Sapperton in the spotlight

The Sapperton area of New Westminster is undergoing many changes as residential units, businesses, office space and open areas are appearing on the landscape. Recently a new grocery store (Thrifty Foods), bank (TD Canada Trust), and coffee shop (Take Five Café) have welcomed people to the new Brewery District. They all now become part of the neighbourhood's history.

Sapperton's story has many places of interest, many of which once were or still are vital to the city. Such places include the Royal Columbian Hospital, the brewery, the distillery, the Penitentiary, mills, and its major park area, Hume Park. Other prominent points might be the schools, churches and cemeteries. There are of course many other pieces in the history of Sapperton and a couple of years ago, three long-time residents got together to chat about local history and to share personal research that each was carrying out.

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Carol McMeekin had been gathering information about her town and was looking for the hard-to-find details that add so much to a community. Wayne Wou, who has family connections to the corner store that was situated at Keary Street at East Columbia, was not only tracking down his own family story but links to the community as well. And Archie Miller, also with long family connections, had been following up his own memories while working through various historical materials gathered by his father.

During 2011, this Memories of Sapperton project has presented stories from its research on a walking tour across the neighbourhood, introduced Sapperton people on a cemetery tour, presented a slide show of the neighbourhood's history at the historical society, displayed images of interest at Sapperton Day and is now planning another presentation.

The area around Braid and East Columbia streets features many sites of local historical interest including Shaw Brothers' woodworking, Schibicky's fries, burgers, and ice cream, Barclay's service station, Millar's Drugs, the interurban and streetcar station, and a small Chinese laundry nearby. A block away from this corner was a hardware store, known to many as "Black Cat" hardware because of the "Cat's Paw" shoe polish sign on its wall.

Another block along East Columbia included Sapperton Motors, with the revered Spot's Café next door. In the area of Keary Street was a wonderful collection of corner stores, cafés, interesting houses, a couple of community halls, and a fire hall. And farther along East Columbia, right on the corner of Brunette was a curiously shaped triangular building with stores and apartments.

All of this is only a sample of the large amount that has been discovered during this history project. If you'd like to find out more about this part of the city, then come to the New Westminster Historical Society presentation on Wednesday, Nov. 16, starting at 7: 30 p.m. Carol, Wayne and Archie will have some great stories.

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