Saturday, June 24, 2017

Greenwood and Phoenix

We left the Okanagan on Thursday morning and headed east along the bottom of the province, traversing mountain ranges that run north and south. On the way we stopped at the city of Greenwood, apparently the smallest city in Canada, with a population of around 700 people. It was incorporated in 1897 as the main smelting city of the area and has kept its city status despite the drop in population.  

There are a few stories associated with this place. One relates to my stepfather Charlie, who was born here more than a century ago. His father was a geological engineer employed at the Phoenix Mine near Greenwood when things were booming. We stopped in at the historical museum and the woman there was quite familiar with the name C.M. Campbell. Apparently they have quite a few of his photographs in their archives.

The town of Phoenix is reported to have had  4,000 people in 1911 and at its peak had 16 hotels and a professional hockey team. When copper prices dropped in after WW I, most of the inhabitants left and never came back. The company closed the mine some time later and in the 1920s wrecking crews arrived to haul away the churches, halls, stores, skating rink and hospital--all of which were dismantled and re-erected in other communities. The only thing remaining there now is a plaque and a graveyard.  

We didn't go up to the old townsite but we spent some time at Greenwood, where there are some buildings of about the same vintage. This is the Mellor Block from 1901 which housed the telegraph office and the first post office.

This fine home was built by an alderman on Greenwood's first city council. 

This was the original courthouse built in 1903. The basement contained three prison jail cells. It is now used as the City Hall.

And below is the Windsor Hotel built in 1899, home to one of the longest operating pubs in B.C.

But there's more to the story of Greenwood. It was also mostly abandoned after the price of copper dropped in 1919. But in 1942 the boarded-up town was transformed into an internment camp for 1,200 displaced Japanese Canadians. Many of the old buildings were used as living quarters for internees. The Mellor Block, pictured at the top of the page, contained one of the four community baths.

The next chapter in the story relates to the movie made from David Gutterson's novel, Snow Falling on Cedars. In 1988 Greenwood was the site of much of the filming of the movie, purported to be Amity Harbour, a fictional town located on one of the San Juan Islands.  Take a close look at the painting on the side of this building. It says "Amity Harbor, the strawberry capital of the San Juan Islands."  

And here's another one featuring Pacific salmon. Pretty strange to see these details hundreds of miles from the Pacific coast.  Many of the old buildings' interiors were also used in the movie.

A couple of final photos of this intriguing place. These two photos are of the Guess Block, built in 1899. It originally housed the assay office.  You can see the sign from the movie, Pacific Grill.  Harry's there at the coffee shop that operates there now talking to one of the residents.

And finally a photo of the interior of one of these buildings, apparently owned or rented by someone who collects old toasters and electrical appliances. The door was locked and we had no idea whether it's meant to be a museum of sorts or just a shrine to a personal collection

Since our visit to Greenwood we've stopped in Grand Forks and Creston, both agricultural towns.  I'll post a bit about them tomorrow, and I'll also show you some photos from the fascinating Rail Car Museum in Cranbrook. We're limiting our driving so we can spend a bit of time in these different places.

1 comment:

  1. It had been awhile since I'd seen the movie, but the place felt familiar to me. Beautiful shots!


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