“Suburb” is really an entirely inaccurate term to describe New West, which was founded in 1858 as the original capital of British Columbia, and has a longer history than its larger, more glamorous neighbour to the west. Queen Victoria herself was responsible for naming New Westminster, which gave rise to its enduring nickname “The Royal City.”
Our office was located on the character-ful Columbia Street. Until the 1960s, this lively thoroughfare was the major shopping destination for many residents in the Fraser Valley. And if you’re looking for a great coffee, quirky boutique or even a wedding dress, the merchant strip along Columbia is still the place to go! The street’s attractive old brick storefronts and heritage buildings are rare in the communities of coastal BC, who now rely more on wood, glass and steel.
The back windows of our office building look out over the wide, slow-moving Fraser River. Unlike much of Vancouver’s playful ocean waterfront, this river is about industry, not beach volleyball. Barges ply the waters steadily all day, transporting lumber and other freight to the nearby ocean ports of Richmond and Delta. The view isn’t idyllic, but it’s always changing and always interesting – much like New West itself.
If staff were in the mood for a walk at lunchtime, a steep climb uphill from Columbia would take us to Tipperary or Queen’s Parks, lined with colourful, grand Victorian houses, shady centuries-old trees and abundant green space. Or along the riverside promenade, where we could watch as the city transformed former industrial lots into rejuvenated public spaces right before our eyes.
...and here I was planning to write an ode to our new office space in flashy Downtown Vancouver! Instead this turned into a tribute to the place we are leaving behind. If you’re ever visiting Vancouver and want to dig around a bit into the early roots of our West Coast settlements, think about spending a day exploring New Westminster.
It’s an easy Skytrain ride from downtown Vancouver: just hop on the Expo or Millenium Line and get off at New Westminster or Columbia Station.