New Westminster

New Westminster
New Westminster
—  City  —
City of New Westminster
Uptown New Westminster


Coat of arms
Motto: "In God We Trust"
Location of New Westminster in Metro Vancouver
Coordinates: 49°12′25″N 122°54′40″W / 49.20694°N 122.91111°W / 49.20694; -122.91111Coordinates: 49°12′25″N 122°54′40″W / 49.20694°N 122.91111°W / 49.20694; -122.91111
Country  Canada
Province  British Columbia
Region Lower Mainland
Regional district Metro Vancouver
Founded 1858
 – Governing body New Westminster City Council
 – Mayor Wayne Wright
 – Councillors Jonathan Cote
Jaimie McEvoy
Bill Harper
Betty McIntosh
Bob Osterman
Lorrie Williams
 – MP Peter Julian (NDP)
Fin Donnelly (NDP)
 – MLA Dawn Black (NDP)
 – Total 15.4 km2 (5.9 sq mi)
Elevation 60 m (197 ft)
Population (2006)[1]
 – Total 58,549
 – Density 3,548.5/km2 (9,190.6/sq mi)
 – Private Dwellings 26,035
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
Website City of New Westminster

New Westminster is an historically important city in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia, Canada, and is a member municipality of the Greater Vancouver Regional District. It was founded as the capital of the Colony of British Columbia (1858–1866).



New Westminster is located on the Burrard Peninsula, on the north bank of the Fraser River. It is 19 kilometres (12 mi) southeast of the City of Vancouver proper, adjacent to Burnaby and Coquitlam and across the Fraser River from Surrey. A portion of New Westminster called Queensborough is located on the eastern tip of Lulu Island, adjacent to Richmond. The total land area is 15.3 square kilometres (5.9 sq mi).


The city has a total population of 58,549 (2006 Census).[1]

Notable New Westminster natives include singer/actor Alexz Johnson, musician/producer Devin Townsend, actor Raymond Burr, actor Aaron Douglas, race car driver Greg Moore, astronaut Robert Thirsk, magician "Mandrake the Magician" Leon Mandrake, actress Crystal Dahl, professional baseball player Justin Morneau, the MacArthur award winning poet Daryl Hine, actor Nicholas Lea and retired professional hockey player Bill Ranford.


A view of New Westminster from the Fraser River, circa 1865.

In 1859, New Westminster was recommended as the first official capital of the new Colony of British Columbia by Richard Moody, the Lieutenant-Governor, because of its location farther from the American border than the site of the colony's proclamation, Fort Langley. New Westminster, at a defensible location on the north bank of the Fraser River, possessed, according to Moody, "great facilities for communication by water, as well as by future great trunk railways into the interior".[2] Governor Douglas proclaimed "Queensborough" (as the site was initially called by Moody) the new capital on February 14, 1859.[3] "Queensborough", however, did not appeal to London and it was Queen Victoria who named the city after Westminster,[4] that part of the British capital of London where the Parliament Buildings were situated. From this naming by the Queen, the City gained its official nickname, "The Royal City". A year later New Westminster became the first City in British Columbia to be incorporated and have an elected municipal government. It became a major outfitting point for prospectors coming to the Fraser Gold Rush, as all travel to the goldfield ports of Yale and Port Douglas was by steamboat or canoe up the Fraser River.

Coquitlam City, of New Westminster

The location of New Westminster, at the edge of the forest, necessitated a large amount of labour and money to clear trees and lay out streets, which became a significant burden to the colonial budget when the imperial government shackled the colony with half of the cost of the Royal Engineers.[5] Governor Douglas spent little time in New Westminster and had little affection for the city; and the feelings were amply repaid by the citizens of New Westminster, who avidly supported Colonel Moody's city-building efforts and castigated the governor, who preferred to remain for the most part isolated in distant Victoria.[6] In contrast to Victoria, where settlers from England had established a strong British presence, New Westminster's early citizens were largely Canadians and Maritimers, who brought a more business-oriented approach to commerce and dismissed the pretensions of the older community. Despite being granted a municipal council, the mainlanders in New Westminster also pressed for a legislative assembly to be created for British Columbia,[7] and were infuriated when Governor Douglas granted free port status to Victoria, which stifled the economic growth of the Fraser River city.[8] Moreover, to pay for the expense of building roads into the Interior of the colony, Douglas imposed duties on imports into New Westminster.

In 1866, the colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island were united as "British Columbia". However, the capital of the Colony of Vancouver Island, Victoria, located on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, was made the capital of the newly amalgamated Colony of British Columbia, following a vote in the House of Assembly. On the day of the vote one member of the assembly, William Cox (one of the colony's Gold Commissioners and a Victoria supporter), shuffled the pages of the speech that William Franklyn from Nanaimo (a New Westminster supporter) intended to give, so that Franklyn lost his place and read the first paragraph three times. Cox then popped the lenses of Franklyn's glasses from their frames so that the Nanaimo representative could see nothing at all of his speech. After a recess to settle the resulting uproar and allow the member from Nanaimo a chance to sort out his speaking notes and his spectacles, on the members' return to the House of Assembly, the Speaker John Sebastian Helmcken (from Victoria) refused to allow Franklyn a "second" chance to speak. The subsequent vote was 13 to 8 against New Westminster.[9]

With the entry of British Columbia into the Dominion of Canada in 1871, as the sixth province, New Westminster's economic prospects improved, but the Royal City would lose out again, this time to the new railway terminus town of Vancouver, when the Canadian Pacific Railway was extended to the shores of Burrard Inlet, even though a spur of the railway did reach New Westminster in 1886. In 1879, the federal government allocated three reserves to the New Westminster Indian Band, including 104 acres (0.42 km2) of the South Westminster Reserve, 22 acres (89,000 m2) on the North Arm of the Fraser River, and 27 acres (110,000 m2) on Poplar Island.[10] A smallpox epidemic devastated the Qayqayt, reducing the band members from about 400 people to under 100. Many of the remaining Qayqayt were assimilated into other local reserves, such as the neighbouring Musqueam Indian Band. Their reserve on Poplar Island was turned into an Aboriginal smallpox victim quarantine area. For decades, the Poplar Island reserve was designated as belonging to "all coast tribes".[11] In 1913 the federal government seized most of the New Westminster Band's reserve lands.[12] In 1916 the remaining land on Poplar Island was turned over to the BC government. Eighteen years earlier, in 1898, a devastating fire destroyed downtown New Westminster.[13]

In 1991, the New Westminster Armoury was recognized as a Federal Heritage building on the Register of the Government of Canada Heritage Buildings. [14]

Historical urban geography

New Westminster has changed markedly over time and by the results of its incorporation into the wider urbanization of the Lower Mainland.

B.C. Penitentiary

The B.C. Penitentiary being constructed circa 1877.

In 1878, the Government of Canada opened the British Columbia Penitentiary, the first federal penitentiary west of Manitoba. "BC Pen", or simply "the Pen", as it was known (and also in old days as the "skookum house" in the English-Chinook Jargon patois common in early BC), was located between the Sapperton neighbourhood and what is now Queen's Park. It housed maximum-security prisoners for the next 102 years, closing in 1980.[15] The original centre block of the Pen still stands and has been converted into offices. The Gatehouse, steps leading up to it and old Coal House still stand. The rest of the Pen's grounds have been filled with newly built townhouses and condominiums and parkland.

Woodlands (formerly called the Asylum)

The mental hospital for children, was located to the West of the BC Pen. After it was closed, the derelict main building was, except for the tower entrance, destroyed by fire. Woodlands on July 9, 2008. In October 2011, all remaining old structures were leveled and cleared, to the joy of some former residents who had bad memories of their childhood experiences. (New Westminster Record)


New Westminster's Chinatown was one of the earliest established in the mainland colony and also one of the largest. Originally located along Front Street, it was relocated to an area known as "The Swamp" at the southwest end of downtown, bounded roughly by Royal Avenue, Columbia Street, and 8th and 12th Streets (now a large shopping plaza area). Chinatown was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1898 and only partly rebuilt afterwards. Chinatown is not present in New Westminster today.

Columbia Street

Contrasting views of Columbia Street in 1932 and 2008.

Until the 1964 completion of the Highway 1 freeway, which bypassed New Westminster to its north, Columbia Street, along the city's waterfront, was the main commercial retail and service centre for the Fraser Valley and nearby areas of Burnaby and Coquitlam. Most major department store chains as well as long-established New Westminster retailers thrived in a time when road travel to Vancouver remained distant for Valley communities and daily interurban rail service to and from Chilliwack was still in place (the service ended in 1950). The quality of shops was such that even Vancouverities would make the trip by interurban rail or, later on, via Kingsway (originally called the Westminster Highway or Westminster Road), to shop on Columbia Street. In addition to the retailers, Columbia Street was home to major movie houses, the Columbia and the Paramount, rivalling in size and quality those on Vancouver's Theatre Row. The freeway is generally conceded to have "killed" Columbia Street, which has remained in a slump despite ongoing civic efforts to revitalize it. In October 2006, Columbia Street underwent reconstruction to change to one lane in both directions, with a bike lane and reverse angle parking. This was done to encourage more foot and bicycle traffic. Major high-rise or renovation projects are completed or nearing completion.

Front Street

Originally a dockside street and market, and also the location of the original Chinatown, Front Street was converted into a truck-route bypass and elevated parkade during the 1960s in an effort to provide increased parking for adjacent Columbia Street. In recent decades it has been the focus of the city's thriving antiques and second-hand trade, which is also concentrated on 12 Street. It has also been used as a location in feature films such as Rumble in the Bronx (substituting for the Bronx), I, Robot (as a futuristic Chicago), Shooter (doubling for Philadelphia, with the Fraser River being the Delaware River), and New Moon.

Government House

The original colonial Government House was located approximately where Royal City Manor is now. It was originally occupied by Colonel Richard Clement Moody, who commanded the Columbia Detachment of Royal Engineers who established the city. Rarely used by Governor Douglas, its first full-time vice-regal resident was Governor Frederick Seymour.

New Westminster CPR Station

Adjacent to the New Westminster SkyTrain Station, the city's former Canadian Pacific Railway station has been renovated and converted into a branch of The Keg restaurant chain.


Queensborough was the name originally chosen for the colonial capital by Royal Engineer commander Colonel Richard Clement Moody. When Queen Victoria designated New Westminster instead as her new capital's name, the name Queensborough became applied to New Westminster's portion of Lulu Island, across the north arm of the Fraser from the southern end of the city. Queensborough is today a low- to middle-income housing area with its own distinct identity. Some new condominium complexes have been built adjacent to the Westminster Quay development. In the Chinook Jargon, "Koonspa", an adaptation of the name Queensborough, is the usual name for New Westminster as a whole.

A replica of a Queen Anne house opposite Queens Park

There are now some big-box stores such as Walmart and Lowes, as well as the large Starlight Casino.


Sapperton was originally a "suburb" of New Westminster, named for the Columbia Detachment of Royal Engineers ("Sappers"), whose camp was on the hill now occupied by the Fraserview neighbourhood. It is the location of the historic Fraser Cemetery, which rivals Victoria's Ross Bay Cemetery for the number of historically significant graves and monuments. Also located in Sapperton are the Royal Columbian Hospital, Sapperton Station, and Braid Station.

Uptown "6th and 6th"

Development of an uptown commercial area around 6th Street and 6th Avenue started in 1954, with the opening of Woodward's department store. Added momentum came with the relocation of the public library from downtown to uptown in 1958. In 1992 Woodward's was expanded and modernized into a shopping centre and took the name Woodwards Place. With the bankruptcy of Woodward's in 1993, the name of the centre was changed to Royal City Centre Mall. Moody Park is an important recreational area in the uptown area.

The West End

Opposite Sapperton's north end, New Westminster's West End was once fairly separate from the city proper, and has a neighbourhood commercial node along 12th Street and 20th Street approximately between London Street and Eighth Ave. The area features antique and one-of-a-kind stores and is designated as the art deco section of the city.[citation needed]

Westminster Quay

The Westminster Quay

Westminster Quay was an Expo-era (mid-1980s) development to revitalize New Westminster and accompanied the development of the SkyTrain line to Vancouver. In addition to a large public market and a 2.5-diamond-rated hotel, The Inn at the Quay, a large condominium tower and townhouse complex was built, accessed from the older Columbia Street area of downtown by an overpass. The impetus provided by this project has spilled over onto the inland side of the rail tracks, with new tower developments focusing on the area southwest of 8th Street (the area known formerly as "the Swamp" and Chinatown). As of July 2007, the Quay's commercial component had noticeably decreased, with many vacancies, compared to the much more active Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. Responding to the decrease of business, the ownership group closed the Westminster Quay Market for renovations. The market re-opened in September 2010 with Donald's Market as the main anchor.[16] Stores are still moving in with the latest being The Crab Shop [17]

Commerce and industry

With the completion of the transcontinental railway in 1886, trade began to shift to nearby Vancouver. Nonetheless, New Westminster weathered the loss, and remained an important industry and transportation centre. The local economy has always had a mix of industrial sectors, but it has evolved over the years, moving from a reliance on the primary resources of lumber and fishing in the 19th century, to heavy industry and manufacturing in the first half of the 20th century,[who?] to retail from the mid-1950s to the 1970s, to professional and business services in the 1990s, and finally to high-tech and fibre-optic industry in the early 21st century.[who?][citation needed]

Arts and culture

The city has several live performance venues, ranging from the Massey Theatre adjacent to New Westminster High School, to the Burr Theatre, a converted cinema on Columbia Street, and two theatrical venues in Queens Park (One being the Bernie Legge Theatre, home of the Vagabond Players, which were formed in 1937.) The Royal City Musical Theatre, a long-established New Westminster tradition, uses the Massey, while comedy and mystery theatricals use the stages in Queens Park. Also in Queens Park is the Queens Park Arena, longtime home to the legendary New Westminster Salmonbellies professional lacrosse team, as well as an open-air stadium used for baseball and field sports. The Burr Theatre (originally the Columbia Theatre), named for New Westminster native Raymond Burr, was operated by the Raymond Burr Performing Arts Society who produced professional -quality mysteries and comedies between October 2000 and January 2005. February of 2005 saw the theatre reopen as a vaudeville theatre with three major productions by The Heartaches Razz Band and in February of 2006 collaboration with The Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society produced the first Annual Vancouver International Burlesque Festival. The theatre was sold by the City of New Westminster through a public request for proposal process to the owner of Lafflines Comedy Club. After extensive renovations to convert it into a cabaret style theatre, it is now called The Columbia, home of Lafflines Comedy Club. Douglas College also offers post-secondary training in theatre, stagecraft and music, as well as non-credit courses in music for all ages and ability levels, through the Douglas College Community Music School.[18] Theatre productions and music concerts at Douglas College take place in the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre and the smaller, more intimate Studio Theatre from September to April.


Irving House
Established 1865
Location New Westminster British Columbia Canada
Type historical house museum
Website [1]

The main feature of the New Westminster Museum and Archives (NWMA) is the 1865 Irving House, which is the oldest intact house in the BC Lower Mainland. In the museum are treasures such as the 1876 coach used by Lord Dufferin, then the Governor General of Canada, to tour the new province of British Columbia including Barkerville via the Cariboo Road. The city's archives hold corporate and personal treasures such as 1859 maps of the city drawn by the Royal Engineers and official city records. Other heritage artifacts in the city include the 1937 Samson V paddlewheeler, the 1890s armouries, 1850s historic cannons, two of the old BC Pen buildings, numerous cemeteries, and dozens of heritage homes, many of which are from the 19th century. The Museum is affiliated with CMA, the CHIN, and Virtual Museum of Canada.

Hyack Festival and the Hyack Anvil Battery

May Day celebrations in 1913. Young girls dance around a maypole.

New Westminster's May Day celebration began in 1870 and continues today as an important civic tradition, lending the city the distinction of having the longest-running May Day celebration of its type in the British Commonwealth. (At least three other Lower Mainland communities still celebrate May Day: Port Coquitlam, Ladner in Delta, and Bradner in Abbotsford.)

The May Queen circa 1887.
Mayor Wayne Wright sets off an anvil shot during the 2008 Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery Salute.

The May Day festival, held on the Victoria Day weekend and more formally known as the Hyack Festival, is distinguished by the Ancient and Honourable Hyack Anvil Battery Salute, a tradition created by The New Westminster Fire Department during colonial times as a surrogate for a 21-gun salute. With no cannons available in the early colony, the Fire Department—known as the Hyacks, from the Chinook Jargon for "fast" or "quick", here derived from its use as a command for "hurry up!"— improvised by placing gunpowder between two anvils, the top one upturned, and igniting the charge from a safe distance, hurling the upper anvil into the air.

Each year, in preparation for May Day, local schoolchildren are taught to dance around a maypole with colourful ribbons. Elections are held at elementary schools in the city, and, from them one girl is selected to become the year's May Queen, and two students from each school to become members of her "May Queen Suite" and "Royal Knights." On a Wednesday of the festival, elementary school students gather at Queen's Park Stadium to dance, and the May Queen is crowned.[19]

Educational institutions

Douglas College, a major community college, has campuses in New Westminster and Coquitlam. The college has an enrollment of 12,000 students and offers degrees, associate degrees, and two-year career and University Transfer programs to local, national and international students. The Justice Institute of British Columbia offers training to municipal police forces, fire departments, provincial corrections, court services, and paramedics with the British Columbia Ambulance Service. The Institute operates a Centre for Conflict Resolution, a Centre for Leadership and Community Learning, Executive Programs, a Public Safety Seminar Series, and the Aboriginal Leadership Diploma Program.

Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM), the only Naturopathic medical school in western Canada, offering the N.D. degree in Naturopathic Medicine in both 4-year and 6-year programs is located here.

School District 40 New Westminster has one high school (New Westminster Secondary School), two middle schools, and nine elementary schools.


The Pattullo Bridge (upper centre) connects New Westminster (left) with Surrey (right) across the Fraser River. Queensborough is in the lower left of the photo.

There are no freeways within New Westminster’s city limits, although the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 1) is accessible from nearby Coquitlam, via the Brunette Avenue interchange, and Burnaby, via the Cariboo Road and Canada Way interchanges.

The Queensborough Bridge (part of Highway 91A) connects mainland New Westminster to Queensborough, Richmond, and, via the Alex Fraser Bridge, Delta. The Pattullo Bridge (part of Highways 1A and 99A) links New Westminster with Surrey. The lesser-used Derwent Way Bridge connects Queensborough with Annacis Island of Delta.

Public transportation is provided by TransLink. Along with a number of bus routes, the city is served by the following stations on the SkyTrain system:

The city is located within Zone 2 of TransLink’s fare structure.


The city is served by four railways: CN (Canadian National Railway), CP (Canadian Pacific Railway), BNSF (Burlington Northern and Santa Fe), and the shortline SRY (Southern Railway of British Columbia). None offer passenger service.

Streetcars and the Interurban

Until the 1950s, New Westminster was linked to Vancouver and other municipalities by the BC interurban streetcar network. The following links have examples of that system:

Sports and recreation

The New Westminster Salmonbellies are one of the oldest professional lacrosse teams in Canada, and also have junior and midget teams. The 'Bellies, as they are also known, have won the Mann Cup twenty-four times. New Westminster is also the location of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

The New Westminster Royals were a professional minor-league team from 1911 through 1914, in the heyday of the Pacific Coast Hockey League. Their home rink was the Denman Arena in Vancouver, which they shared with rivals the Vancouver Millionaires.

Playing at Queen's Park Arena were two incarnations of a Western Hockey League junior team, the New Westminster Bruins (1971–1981 and 1983–1988).

Pocomo Rugby Footall Club and Douglas Rugby Club (both teams play in New Westminster) merged in 2005 to form the United Rugby Club. Pocomo moved to New Westminster in the late 1960s, eventually calling Hume Park its home field. Douglas was formed by Pocomo players attending Douglas College in 1972. United Rugby currently uses Hume Park and Queens Park for home venues.

Soccer in New Westminster is represented by the Sapperton Rovers. Soccer in the Sapperton Community goes back to the early 20th century; Sapperton Park was donated to the city in 1907 for the sole purpose of being used as a soccer venue. Many teams have since carried the Sapperton name.

The Hyack Swim Club [], in operation since 1973, trains swimmers at Canada Games Pool, from a grassroots level up to international competition. Swimmers from across the Lower Mainland come to Canada Games Pool to train with this swim club. The swim club has trained many Olympians, Paralympians, and members of Canada's national team. Hyack Swim Club hosts four meets each year, two of which are held at Canada Games Pool. The premier meet each year is held during the Hyack Festival, and attracts swimmers from across the province, Alberta, Washington, and Oregon. Mark Bottrill has been Hyack's Director of Swimming since 1999. Hyack Swim Club's Drew Christensen represented Canada at the 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Notable residents

Sister cities

  • Flag of Japan.svg Moriguchi, Japan The Sister City relationship between New Westminster and Moriguchi in 1962[20][21]–1963 was the first Sister City agreement between Canadian and Japanese cities. (Subject to research confirmation)
  • Flag of the Philippines.svg Quezon City, Philippines in 1991.[21] The agreement was signed in 1991.[22]
  • Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg Lijiang, China in 2002.[21]

Friendship Cities

Adopted City

During World War II, after the Soviet Union (USSR) had changed sides, New Westminster "adopted" the Soviet city of Anapa in 1944. This was not a formal Sister City arrangement and it has lapsed in the intervening years.[23]


See also


  1. ^ a b Statistics Canada. "New Westminster demographics". Retrieved 2007-01-20. 
  2. ^ Margaret Ormsby, British Columbia, A History, Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1976, p. 174
  3. ^ Ormsby, p. 175
  4. ^ Ormsby, pl 175
  5. ^ Ormsby, p. 77
  6. ^ Ormsby, p. 177
  7. ^ Ormsby, p. 178
  8. ^ Ormsby, p. 179
  9. ^ Ormsby, p. 223
  10. ^ "Uncovering her roots". Canwest News Service. New Westminster Record. June 6, 2009. Retrieved July 26, 2009. 
  11. ^ Terry Glavin (March 2, 2006). "How Poplar Island fell off the map". The Georgia Straight. Retrieved July 26, 2009. 
  12. ^ Stephen Hui (May 26, 2003). "4, vol 114 - film: The story of the smallest tribe". Simon Fraser University. Retrieved July 26, 2009. 
  13. ^ Ormsby, p. 325
  14. ^ Register of the Government of Canada Heritage Buildings.
  15. ^ New Westminster Public Library. New Westminster Architecture.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Douglas College Community Music School
  19. ^ New Westminster Hyack Festival Association (2004). "Hyack Festival Events". Archived from the original on 2005-08-25. Retrieved 2006-01-03. 
  20. ^ Telegram Oct 17, 1962 from Mayor Beth Wood of CNW to Mayor of Moriguchi saying CNW would "be honoured to accept your city as our sister city." to be followed by a formal motion by City Council.
  21. ^ a b c d e
  22. ^ "1991 Sister City agreement between New Westminster and Quezon City, Philippines." New Westminster Museum and Archives # IH2006.4
  23. ^ New Westminster City Council Minutes Nov 27, 1944 which refers to the adoption being in place

External links

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