British Columbia

New Westminster
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New Westminster, the oldest Canadian city west of the Great Lakes, lovingly preserves its past alongside present development.

New Westminster began as a result of the gold rush on the Fraser River. Fearing that the influx of gold seekers would result in an outbreak of lawlessness, James Douglas, then governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island, wrote to the Colonial Secretary in England and requested troops to keep the peace. One hundred and sixty-five Royal Engineers were dispatched to Western Canada in 1858. These men established New Westminster as the colony's capital.

New Westminster is known as "The Royal City." It is said that Queen Victoria herself chose the name New Westminster, naming it after her favourite part of London. New Westminster remained the capital of British Columbia until 1868, when the gold rush subsided and Victoria was named capital due to its larger population.

Today, New Westminster is home to 45,000 residents who enjoy a mild climate and an easy commute to Vancouver. A variety of housing types are available, ranging from large historic homes to modem condominiums and townhouses.

Residents enjoy a number of well-maintained parks, with recreational programs for all ages. At Queens Park, you can stroll through the Rose Garden, sniff your way through the Herb House or jump on a trampoline.

Though no longer capital of the region, New Westminster preserves its historic roots through its museums and celebrations. Built in 1865, Irving House was once home to a sternheeler captain named William Irving. Today the house is a museum of pioneer fife, filled with beautiful antiques. At Christmas time the house is decorated in traditional Victorian style, complete with tree, holly and musical entertainment in the parlour.

Directly behind Irving House is the New Westminster Museum and Archives. This museum houses a collection of items brought to New Westminster by the Royal Engineers; it provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the history of the city.

To learn about the city's maritime heritage, you can visit the Samson V Maritime Museum on the waterfront at Westminster Quay. The museum is located in the Samson V - the last steam-powered paddlewheeler to operate on the Fraser River. It was built in 1937 and served as a snagpuller, clearing the river of stray logs and other debris so other boats could get through. In addition to viewing the exhibits and photos of life on a paddle- wheeler, you also can explore the inside of the boat itself.

New Westminster residents celebrate their heritage at a number of festivals throughout the year. The city's biggest event is the Hyack Festival, which takes place in May. This festival has been an annual event since 1870; it is the oldest continuing event of its kind in the British Commonwealth.

For more information:
City of New Westminster


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