Many important dates, events and people stand out in the overall chronicle that is the history of New Westminster, but a small number of things rank higher than the others. One that truly stands out is the city’s Great Fire of 1898. The many factors that come together in the story of this fire are what make this event so interesting.
The local historical society will feature next week the first of two presentations looking at aspects of the Great Fire: Sept. 10 and 11, 1898.
The first presentation will examine the fire through many facts that piece together the account.
Over the years of looking at this fire people have been taken by the way the story came together point after point leading up to that Saturday evening when the fire alarm rang out announcing a problem on the waterfront, a problem that would quickly dominate until well into the next day when it was controlled.
Mixed up in the account of this massive blaze or conflagration, the word the press of the day used, are numerous personal stories, the Provincial Exhibition, early tourism, the city’s water supply, the fire department, prominent businesses and buildings, construction techniques before and after the fire, emergency assistance in the wake of this event from local and far reaching sources, the community’s response, incredible human stories centered on the blaze, rebuilding the town, the minute by minute chronology of the fire and, as we say, much more.
This blaze truly did change this city but it came back, as authorities wrote, better than before. The rebuilding of New Westminster started almost immediately and proceeded at a great pace over the next years. The Royal City, as an illustration in a local paper showed, did seem to rise like a phoenix from the ashes.
The Great Fire is an important piece of the City’s history with great long-lasting effects on so many things. How much was lost to the fire?
All of the downtown roughly from a short distance above Fourth Street to near the foot of 11th Street and from the river to Royal Avenue with a few exceptions – certainly not, as is often noted, “the whole city.”
Interested in the presentation at the Historical Society? Come out on Sept. 19 starting at 7:30 p.m. at Century House, Spruce Room, 620 – Eighth St.