the store and surrounding buildings were destroyed in 1977.
While the Hong Wo Store has been gone for nearly half a century its 75 years of service to industry and community make it one of the unique components of Richmond’s history. The store’s story and that of Ling Lam, a self-made man who built a thriving business from humble beginnings, are memorialized in a sign at the corner of Trites Road and Westwater Drive near the location of his pickle factory.
Up until the 1960s Richmond was a “low-rise” community, the tallest buildings being the grandstands at the two thoroughbred racetracks in the municipality and the industrial buildings like canneries and mills. Richmond’s Zoning Bylaw had restricted building height to no more than three storeys above natural grade before the late 1950s. However, the increasing rates of population growth, brought on by the completion of the Oak Street Bridge in 1957, spurred the construction of residential subdivisions and the Municipal Government began to change Richmond’s Zoning Bylaw 1430 to permit higher density housing.
An aerial view of the Brighouse area in 1963 shows no buildings over three floors. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1984 17 65.
Richmond’s surface soil profiles have been studied and show that most of the land west of No. 3 Road has a clay cap about 3 metres in depth with sand or silty sand below. East of No. 3 Road there is typically a layer of peat up to 7 metres deep, then a 3 metre deep layer of clay underlain by sand. In the event of a major earthquake studies have shown that the most likely place for liquefaction (the loss of strength of soils due to vibration) to occur will probably be in a limited zone below the clay layer. As better understanding was reached of Richmond’s underlying soil conditions and how its soils react to supporting buildings in varying conditions, including earthquakes, site preparation and foundation construction techniques were adopted allowing taller structures to be built. Buildings in Richmond have to be built stronger and with greater attention to foundation design than similar buildings in Metro Vancouver which can be fastened to bedrock.
The first step in any construction is the provision of a soils report which addresses structural foundation support and the liquefaction potential of the soils in the building site. Structural drawings approved by a Professional Engineer deal with seismic design and the details of the soils report. Preparation of building sites for construction involves the densification of the soils with a preload of sand to a predetermined height and for a specified length of time. This compresses the soil and removes ground water to increase its load bearing capabilities. Various types of compaction using vibration are also commonly employed to increase the removal of ground water from the soil.
This photo shows concrete pilings which support the weight of buildings on soil below the liquefaction zone, in this case at the construction site of Richmond City Hall. City of Richmond Archives photograph.
Most buildings over three storeys high are placed on pile foundations which support the building on soil below the liquefaction layer. Concrete “Franki” piles, reinforced concrete pilings forced down a metal tube and which expand out the bottom in a large bulge, provide structural support. Stone columns and timber “compaction piles” are often placed in a pattern around support pilings to further eliminate water from the soil supporting the building. All of the methods of supporting the building structure and compacting the soil create a large block of dense soil beneath the building site, essentially an artificial bedrock.
Richmond General Hospital was Richmond’s tallest building for many years. At six storeys it did not quite make the height required to be called a high rise. City of Richmond Archives photograph, accession 2004 11.
The first building to exceed the three-storey limit was the new Richmond General Hospital. At six storeys it did not quite qualify as a high-rise building, the standard being seven storeys or more, but it had been designed with the ability to be expanded to nine storeys and for years it was the tallest building in Richmond. The hospital opened on February 26, 1966. Plans to add an additional three storeys to the building in 1972 were quashed, however, due to changes in the National Building Code for 1970 which dramatically increased the specifications for earthquake building loads.
With the new changes in the building code the stage was now set for the construction of true high-rise buildings in Richmond. Through the early 1970s the Richmond Review newspaper announced the planned construction of the first buildings, a seven-storey seniors’ residence, two hotel towers, and three seventeen-storey apartment buildings.
Public opinion about the changing Richmond skyline was mixed, with very vocal opponents to the flat terrain of the community being “splattered with 200 foot towers”. Residents around the 1000 block of Ryan Road were so outraged at the plans for the construction of a fourteen-storey tower as part of an apartment development in their neighborhood that 150 of them showed up at a Municipal Council meeting to protest. Citing a complete lack of consultation they managed to have the proposed development cancelled.
The March 18, 1970 Richmond Review showed this photo of the proposed Lions Manor building. At the time it was published, the location of the building had still not been settled.
The Richmond Review newspaper announced the construction of a $1.2 million apartment block for seniors on March 19, 1970. The seven-storey concrete building, planned since 1968, would fill a need for affordable senior’s housing with room for 144 people living in single suites. Occupancy would be limited to persons having an income of $150 per month or less and rent would be $110. The project had been in planning for many years by the Richmond Lions Club. The location chosen to build the residence was on Aquila Road, but opposition from neighbours forced a change of location. Seventh Avenue in Steveston was suggested as an alternate site, but eventually a property at 1177 Fentiman Place in Steveston was approved for its construction.
By December 8, 1971 the building structure was almost complete. Richmond Review.
Described as “like a hotel for old people – all they have to do is dress themselves and come to the dining room to eat”, the rooms each had a bed, chair, clothes closet, dresser, desk and wash stand. Each floor had a lounge and a washroom with four private tubs. The top floor featured a library and the main resident lounge while the main floor housed the kitchen and dining room as well as a crafts room, laundry and visitor’s lounge. Construction began on the manor in 1970 and the first 15 guests had moved in by November 1972.
In this aerial view looking over Steveston the Lions Manor is clearly visible at the centre left. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1977 22 2
On April 12, 1971 the Review announced the Municipality’s “first high rise complex” to be built on Minoru Boulevard. Expected to cost $8.25 Million, it consisted of three seventeen-storey towers, two to be built in the first phase of construction with the third to follow later.
An artist’s drawing of the Park Towers complex from a brochure at the City of Richmond Archives.
The entire complex was to provide 561 dwellings. Foundations for the towers used Franki concrete pilings about every four feet on centre with concrete beams on top to support the buildings.
The first two towers of the Park Towers development near completion in this photo. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2019 24 1.
The project was proposed in 1969 by well-known developer Ben Dayson of Highgate holdings who had previously built the three-storey Minoru Garden Apartments next door to the high rise building site. The first two towers (“Towers C and B”) were ready for rentals by November 1972. Apartments in the third tower (“Tower A”), completed the following year, were sold as condominiums.
The three buildings of the Park Towers, Richmond’s first high rise apartment complex, dominate the skyline of downtown Richmond, ca. 1976. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2008 36 3 75.
In May of 1971 the construction of the Vancouver Airport Hyatt House hotel complex was reported. The hotel was to include a 10-storey tower, 431 rooms, ballroom and meeting rooms, a 200 boat marina, and three restaurants (one on “stilts” over the Fraser River), all built on a seven acre site on Sea Island.
This architectural drawing shows the proposed Airport Hyatt on the bank of the Middle Arm of the Fraser River. City of Richmond Archives photograph.
The building height had been restricted to 135 feet above ground level because of its proximity to the airport and had to have non-metallic roof sheathing so as not to interfere with navigational signals.
Construction is underway at the site of the new Airport Hyatt in this Richmond Review clipping from January 12, 1972.
The site was prepared with an 18 foot high preload of sand which sat for one year before construction began, compacting the soil 60 to 70 feet down. Three hundred and sixty Franki piles were spanned by two-foot by three-foot concrete beams which are in turn supporting a 3 1/2-foot concrete slab. Rising above the slab is the Y-shaped tower of the main structure. The Hotel opened for business in early June 1973.
The Delta Airport Inn before the construction of the first tower. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1988 18 77.
In June 1971, construction began on an expansion of the Delta Airport Inn on St. Edwards Drive which would involve the erection of a fourteen-storey tower with 144 suites and the renovation and expansion of the existing hotel amenities. The upgrade to the hotel, in the planning stages since 1969, was expected to cost $2.5 Million.
This architect’s drawing shows the planned expansion of the Airport Inn. A second, taller tower has been added since. Photo from January 14, 1972 Richmond Review.
A preload of 25,000 yards of sand had already been in place before the project was announced in the June 9, 1971 Richmond Review and 126 piles had been driven 40 feet into the ground at the site to compact the soil and support the building. It was expected that after the completion of the first floor, each floor would only take one week to build. The tower had been completed by March 1972 and the rooms ready for guests by April.
By October 15, 1971 the Airport Inn claimed to have the highest view in Richmond. Richmond Review photograph.
These first four high rise building projects began a trend which continues today, and high rise buildings have come to dominate the city’s skyline, especially in the City Centre area. Which was Richmond’s first high rise? All four were under construction at the same time but by opening date, the Delta Airport Inn’s tower (now the Sandman Signature Airport Hotel) was the first in March 1972, followed closely by the Lion’s Manor and the first phase of the Park Towers in November 1972. The Airport Hyatt House Hotel (now the Pacific Gateway Hotel) on Sea Island was opened fourth, the following March. All of the buildings are still in use except for the Lion’s Manor which was demolished in 2014.
Richmond’s high rises are dwarfed by other buildings in the Metro Vancouver area. Transport Canada mandates through the Vancouver Airport International Zoning Regulations that buildings in Richmond not exceed 47 meters (150 feet). There has been a study around the possibility of an increase in allowable building heights in the Brighouse area, something that is still ongoing, and it is possible that someday we may see buildings in Richmond that rival some of the “skyscrapers” seen in other cities.
The Archives and what goes on there is a mystery to most people so in this posting we will try to explain what the City of Richmond Archives is, where it is, and what it does.
An archival box is designed to exclude light and dust from the records stored within. In this blog we bring the records “Outside the Box” so that the public can see the history of their community. City of Richmond Archives photograph.
The City of Richmond Archives is the official repository for the inactive public (City) and private (donated by individuals) records of enduring and historic value to the City of Richmond and the community as a whole. The main work undertaken at the Archives follows two paths, namely, preservation (to preserve and protect records) and access (to make them accessible to City officials and to the public). The Archives is a section of the City Clerk’s Office which, among its other duties and responsibilities, is responsible for records management for the City.
The idea of creating an archives facility for Richmond was originally discussed in 1970. With the approach of Richmond’s Centennial year, a proposal had been put forward to publish a book to mark the event. The committees formed to organize the Centennial celebration and the book were made up of Richmond residents with an interest in archives and in establishing one for the Municipality because without the original documents and photographs of the community, it would be impossible to have a history.
Ted Youngberg, Chair of the Richmond ’79 Centennial Society and Leslie Ross, author of the book “Richmond-Child of the Fraser” look over some archival images. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1987 30 92.
Before 1982, archival materials were collected and stored by the Richmond Museum and Historical Society which had been formed in 1961. In 1982, Richmond’s first City Archivist was hired, working with the City’s Leisure Services Department. In 1987, in recognition of the Archives’ growing role as a part of the City’s records management system, the Archives was transferred to the City Clerk’s Department.
In 1992 when the Richmond Cultural Centre was built, a dedicated space for the Archives was created allowing the Archives’ holdings to be stored in one place for the first time. On July 29, 2002 the Corporate Records Management Program Bylaw 7400 came into effect setting out the terms and scope of activities of the City of Richmond Archives. This link will take you to the text of Bylaw 7400 which provides a picture of the stewardship the City of Richmond exercises over City government and community records during their lifetime: http://www.richmond.ca/__shared/assets/bylaw_7400463.pdf
Where is it?
The City of Richmond Archives is located in the Richmond Cultural Centre. The door to the Archives is located between the Library entrance and the Front Desk in the Rotunda of the Centre. A window to the left of the door shows a display relating to some aspect of Richmond’s history using material sourced from the Archives. Just through the door is a vestibule, featuring a photographic display.
The front entrance to the Archives is located between the Library entrance and the Cultural Centre front desk. City of Richmond Archives photograph.
Past the second door, you enter the Reference Room where most researchers do their work. A photographic timeline on the walls shows images from Richmond’s history and digital photo frames present images from specific photograph collections. A research library offers books, research finding aids and telephone/street directories. A microfilm/microfiche reader is provided as well.
The Reference Room at the Archives features a historical photographic timeline on the walls. Space is provided for researchers to work. City of Richmond Archives photograph.
Past the service desk and through the door is the Archives office. Here is where Archives staff and volunteers work at several work stations and tables. More research material can be found here as well as equipment for the handling and conservation of records.
This work station in the Archives office is set up for conservation work and includes an exhaust system for the evacuation of fumes. City of Richmond Archives photograph.
Through the doors at the rear of the Archives office is the closed Archives storage area, commonly referred to as the stacks.
These sections of rolling shelves are used for the storage of textual records in the Archives. City of Richmond Archives photograph.
Here, in a temperature and humidity controlled environment, is where the records held in the City of Richmond Archives are stored for future generations. Each set of shelves or drawers are labelled, as are the boxes and files located there, allowing the Archivist to find a single item among the mass of material stored there.
Drawers like these are used for the storage of maps and plans. City of Richmond Archives photograph.
The Archives acquires records for its collection in several ways. Public records are transferred from the City. Private records are received by public donation. The title of the material passes to the Archives with the understanding that ownership is held in trust for future generations.
The conservation of documents is an important activity at the Archives. Here a Contract Archivist works at disbinding old by-laws for preservation and accessibility. City of Richmond Archives photograph.
The Archives holds more than one kilometer of textual records, 170,000 photographs, 20,000 maps and plans and over 500 sound and moving image recordings. There are also collections of subject and biography files and a small reference library.
Photographic negatives, which deteriorate over time, are shown here after being dehumidified, and sealed to prevent moisture incursion. They are then frozen to slow the rate of their decay. City of Richmond Archives photograph.
What goes on?
When records are acquired by the Archives, whether from the City or as a donation, they undergo a fairly complex and time consuming process to ensure their preservation and accessibility. If a member of the public decides to donate a group of photographs, the process is:
An accession number is given to the donation which consists of a four digit number indicating the year it was received and a second number indicating its order of donation, for example, a donation numbered 2019 5 would indicate the fifth accession of 2019. A Deed of Gift Agreement form is generated by the Archivist which includes a description of the photographs. By signing the Deed of Gift Agreement, the donor states that they are authorized to donate the material, that ownership of the material is transferred to the Archives and disposal instructions for the material are stated should the Archives decide not to keep it.
Once the ownership of the photographs is transferred to the Archives, the Archivist will create an entry in the Archives database. The accession can now be stored in the Archives.
Each photograph will be given a specific item number and will be placed in an individual acid free envelope. The envelopes are then placed in archival boxes, designed to keep out light and dust, and the boxes are placed on the photograph shelves in the Archives.
Lastly, as time and staffing allow, the photos will be digitized. Once this is done they may be added to the Archives website allowing researchers to search the photos without actually coming to the Archives.
Volunteers at the Archives work at scanning some of the thousands of photographic images preserved there. Once digitized they can be made available online. City of Richmond Archives photograph.
The Friends of the Richmond Archives
The Friends of the Richmond Archives was formed in the fall of 1986 as a volunteer and non-profit organization by members of the Richmond ’79 Centennial Society Historical sub-committee. The Friends undertake a number of activities to support the City of Richmond Archives and to promote the preservation and understanding of Richmond’s history.
Members of the Friends of the Richmond Archives with a display at the annual Remembrance Day event at City Hall. City of Richmond Archives photograph.
Out of its membership of 216 people, a core group of volunteers take part in community outreach activities, support a publishing program for local history, and help fund the purchase of specialized archival equipment and projects at the City of Richmond Archives. The Friends have also endowed a UBC award for students in the Masters of Archival Studies Program and have supported a number of programs for local students in Richmond.
Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie speaks at the Annual Archives Tea, a popular event open to members and guests of the Friends of the Richmond Archives. City of Richmond Archives photo.
The funds managed by the Friends are raised through donations and membership fees. If you are interested in the preservation of your city’s history and want to support the Archives in its work consider becoming a member of the Friends of the Richmond Archives. The membership form is available at: https://www.richmond.ca/__shared/assets/FOTRA_Membership_Application_Form_201851284.pdf . As a member, you will receive in the mail the semi-annual Archives News (the newsletter of the City of Richmond Archives), notifications of special events at the Archives, opportunities for volunteer involvement with the Friends, and an invitation to the annual Archives Tea. A receipt for Income Tax purposes will be issued for donations over $10.
Brighouse is a name that has been associated with Richmond’s main retail and business district since the days before there was any retail or business done there. There is no question that the name Brighouse comes from Sam Brighouse, once the owner of the property on which City Hall and Minoru Park are now located but why did the area, part of Richmond’s City Centre, get and keep that name?
Samuel Brighouse, ca. 1860. City of Richmond Archives photograph RCF 32.
Samuel Brighouse was an prominent early settler, land owner, farmer and businessman in the Lower Mainland. He was born in Yorkshire in 1836 and at the age of 26 years sailed from Milford Haven with his cousin John Morton to New York and then to Panama, to San Francisco and then to New Westminster, a trip of almost two months.The two men made their way to the Cariboo gold fields and, finding prospects poor there, made their way back to New Westminster, making the trip both ways on foot.
Brighouse and Morton partnered with William Hailstone in November of 1862 and purchased 555 acres of land in what is now the West End of Vancouver, some of the most valuable land in the country today. The three men, who became known as “The Three Greenhorns”, built a cabin and spent a couple of years clearing trails and living on the property. In 1864 Brighouse, who had been looking at farmland in the Fraser Valley and speculated that it may become quite valuable, acquired 697 acres of land on Lulu Island, some preempted and some purchased from original preemptors. The property today is bounded on the east by No.3 Road, on the west by No.2 Road, on the south by Granville Avenue and on the north by the river.
Brighouse farmed crops and livestock on the property, building a successful operation and erecting the largest barn on the Fraser River. He purchased another property near New Westminster called Rose Hill, building a dairy farm there. He operated both of his ventures until 1881, when he leased out his farms and returned to his property on Burrard Inlet.
An old barn on the Brighouse lands, ca. 1973. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1977 16 13.
Brighouse was one of the signatories on the petition for the incorporation of the Township of Richmond and he served briefly on Richmond Council in 1883, although he no longer lived there. He served two terms as one of the first Councillors in Vancouver. Sam Brighouse focused his attention on Vancouver and its development after leaving Lulu Island and made a fortune selling his property there after the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He retained a great deal of his wealth by never selling his Richmond farmland, instead leasing it to other farmers.
In 1880 Brighouse sold five acres of his Lulu Island property at the present intersection of River and Cambie Roads to the fledgling Corporation of the Township of Richmond where the first Town Hall was built. Sam Brighouse’s later life was marked by ill health and he returned to his native Yorkshire in 1911 where he passed away in 1913.
Michael Wilkinson Brighouse, Sam Brighouse’s nephew and Heir. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2001 9 3.
Brighouse was joined by his nephew Michael B. Wilkinson in 1888 who helped his uncle with the running of his farms as well as investing in canneries. He changed his name to Michael Wilkinson Brighouse, a condition of his uncle’s will, and became Sam’s heir. In 1909 Sam Brighouse sold a portion of his land to a group who built Richmond’s first racetrack, Minoru Park, named for the 1909 Epsom Derby winner. The track went out of business in 1914 with the First World War and the property was bought back by Michael Brighouse and reopened as Brighouse Park Racetrack in 1920.
Michael W Brighouse kept the Brighouse name in the public consciousness through his business and political activities. He served two terms as a Richmond Councillor in 1894 and 1895 and one term as Reeve in 1900. In 1919 he traded the five acres of land purchased from his uncle by the Township for four acres of land at the present City Hall site. Wilkinson Brighouse passed away in 1932, leaving the property to his heirs who sold it to the Corporation of the Township of Richmond in 1962. Until its sale, Wilkinson Brighouse and his heirs continued to lease out their farmland to local farming families such as the McClellands, Shaws, Fishes and Zellwegers.
The CPR train , “The Sockeye Limited”, at Steveston, ca. 1902. City of Richmond Archives photograph 1977 2 38.
So the Brighouse name was very well known in Richmond throughout its early years, but how did that part of town retain the name over the names of some of the other pioneer property owners in the area? One explanation is because of the Canadian Pacific Railroad and the construction of the Vancouver and Lulu Island Line, the “Sockeye Limited” in 1902. Eyeing freight and passenger revenues from the canneries of Steveston and the farms which dotted Lulu Island, the CPR built the railway from the depot in Vancouver to Eburne (Marpole), spanned the North Arm of the Fraser with a bridge and built an eight mile track to Steveston where they built a large train station. Along the line where it crossed a road, still a rarity in Richmond at the time, three smaller stations were erected. At No.2 Road “Lulu Station” was built. At No. 20 Road “Cambie” Station, named for Civil Engineer and CPR Executive Henry J. Cambie, was built. Where the track crossed No.3 Road near the southeast corner of the Brighouse property, owned by the man who had sold large amounts of his Vancouver property to the CPR and its officers, “Brighouse” Station was put up.
It is often the case where railroad stations are placed, the surrounding area takes on the name of the stop and the Brighouse name was even further imprinted on the area in 1922 when the Brighouse Post Office was opened at the train station. By this time the second Richmond Town Hall had opened across No.3 Road from the station and its address became “The Corporation of the Township of Richmond, Brighouse, B.C.”.
Detail of an envelope showing the return address for the Richmond Town Hall, 1922. From the personal collection of H.S. Steves.
Businesses took on the name of the area and names like Brighouse Grocery, Brighouse Cafe and Brighouse Hardware let customers know their location and that they were near the tram station. As years passed Brighouse Subdivision was built on the old farm, served by Samuel Brighouse Elementary School. Brighouse Industrial Estates provided homes for large companies. Today the Richmond Olympic Oval occupies space near the river and condo towers rise where once Sam Brighouse built dykes to protect his farm.
The Brighouse Cafe, shown here before 1940, was one of a multitude of businesses, services, organizations and retailers that used and continue to use “Brighouse” in their names. City of Richmond Archives photograph 2001 10 3.
The name Brighouse has become synonymous with the commercial and administrative centre of Richmond and although the original train and tram station is long gone, a new Brighouse Station opened down No.3 Road from the original one in 2009 as the terminus of the Canada Line further connecting the name of Sam Brighouse to the history of Richmond.
Richmond has had an association with flight since the first time an airplane took off under its own power in our province. Purpose-built airports did not exist in the early days. Aviators used existing facilities to operate their machines and farm fields, fair grounds and horse racing tracks served the purpose. The latter two were already equipped with grandstands to hold the crowds which gathered, each person paying to witness the fledgling technology of flight and perhaps the spectacle of a crash.
Minoru Park – Brighouse Park Racetrack Exhibition Flying and Barnstorming
The place where most of the early milestones of flight in British Columbia took place was Minoru Park Racetrack. Opened in 1909, the mile-long oval occupied the property on which can now be found Richmond City Hall, the south part of Richmond Centre Mall, the Richmond Public Library and Cultural Centre, Richmond Arenas, Richmond Aquatic Centre and the present Minoru Park. On Friday, March 25, 1910, Charles K. Hamilton became the first person to fly an aeroplane in British Columbia when he lifted off in front of 3500 cheering spectators at Minoru Park.
In those dawning days of aviation when the mere sight of a man flying in a machine was thrilling enough to attract thousands of onlookers, Hamilton’s Easter weekend exhibition did not disappoint the crowds. On Friday, after swooping around the grandstand for about ten minutes, the plane swerved suddenly to the centre of the field and landed hard, causing some damage to the undercarriage. Quickly making some repairs, he got the engine started and continued his display.
On Saturday, Hamilton took off again, this time disappearing from view for about twenty minutes, flying to New Westminster where streetcars stopped to let the passengers watch. On his return to Richmond he landed briefly for a refreshment, then took two more flights, one in which he lost a race with a car.
On Monday, the exhibition continued, this time featuring a competition with the racehorse Prince Brutus who was given a 3/8 of a mile handicap. The horse took full advantage of its head start, passing the post before the aircraft.
The aircraft that Hamilton flew was historic in its own right. Known as the Rheims Racer, it was built by Glenn H. Curtiss, a central figure in the history of aviation, to compete in the Gordon Bennett Race at Rheims, France on August 29, 1909. The aircraft proved to be superior to the other entrants in the race, a timed closed circuit flight of twenty kilometres, beating his nearest rival, Louis Bleriot, by five seconds to win the Gordon Bennett Aviation Cup and a large cash prize. Curtiss took part in several other meets and races in Europe before shipping the aircraft back to North America where it was leased to Hamilton for use in exhibition flying.
Exhibition flying took place regularly at Minoru Park Racetrack after the flights by Hamilton. In April 1911 a disappointing show was put on by Jack DePries and the Manning Brothers. Widely derided by spectators and the local press, the three day exhibition featured several minor crashes and not much actual flying by the trio, who apparently displayed little skill or experience at operating their aircraft.
In May the same year came test flights at Minoru Park of the Templeton – McMullen biplane, the first aircraft to be designed and built in Vancouver. The aircraft managed several short hops, hampered by an under-powered engine.
In April 1912, Billy Stark, BC’s first licensed pilot, flew at Minoru in a Curtiss biplane. During his exhibition program he carried the first aircraft passengers in British Columbia. The first was James T. Hewitt, sports editor of the Daily Province newspaper. Seated on the wing of the aircraft, which was not equipped for passengers, the plane took off from a farmer’s field near the racetrack, long enough to allow the craft to take to the air with the extra load. Hewitt described the experience as “like riding on the cowcatcher of an express locomotive”. Stark’s wife Olive became the first woman to be carried in an airplane in the province the same day.
In August of 1912 aviator and inventor James V. Martin flew his self designed aircraft at Minoru. In July of 1913 a popular aviation show, the Bennett Aviation Company came to Minoru Park. The show featured pilot John Bryant and his wife Alys McKey Bryant who would be the first woman to pilot a plane in British Columbia.
By 1914, aircraft were becoming a more familiar sight in the skies of BC and spectators were less willing to pay to see them. The beginning of World War I in July of that year limited exhibition flying as aviation took on a more serious purpose. The wartime advances in aviation technology and the need to train pilots who would be able to join the Royal Flying Corps led to the formation of flying schools in Canada, the second of which was organized in the summer of 1915 by the newly chartered Aero Club of British Columbia, and began training aviators at Minoru Park. The racetrack soon proved to be too small for flight training purposes and the operation was moved to the Milligan Farm at Terra Nova where a larger field was available. A small hangar building was erected and the flight school operated there until 1916, when it moved to Pitt Meadows.
Horse racing had been discontinued for the duration of the war at Minoru Park but aircraft continued to fly sporadically there. Once the war was over large numbers of modern aircraft and trained airmen came on the scene. The Aerial League of Canada was formed by returned airmen who had developed a love of flying and wanted to promote aviation in Canada. Branches formed around the country, including ones in Vancouver and Victoria. By the summer of 1919 a small hangar had been built and at least five aircraft were based at Minoru Park, mostly war surplus Curtiss JN-4 (Canucks). Commonly known as the Jenny, it was a plane which was the workhorse of the barnstorming era and was used to take the first steps into commercial aviation.
The league’s promotion of aviation raised flying in the public attention by putting on “barnstorming” demonstrations and accomplishing “firsts”. The first flight across Georgia Strait took place on May 13, 1919 when two members of the League took off from Minoru Park, landed in Victoria, had dinner at the Empress Hotel and then flew home. The Aerial League put on several displays at Minoru in 1919 featuring wing walking, aerial acrobatics and races between planes as well as races between a plane and a race car.
On August 7, 1919 Ernest C. Hoy, lifted off from Minoru Park and flew into history as the first person to fly across the Rockies. The plane was fitted with an extra 12 gallon fuel tank to allow it to stay in the air for at least four hours. As navigational aids, Hoy used a pocket watch and a railway contour map and he carried 45 officially marked letters as well as a bundle of special edition “Vancouver Daily World” newspapers, making this the first Air Mail flight over the Rockies as well. Hoy landed at Vernon, Grand Forks, Cranbrook and Lethbridge where he could eat, fuel up and have his aircraft adjusted by experienced “air machine men” before making his final landing at Bowness Park in Calgary.
Another first for Minoru Park came at 11:25, October 17, 1920, when a DeHavilland DH9A touched down on the field completing the Canadian Air Board – Canadian Air Force Trans-Canada Flight. This undertaking which involved several different aircraft and pilots, started in Halifax and took 247 hours, almost twice as long as taking the train, but still an important milestone in Canadian aviation history.
Lansdowne Field – The Start of Commercial Aviation
Aviation developed rapidly through the 1920s. Sea planes became more common, not requiring large open fields for landings or takeoffs, but the Lower Mainland still had no purpose built airport for land based aircraft. The crunch came in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh refused to land at Vancouver during his North American tour following his trans-Atlantic flight, saying there was no airport worth landing at.
At the same time the Dominion Airways Company was looking for a suitable place for a small airport from which to run their business. They found a field owned by a farmer named Summerfield along the north side of Lansdowne Park Racetrack. The City of Vancouver, who also wanted an airport, became interested in the property and leased it from Mr. Summerfield for use as an airfield in 1928.
Lansdowne Field became British Columbia’s second licensed airport, opening officially in May 1929. While it was only intended to be a temporary facility until a permanent site could be designed and built on Sea Island, the airport became the hub of aviation in the Lower Mainland during its operation.
The field was home to several commercial aviation companies and flight schools run by the Aero Club of BC and Sprott Shaw College. In 1930, gliders were also used to teach elementary flight principles and give students practice at flight control. They were launched using an old Maxwell automobile and a four hundred foot towrope which could let them achieve an altitude of about 200 feet before cutting loose and landing at the airport.
The Vancouver Airport on Lulu Island was not the ideal location for a centre of aviation, however it filled the requirements for the time it took to design and build the airport on Sea Island. None of the businesses which operated from Lansdowne Field survived the early years of the depression. Only the Aero Club of BC, subsidized by the government, managed to make the move to the new facility.
By 1930 construction was well underway at the new airport on Sea Island and after its opening on July 22, 1931 aviation activity ceased on Lulu Island. Since the 1930s the Vancouver Airport has grown and expanded to the large International facility it is today, owing its existence to those first flimsy craft that struggled into the air across the Middle Arm from where jumbo jets land today.
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