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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.

Movember Part 2 – Rise of the Goatee

Posted on: November 21st, 2018 by Tristan Evans

Captain John Swalis of Soowahlie First Nation, unknown date [AM 362, File 263(D)]

Last Movember I wrote a blog highlighting some of the individuals from Chilliwack’s historic past rocking a solid mo.  The moustache is grown each November as a symbol of support to raise awareness for men’s health issues.  This year, in addition to the typical male pattern balding, men’s health issues have particularly struck home for my family as we overcome some men’s health obstacles.  For those of you still feeling intimidated about rocking a moustache in 2018, rest assured.  Creativity is allowed and Movember is not limited to the standard stache.  Let’s take a look at some of Chilliwack’s finer individuals that went beyond the moustache and donned some pretty elegant goatees during their life.

 

Beyond the Stache – Growth of the Goatee

 

Lewis William Paisley, ca. 189- [1984.002.013]

Captain John Swalis from the Soowahlie First Nation lived on the Th’ewa:lí settlement on the North bank of SWEE-ehl-chah (Sweltzer) Creek.  Like Chief K’hhalserten (Chief Sepass), Captain John Swalis lived during a challenging time of transition for his community and was widely respected both within his community and the growing re-settler community of the area.  According to Denys Nelson, Fort Langley 1827-1927: A Century of Settlement, Captain John first came into contact with the growing re-settler community in 1858 when he successfully navigated the American steamship, the Surprise, from Fort Langely to Fort Hope, proving that the Fraser River was navigable by steamship (P. 24).  Captain John was a resourceful builder and mover of goods.  He was instrumental in the construction of the Alexandria suspension bridge, established a ferry service across Ts’elxwéyeqw (Chilliwack) River, and designed and built the first permanent bridge at Vedder Crossing with other members of the Soowahlie First Nation.  Captain John helped construct the first church at Th’ewa:lí and vigorously advocated for his community.  Captain John was a leader in the Soowahlie First Nation for approximately 40 years.  He was born around 1810 and died December 9, 1908.

 

William Knight, unknown date. [PP500260]

Louis William Paisley was born July 1, 1860 at York, Ontario.  He farmed for a number of years at Whitechurch, Ontario before heading west in 1890, settling in Chilliwack.  Described as a man of great energy, initiative, determination and good judgement, Paisley was an active promoter of Chilliwack.  In addition to his involvement in real estate development and insurance with Samuel A. Cawley, he was also a highly successful auctioneer.  He was involved with the local Masonic Order, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was president of the Agricultural Association, and secretary of the Dairymen’s and Livestock Association.  He purchased and brought into the valley purebred live stock, which was the nucleus of the fine dairy herds for which the Valley is now so well-known. He suffered a massive stroke in 1910, and passed away on October 14, 1914 at the age of 55 years.

 

Left to right, Tristan Evans and Greg Evans, Palm Springs, CA, December 2016.

William Knight was born on July 24, 1851 in Horton Township, Renfrew County, Ontario.  Knight moved west in 1870 to join the volunteers in the Riel Rebellion, then moved west in 1874 to the Cassiar gold fields.  Knight purchased a small sawmill at Popkum in 1878, and continued in that business for 22 years.  He married Mary Jane Jennie Kipp, eldest daughter of Isaac and Mary Ann (Nelmes) Kipp on April 23, 1883.  William and Mary had eight children together, four daughters and four sons.  Knight Peak is named in his honor.  William Knight passed away January 15, 1928.

 

And finally…

Dr. Greg Evans, father of Chilliwack Museum and Archives, Archivist (me), knows how to sport a solid goatee when the season is right.

Haunted Tales: Stories from Williams Street

Posted on: October 31st, 2018 by Anna Irwin

Photograph of the former W.E. Bradwin house near the corner of Williams Street and Portage Avenue in 1974. The subject of much local gossip, the house has since burned down. [Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 1989.042.001]

Near the corner of Portage Avenue and Williams Street once stood a white and green three-story house. Built in 1909 by travelling salesman W. E. Bradwin, the house, built with clapboard siding and equipped with six-bedrooms, became the centre of local legend in the mid to late 1960s.

Things That Go Bump In The Night:

Hetty Fredrickson moved into the house and resided in the house in the 1960s. Known throughout the community for her artistic flair, she taught art to her students from the basement of the house and was the vice-president of the Upper Fraser Valley Brush and Palette Club. Once settled into her new house, she, along with her husband Douglas Fredrickson, began to notice something was amiss.

In the dead of night, footsteps could be heard upstairs. Drawers could be found opened. Furniture, carefully arranged by the homeowners, moved out of place. In one instance, Hetty reported witnessing a light “in the shape of a human being, but with no details, no face.” (The Province, “Portrait of a Ghost” May 30, 1966) . Upon investigation, neither Hetty nor her husband could find the cause of such unusual activity and no logical explanation could be found by any who stopped by the house.

And people did stop by the house.

Hetty Fredrickson, pictured here with one of her paintings in 1965. [Chilliwack Progress Press Photograph, September 1, 1965. Chilliwack Museum and Archives, 1999.029.061.007.]

A Spirited Painting:

Using the unexplained occurrences as the basis for some of her art, Hetty painted a picture of the ghost in the hopes that by depicting it, that it would leave. The painting and her subsequent artistic pieces received widespread attention, spurred by stories of the occurrence in the house. Hundreds of people flocked to the downtown Chilliwack house, curious to catch a glimpse of the spirit at work. At one point, in 1966, Hetty Fredrickson submitted an application for a business license to City Council because she had “so many people wanting to see her ‘haunted house’ that she might as well charge admission.” (The Chilliwack Progress, July 20, 1966).  While the application was ultimately rejected, it was reported that 700 people showed up one Sunday for a tour of the premises!

New Residents, New Stories:

Following the Fredrickson’s move to Vancouver Island, odd occurrences continued to plague residents of the house. Tenants reported seeing shadows moving back and forth, doors banging closed and scaring pets living at the house, unexplained changes to the House’s thermostat… New theories about the ghost began to emerge to explain the wide plethora of baffling activities at the House. Was the house settling a contributing factor? Were residents imagining things? Perhaps it was more than one ghost? An anonymous resident speculated it could be a ghostly trio haunted the turreted house.

Charred Remains:

In the years after the departure of the Fredrickson’s, the Bradwin house caught fire twice. The first fire in 1972 was attributed to an overheated fireplace. The second fire in 1975 destroyed the House. A new house has been built in its place and, as far as we at the museum are aware, no unexplained incidents have happened since.

Fresh Produce and Homemade Relish

Posted on: September 26th, 2018 by Tristan Evans

Kipp Family Packing Plums, ca. 1880s [2002.101.019]

One of my favourite features of Chilliwack is the large variety of produce stands in this city.  Whether you prefer large produce shops where you can buy all your fruits and vegetables such as Hofstede’s, Garrison Gourmet Greens, and Produce Gone Wild or you prefer seasonal drive-thru fruit stands, Chilliwack has them all.

 

With Chilliwack’s rich agricultural history, it may not surprise you to know that produce stands are not a new phenomenon.  The Kipp family used to sell boxes of plums from a small makeshift table in front of their house as early as the 1880s.  Many long time residents of Chilliwack may remember the Carter Family Fruit Stand on the Haas Hop Yard at Evans Road or Woo Farms Potato Drive-in at Chilliwack’s South Chinatown.  The most iconic produce stand in Chilliwack’s history might just be Christie’s Produce Stand.

Christie’s Service Station, 1936 [P7496]

 

James Christie and Caroline Runzer married in 1925 at the age of 38 and 25 respectively.  The relatively new immigrants to Canada opened a restaurant in Stony Plain, Alberta.  In 1935 a devastating fire destroyed their restaurant so the couple packed up shop and moved to Chilliwack. They purchased land on Yale Road West just south of Cheam Avenue near the gates of the City for $600.

 

Upon arrival in Chilliwack, James immediately built a Standard Oil gas station that contained the living quarters for the family and a small lunch counter.  The gas station was sold in 1939.  A newer Chevron station still operates at the same location as Christie’s gas station.  In a 2005 interview with the Chilliwack Progress, James and Caroline’s daughter Audrey Neufeld recalled how, “dad was quite an entrepreneur, he had all kinds of ideas, and he did it all right here.”  After selling the Standard Oil station, James and Caroline Christie built a new home to house their growing family just south of the gas station.

Christie’s Hot Dogs, ca. 1940s [P7497]

 

In front of the new house James built a small produce stand that also sold honey, ice cream, dill pickles, and hotdogs.  Just north of his produce stand James built a number of small commercial buildings that he leased out.  The hotdogs were served with a special relish made by Caroline.  She sourced her ingredients for the relish from her own garden.  Mrs. Caroline Christie’s famous hotdog relish recipe is available in a book, Chilliwack Pioneer Recipes.

 

Christie’s Hot Dog stand operated throughout the 1940s.  The family stopped selling hotdogs in the 1950s but kept Christie’s Farm Fresh Products open selling produce, honey, homemade dill pickles, candies, ice cream, tobacco, and camping supplies.  James and Caroline even began raising and selling chickens.  According to research by Sharon Lawrence, the family had 5000 chickens that were slaughtered, cleaned, and cooked.  They were used for lunch plates which consisted of half a cooked breaded chicken, homemade pickles, and homemade bun all for the price of $1.

Christie’s Produce, ca. 1950s. [P7498]

 

As the autumn colours come into full swing, I am reminded to stop by the produce stands and pick up a bag of apples.  Whether you prefer making apple pie or drying your apples for an outdoor adventure snack, make sure to support your local Chilliwack produce stand.

 

Disclaimer: Much of the material for this blog post comes from research by Sharon Lawrence and an interview from Audrey Neufeld conducted by Sharon Lawrence. 

The Chilliwack Progress: Heart of Our Community

Posted on: September 19th, 2018 by Tristan Evans

Guest blog by Archives Assistant: Laurie Benton

Have you seen the For Sale sign at the Progress’ Spadina Avenue office of late?

The first Chilliwack Progress building from the 1890’s with WT Jackman as Proprietor. [PP500552]

Will it be redeveloped or remain as commercial property? How will it impact the downtown core and commercial presence in the neighbourhood? Similar to other notable buildings going on the market around town, it made me recount the impact of these structures and subsequently what the change on the landscape will mean.  I immediately began researching the impact of our community newspaper and the history of the building itself.

Until post-war suburbia raced in and changed our downtown, the ‘heart’ of our community, it was thriving and bustling.  Not that this blog post is about our downtown specifically, but it is about identity and place.  Having a place to identify as the ‘heart’ of a community could have been easier for Chilliwack residents before the strong influence of the vehicle and subsequent development of the shopping mall.  Five Corners (previously known as “Centreville”) was a nucleus of commercial and social interaction and a short walk from many residential homes.  The Chilliwack Progress office has (whether it sought out to or not) shaped identity and place, in and for our community since the late 1800’s.

The first Chilliwack Progress building dates back to the 1890’s. William Thomas (W.T) Jackman purchased a printing and newspaper press in Toronto and shipped it to Chilliwack where he published the first edition of the Chilliwack Progress in April 1891 at 39 Yale Road East (now 46169 Yale Road East).  The Chilliwack Progress office was a three storey structure with glass front main floor and wooden sidewalk.

A stylish facade for the Progress building, 24 September 1958. [P.Coll 106 unnumbered]

Situated amongst some of the most frequented buildings in the downtown, The Chilliwack Progress was a thriving hub of information, activity and culture.  It shared real estate with the likes of the Commercial Hotel, a shoe store, On Lee laundry, the post office, a bakery, hardware store and drug store. Investigating a bit further into this building I found that the Progress remained at this address for 83 years!  Over time the building had a few face lifts, notably in the 30’s with a very stylish post- modern look.

What I find fascinating is that the Chilliwack Progress was the ‘heart and soul’ of our community.  For those that had lost something, wanted to gain a roommate or sell something, where did they go? The Progress! If you had donations of food or money that you wanted to give to a local charity, where could you drop such items off at? The Progress! Colouring a poster contest and want to drop off your submission, where should you go? The Progress!

1955- Please return these keepsake pearls to the Progress office.

A 1918 rental advertisement for a farm. Where should one apply? The Chilliwack Progress office.

 

 

 

 

 

An advertisement in the Chilliwack Progress, 26 June 1974 [https://theprogress.newspapers.com/image/77088771], invited the community to an open house for their new building on the corner of Hope and Spadina – its current location.  It boasted new “ultra-modern premises” that ranked with the “best in Canada”.  They cordially invited the community into their new facility for a behind the scenes tour as well as coffee and refreshments.  This sort of courtesy and openness is a product of the culture that was created over decades and through the words, attributes and action of all the contributors, writers and editors of our local paper.

Reading through old editions, I believe the sense of place persisted with the change in location.  But has being further from the downtown core changed the identity or heart?  As technology has shifted to a strong internet presence, the Chilliwack Progress has followed suit.  How has this technological change impacted the effect the Chilliwack Progress has on our community?  How do people today identify in our community?  Is there a disconnect between sense of place and the presence of ‘being’ online?  Interaction has a strong internet base and I struggle to deem this as ‘socializing’ nor does it have the same effect or impact in the community that the Progress had many years ago.

To be in the heart of a community, delivering an assortment of news and being a hub of activity and information is a great challenge and honour.  I am hard pressed to find a current example of such a place that could offer what the Progress did.  A local coffee shop? Local library? Museum, perhaps?  I  hope that the new home of the Chilliwack Progress offers an open door to the community,  ensuring identity and a strong sense of place continues.

 

 

 

Bridging History – Connecting the Public with the Past

Posted on: September 12th, 2018 by Tristan Evans

Painting of 1891 bridge by Carolyn Louise Wilson.
The 1891 bridge was designed and constructed by members of the Soowahlie and Skowkale First Nations including Capt. John SWA-lihs, David (sel-AHK-ee-ah-tihl), Commodore (sch-EE-eh-KWEHL), and Harry Uslick (way-OO-sehl-uhk). James Bailey and the Province assisted with the bridge trusses. [PP501752]

When done correctly, interpretive signage has the ability to be a great public history tool.  If done incorrectly, interpretive signage may not only be offensive, it can misinform the pubic on the history of an event, location, or historic site.  Careful consideration on what an individual or organization chooses to portray or omit on an interpretive sign is imperative.  By deciding what and how a historical event is told, interpretive signs often represent more the values of the society creating the signage than the historical event itself.  To put it simply, a good and lasting historic interpretive sign is hard to do.  So hard that the Yukon Department of Tourism has a 65 page Interpretive Signage Strategy!

With this in mind, early last summer I was contacted by City of Chilliwack staff who asked if I could help unearth some information for a new interpretive panel going up at Vedder Crossing.  Although challenging, I’m a big believer in public history and I believe when done with consideration, interpretative panels are a fantastic resource for the public.  In addition to contacting the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, the City also contacted and consulted with the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre, other several City of Chilliwack staff members, and many other unnamed community members.  Throughout the summer and into the fall City staff researched, organized and collected our research, looked up and consulted on facts and spelling, asked for more research, consulted more, drafted a couple versions, did more research and consulting, and finally together with the design team came up with the final draft for the new interpretive bridge panel at Vedder Crossing.

Photograph depicts the 1918 wood truss bridge with the Riverside Pavilion in the background [1996.037.012]

This collaborative effort with the City of Chilliwack, Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre, and the Chilliwack Museum and Archives finally came together and the City produced the first in a series of interpretive signage at Vedder Crossing.  This panel has since been installed at Vedder Crossing.  It briefly touches on the history of the river and then goes on in greater detail to discuss the nine “permanent” bridges that have been built at this location.

While this first panel focuses on the history of the bridges, future panels will touch on the history of the Ts’elxwéyeqw (Chilliwack) River, the Vedder name and family, biology and fish species, and perhaps more.  Next time you go for a walk by the river at Vedder Crossing I hope you stop by the interpretive panel and take a moment to read about the challenges of constructing a lasting bridge in this location.

Facial Recognition – Archives Style

Posted on: July 25th, 2018 by Tristan Evans

Unidentified group with big smiles [2016.032.002.0786]

Big tech companies and government agencies have the advantage of using facial recognition software to help them identify individuals from digital images.  While I love a good conspiracy theory, I’ll break the myth and let you know that as a small community archives, we do not have such technology in our possession.  However, we here at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives have a secret tool that Google, Facebook, and large agencies do not have.  We have a great set of dedicated volunteers and a community that cares about preserving Chilliwack’s history.

 

Unknown individual doing something important [2016.032.002.0784]

 

Today I am going to tap into the community (you) and ask for help.  Throughout this blog you’ll notice photographs from a large collection.  The donor, I, and our volunteers have all tried to identify these remaining photographs from this large collection.  Unfortunately we have not had any luck.  This is when I ask you to kindly put on your archives hat and see if you recognize any of the individuals in these photos and/or maybe the event itself.

 

 

 

 

 

Looks like a charismatic speaker [2016.032.002.0787]

Any information you have on these photographs is appreciated.  Feel free to contact me directly if you recognize these photographs and I will gladly update our database.   You can find my contact information at the bottom of the blog post.  After you’ve looked at all the photographs of course.

 

 

 

 

 

Kids being patient [2016.032.002.0788]

Just three more photographs to go.  How about this fantastic family on the right with “smiling” kids?

 

 

 

 

 

 

More smiles [2016.032.002.0790]

Almost done.  How come this family is so lucky?  They appear in a few of these photographs!

 

 

 

 

 

Where is this store? I don’t know, do you? [2016.032.002.0791]

You made it to the final image… for now.  Recognize where this store is?

 

Thank you for looking.

 

Tristan Evans

[email protected]

604-792-5210 ext. 104

Local History Kit-Sumas Lake

Posted on: July 11th, 2018 by Kelsey Ablitt

Last fall while attending the University of the Fraser Valley, I took a directed studies course with history professor Scott Sheffield. The purpose of my directed studies was to create a local history kit on Sumas Lake to be used by the Chilliwack Museum and Archives. Having worked at the museum the previous two summers, I was quite familiar with the current local history kits and the type of resources they provide. From my research, I gathered materials that best depicted the vast history of Sumas Lake and the impact its drainage had on the community. While working at the Museum these past few months I have been able to complete the kit, making it an available resource for educators.

Sumas Lake Local History Kit.

To provide a brief overview, located in the Fraser Valley between Vedder Mountain and Sumas Mountain, Sumas Lake blended the border between Abbotsford and Chilliwack. In its peak season, the lake could expand to as large as 33,000 acres; on average the lake spanned 10,000 acres for the better part of the year. The lake was used by the whole community. For new settlers, it was a place for family picnics in the summer and ice-skating in the winter. For the Stó:lō people, Sumas Lake and the land that surrounded it was an important part of the daily lives and culture.

Plans to drain Sumas Lake had existed for 30-40 years, previous to the 1920’s scheme. While previous iterations of the plans failed, the project undertaken in the 1920s had several phases, culminating in the creation of two pump stations which removed (and continue to remove) water from the natural occurring lakebed on the Sumas flats. The pumps, located at Barrowtown and McGillvary Creek, were the largest of their kind in Canada when initially constructed and were capable of draining water from an Olympic-sized swimming pool in twenty seconds. The pumps began working on July 3rd, 1923 and the lake was successfully drained by June 1924, nearly a year later.

The draining of Sumas Lake is a multi-layered and complex subject, and many aspects of the drainage were (and remain) controversial to this day. The purpose of the kit is to explore the controversy, such as the impact on farmers and the local First Nations, both at the time of the drainage and current today. Through the primary and secondary sources included in the kit, ranging from newspaper articles advertising meetings regarding the reclamation project, images of tractors on the dried up lake bed, to booklets written on the overwhelming mosquito population, students have the ability to engage hands-on with their local history and make inferences as to why the lake was drained and the impact the drainage had and continues to have.

Sumas Lake tractors on lakebed floor ca. 192-. (AM 616)

Like many of our other local history kits, the Sumas Lake kit can be adapted to suit various grade levels and educators have the ability to create their own lesson plans using the information and primary and secondary materials provided in the kit to suit individual class needs.

The Sumas Lake kit is available for booking by educators for the 2018-2019 school year and can be booked online or by phone at 604-795-5210.

What’s Behind the Locked Doors?

Posted on: May 16th, 2018 by Tristan Evans

Today I would like to use this opportunity to promote a new event here at the Archives.  Starting this year we have been having free behind-the-scenes tours of the Chilliwack Archives.  The free tours are open to everyone and take place on the last Friday of the month.  Hint, May 25th for this month.  Each tour runs between 45 minutes to an hour.

 

Archivist Tristan Evans is pleased with the new sandwich board sign. Photo credit: Adrienne Rempel [February 6, 2018]

Are you curious what we are hiding behind those secret archive doors?  Ever wondered where I disappear to when you request to view a fonds or photograph?  Are you a long-time history nerd with serious questions and you want to know more about our local collections?  Come to the tour.  Are you brand new to the history field and just looking to see what all the hype is about at the Archives?  Come to the tour.  The tour is open to everyone, no previous research experience required.  Seriously, it is a really great opportunity.

 

Below is all the information you need:

 

Price: FREE!!!

Where: Evergreen Hall, Chilliwack Archives, 9291 Corbould Street, Chilliwack, BC V2P 4A6

When: Last Friday of every month at 3:00 PM

Reservation: Not required!  All you need to do is stop by the Archives at 3:00 PM

 

“I don’t always go on free tours, but when I do, it’s to visit the Chilliwack Archives”

-World’s Most Interesting Man

 

Archive Door protecting the secrets of the archive stacks. Photo credit: Tristan Evans [May 16, 2018]

I know that I’m not alone when I say I love visiting archives.  Sure museums are fun, but how often do you get to see behind the scenes?  You will be rewarded with the opportunity to explore how we catalogue and preserve archival records and cultural objects.  At most institutions you are lucky to peak behind an archive door and glimpse a view at the secrets of the archival world.  These glimpses into the mysterious world of an archivist are usually reserved for special occasions such as “archives week” or “culture week.”  Not here at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives.  We are very fortunate here in Chilliwack to have a large and diverse collection of archival records, artifacts, and cultural objects for a community of our size.  My job is to preserve these archival records; but also, to make them available to the community.  So please, stop by on the last Friday of every month, 3:00 PM, no RSVP!

 

Are you sold yet?  If not, here are a couple comments I’ve heard after our first three tours:

Newspapers… Boxes and boxes of newspapers. Photo credit: Tristan Evans [May 16, 2018]

“Good Tour”

“Great Tour”

“I really enjoyed that, thank you”

“Oh wow!  That was the greatest tour I have ever had in my entire life.  It totally changed my life.  Nothing can ever top this”

 

Okay… Maybe I slightly misquoted that last one and perhaps exaggerated a little bit.  In all seriousness though, these tours are great.  I really hope to keep them going and they are something that very few institutions offer.  Generally speaking, the public is forbidden to go behind-the-scenes of an archive.  These tours tear down those restrictions.  They make my job less of a mystery to you, the public, and they are a perfect opportunity for you to ask questions you may have about our collections or general Chilliwack community history.  I really hope to see you on May 25th or any other last Friday of the month.

Frederick Walter Lee: the life of a Painter, Teacher, Photographer, Poet, Musician, and Activist

Posted on: February 21st, 2018 by Tristan Evans

Watercolour of Mt. Cheam by F. W. Lee. [P5821]

Watercolour of Lhilheqey (Mt. Cheam) by F. W. Lee. [P5821]

Chilliwack’s rich history is blessed with artists of varying trades.  If you put together all the artists and their works at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives, any nominations list for well-rounded artist would be incomplete without mentioning Frederick Walter Lee.  A painter, teacher, photographer, poet, musician, and activist, F. W. Lee scraped together a living in Chilliwack from his arrival in 1904 until his death in 1948.

 

Born in England in 1863, Lee ran away from home at the age of 19 to attend the South Kensington Art School.  Lee received early notoriety and was invited by Queen Victoria to make sketches of the Buckingham palace in 1894 and 1895.  In 1899, Lee immigrated to Canada and exhibited at the Royal Canadian Academy.  Lee initially settled in Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan until a fire destroyed nearly all of his possessions.  Undeterred, Lee set out on a year long trek armed only with his camera, sketchbook, and painting materials across Canada and the United States camping wherever there was water and grass for his horses.  A more detailed account of his travels can be found in his writings at the Chilliwack Museum and Archives (CMA, AM 0021, File 3).

 

Photograph of Frederick Walter Lee sitting on a fence post. [P5344]

Photograph of Frederick Walter Lee sitting on a fence post. [P5344]

F. W. Lee eventually settled in Chilliwack in 1904 where he remained with the exception of a brief temporary move to Vancouver in 1919. Lee attempted to cultivate land in the area but gave up shortly and moved to a small cabin at 747 DeWolfe Avenue (now 46719 Portage Avenue) where he set up an art studio. Unhappy with the road conditions on DeWolfe, Lee moved to 106 Second Avenue (now 46122 Second Avenue) upon his return to Chilliwack from Vancouver.  Inundated by ill health and hardship, Frederick Walter Lee never achieved the high status his early career indicated.

 

In Chilliwack, Lee did everything he could to stay afloat.  In addition to his art studio, Lee organized drawing and painting classes during which a student could take a class once a week for one month at $2.50 (drawing lesson) and $3.50 (painting lesson).  Lee also worked at the Wilson Photography Studio for much of his career and sold his own photographs.  In 1907 he published a poem, The Prairie, (written in Qu’Apelle in 1902) in Chilliwack’s The Progress newspaper.  Although there is no evidence he ever made an income from his music, Lee also composed music for the guitar.

 

Watercolour painting by F. W. Lee [P5823]

Watercolour painting by F. W. Lee [P5823]

When Lee wasn’t working, his favourite pastime may have been as a citizen activist addressing issues to City Council and writing letters to the paper.  Lee addressed City Council and The Progress about unsightly fences on DeWolfe Avenue, having to endure shootings and sieges in his studio, a “preponderance of thistles” in the lot next to his property, and requested to move a streetlamp 60 feet down the road.  In my personal favourite letter to The Progress in which Lee argued with City Council about his road condition and lot size he said of a council member:

 

“under penalty of being forcibly removed and forever denied the beautific vision of his august countenance, in fact the offended Deity assured me the process would leave me a shameless withered mass burnt to ashes under aldermanicire, should I ever hint or whisper such a thing as that there is a road leading to my lot.”

 

Although many secondary sources incorrectly state that Lee died in 1941, he actually passed away in Chilliwack in 1948.  Today, Lee is best known for his natural watercolour paintings of the Fraser Valley.  Many of his artworks, writings, photographs, his memoir, and other biographical information can be viewed at the Archives under the Frederick Walter Lee collection, AM 0021.