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Archive for the ‘Heritage’ Category

Party in the Park

Posted on: July 10th, 2019 by Tristan Evans

When you work with archival records five days a week your mind sometimes skews timelines and it’s hard to consider what is truly ‘long ago.’  Only recently have we started to receive donations from the 1980s.  Working everyday with our records, I consider the 1980s to be relatively new, never mind the 1990s or early 2000s.  This was glaringly evident to me when I wrote a blog post on the snow storm of 1996.  Truth be told, besides a few Chilliwack Progress articles and photographs, we haven’t received many donations about this event yet. Compared to the records describing the 1935 ice storm, the snow storm appears to have had little impact.

While we know records from the snow storm of 1996 will eventually find their way into the Archives, it’s sometimes hard to think about the 1990s or early 2000s as ‘long ago.’  2006 and 2007 may feel like yesterday, but the following events actually occurred twelve and thirteen years ago.  Just long enough for us to begin having a little historical perspective on them. 

If you will, let me indulge you with a little story about one of my favourite events:

Chilliwack Court House 
[PP500910]
Chilliwack Court House
[PP500910]

I am biased.  I like parties, music, and I live downtown, so I really like Party in the Park.  Naturally, I also like to know the history of events (I wouldn’t be very good at my job if I wasn’t interested in history).  Turns out, Party in the Park has been around just long enough to write about. 

The land that is Central Community Park was once the home of the Chilliwack Court House, originally built in 1894.  The original courthouse survived two separate fires in 1906 and 1949.  Unfortunately, a third fire completely destroyed the building in 1951.  Today the only surviving remains from this building is the courthouse sign that can be seen right now in our temporary exhibit, Five Faces Five Corners: The Social Experience of Chilliwack’s Downtown (nice plug, right). 

After a few transformations, the area was eventually known as the Jean McNaughton/Happy Wilkinson Parks and home to a Chilliwack Farmers Market.  In 2005, the City of Chilliwack, Rotary International, and the Downtown Business Improvement Association (BIA) began construction on a collaborative project called, Central Community Park.  The idea was to create “a splendid place where everyone in the community is welcome to fully enjoy outdoor performances, special events festivals, and to learn about the history of the parks and the surrounding area.”  Central Community Park officially opened on Friday, October 13, 2006 and was designed by architect Rob Powers. 

Chilliwack Farmer's Market, ca. 1984. 
William Craven fonds [2016.032.002.1117]
Chilliwack Farmer’s Market, ca. 1984.
William Craven fonds [2016.032.002.1117]

To celebrate opening day the City of Chilliwack, the BIA, and Rotary International put together a weekend of celebrations called – wait for it – Party in the Park.  The first event featured speakers, dignitaries, and music from both Central Elementary and Chilliwack Senior Secondary schools.  According to an account from The Chilliwack Progress, Mayor Clint Hames predicted the new facility will be a focal point for future cultural activities in the downtown core

Following architect Rob Powers advice that, “the community [had] to start building new traditions around the park,” the City of Chilliwack, the BIA, and Rotary organized a series of Party in the Park events the following summer.  Each Friday between June 29 and August 24, 2007, these three organizing parties hosted what has now become the annual Party in the Park. 

The first summer Party in the Park occurred on June 29, 2007 and featured a Farmers Market at 5:00 PM, kids activities at 6:00 PM and live music at 7:30 PM. As so often happens in Chilliwack, poor weather threw a wrench into the scheduling and the local rock band, Relic’s Jetboat, was ultimately unable to perform that night.  Fortunately, the band was able to be rescheduled for the final Party in the Park date for the summer and played on August 24, closing off the festival with a bang.

Construction of Jean McNaughton/Happy Wilkinson Parks, July 5, 1983. 
William Craven fonds [2016.032.002.434]
Construction of Jean McNaughton/Happy Wilkinson Parks, July 5, 1983.
William Craven fonds [2016.032.002.434]

The exact dates of Party in the Park have changed over the years but the event is now considered a Chilliwack tradition. The event has grown to the point that venders often spread out beyond Central Community Park onto Mill Street and Wellington Avenue. Although the event changes from year to year, in my humble opinion, the heart and original goal of the event remains constant, bringing together the community of Chilliwack for a night of fun and solid cheer. Oh yeah, that and the opportunity to hear some rock-solid local musical talent.

A Historic Night’s Sleep

Posted on: January 23rd, 2019 by Tristan Evans

On New Year’s Day,  the Chilliwack Progress predicted, “the year 1908 holds out great prospects for this little Valley… The expectations for this incoming year are great, the prospects greater, and the realizations will be the greatest of any.”  For new immigrants and re-settlers to the area, 1908 was a pivotal year marked with major changes.  The City of Chilliwack officially incorporated as a separate government entity from the Township of Chilliwhack.  The first Empress Hotel in Chilliwack opened, the new City of Chilliwack installed the first electric lights in downtown, and just two years later the British Columbia Electric Railroad opened the first passenger and freight rail line to Chilliwack on October 3, 1910.  As the City continued to expand that year, prominent local builder and architect Robert Harvey Brock began filling in the last vacant lot on the south side of Wellington Avenue between Main Street and Five Corners with the construction of the Royal Hotel.

 

Front view of the Royal Hotel, ca. 1912. [1977.006.035]

The Royal Hotel was the brain child of David Swain Dundas, the first owner.  He approached Robert Brock who then drew up the plans for the hotel.  J. C. Robertson completed the excavation work and laid down a concrete foundation for the building.  Upon completion, the three story hotel towered over local businesses in downtown Chilliwack.  The hotel featured many luxuries that we take for granted today including closets and bathrooms on every floor, steam heating, electric lighting, and telephone services.  After thoroughly touring and measuring every room in the hotel, one writer from the Progress finished the review of the hotel simply stating, “Mr. Dundas himself, has left nothing to be desired in hotel structure and modern conveniences.”

 

Although the Royal Hotel was well received, Dundas left the hotel business after just a few short years.  He sold the building to Cyrus W. McGillivary in 1912 for $47,000.  In 1926, Tom Berry bought the hotel from McGillivary.  Tom Berry’s son, Harry “Buck” Berry took over from his father in 1947.  The hotel was owned and operated by the Berry family until 1995 when Buck sold the building (CMA, AM 373 Tax Rolls).

 

Staff at the Royal Hotel beer parlour posing with customers. Left to right : Tony Britton, Bert Harwood, Vi Harwood, and Jack Pulford, 1952. [1999.065.002]

Large, colourful, and friendly owners, Tom and Buck Berry kept the hotel running through many renovations.  The biggest change during the Berry years came in 1950 when Buck bought the Royal Bank building on the corner of Main and Wellington.  Corresponding with new liquor laws in Chilliwack that allowed hotels to sell beer by the glass, Buck Berry merged the hotel with the old Royal Bank building and built a beer parlor in the building he called, the House of Blues.  To speed up service, staff wore roller skates as they rushed between the beer parlour and the kitchen, (CMA, Subject Files – Royal Hotel; CMA, 1999.065.002).

 

The hotel saw its share of disasters as well.  On July 29, 1958 lighting struck the Royal Hotel.  Instantly, “a gaping hole was ripped in the top of the Royal Hotel.  Seconds later the fire siren sounded and the city was alive with men, women, and children expecting the worst.  It was a miracle nobody was killed.”  An early response by the volunteer fire department saved the building.  Buck repaired the damage and the business continued.  Another fire damaged the hotel on August 9, 1974.  This time the fire started near the entrance and worked its way to the beer parlour, destroying the inside of the bar.  Undeterred, Buck again repaired the damage to the interior of the building.  Perhaps knowing how much the Royal Hotel owed the volunteer fire crew, among the many charitable activities sponsored by the Royal Hotel, Buck Berry also hosted the volunteer fire department’s annual banquet in the beer parlour.

 

Chilliwack Progress Press Photograph: The August 9, 1974 fire at the Royal Hotel, published August 14, 1974.

In 1995, Buck Berry sold the hotel.  The new owners began a massive renovation project beginning in May of 1996 and continuing through 1997 at the cost of $1,600,000 (CMA, Nicholas Desautels, 2016.023.001 file 7).  All thirty-four rooms were redecorated and upgraded.  Fourteen of the thirty-four rooms received special attention including, “restoration of wall-to-wall hardwood floors, an addition of a cast-iron claw foot tub to each room, and antique furniture in the form of chairs, wardrobes, and dressers” (CMA, Nicholas Desautels, 2016.023.001 file 7).  The old boiler system was replaced with high efficient gas units, and renovations to the exterior of the building were completed as well, always with an eye towards the historic significance of the building.

 

The Royal Hotel is not the oldest building in Chilliwack.  It’s not the grandest building in Chilliwack either.  It is however, a fantastic representation of a unique time and place in the history of Five Corners and downtown Chilliwack.  Should you have guests visiting and your spare bedroom is feeling a little cramped, encourage them to spend a night in one of the rooms at Chilliwack’s Royal Hotel.