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My Hometown: New Westminster, B.C.

New Westminster, once the capital of British Columbia, was named by Queen Victoria and is affectionately known as “The Royal City”.

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New Westminster

New Westminster

The site of New Westminster, British Columbia, where I’ve lived for more than a decade, is the ancestral home of the Kwantlen (Qw’ó;ntl’an), one of the ancient tribes of the Sto:lo (river) people. History has always played an important role in “New West”. Here are a few fun, historical facts about the Royal City.

New Westminster is a fascinating city to live in and a great place to visit.

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River Transport

River Transport

A tugboat pulls his load up the Fraser River at dusk.

The Fraser River is one of the defining features of New Westminster. For decades, the river was home to several salmon canneries and a popular transportation route for the region’s lumber industry. Even today, tugboats pull their heavy loads up and down this working river.

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Lovers of Lacrosse

Lovers of Lacrosse

The New Westminster Salmonbellies play the Burnaby Lakers on the country’s only wooden lacrosse floor, at historic Queen’s Park Arena.

The city is home to one of the oldest lacrosse teams in the country, the New Westminster Salmonbellies. Legend has it the team’s name originated as a taunt mocking the community’s strong ties to the salmon-canning industry. Rather than reject the name, the team embraced it, even adding a fish to their official logo. To this day, fans will throw fish on the floor during the final championship game of the Western Lacrosse Association. The Salmonbellies play their home games on the wooden floor of Queen’s Park Arena, which is located just a few blocks away from the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

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Site of B.C.'s First Public Library

Site of B.C.’s First Public Library

The old city courthouse, opened in 1899, replaced the original 1892 building that was destroyed in the great fire.

In 1865, New Westminster became home to British Columbia’s first public library, originally located in the former mint. When that building became too run down, it was demolished and replaced by a three-storey stone and brick building in 1892. That building, unfortunately, did not survive the Great Fire of 1898-a fire that destroyed much of the young city but not the spirit of her residents.

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A Popular Filming Location

A Popular Filming Location

Train robber Billy Miner escaped from the BC Penitentiary in 1907.

In 1907, train robber Bill Miner escaped from the BC Penitentiary, which was located in New Westminster. Miner has since been immortalized in the 1982 movie, The Grey Fox , and in the Keg Steakhouse’s Billy Miner Pie.

New Westminster is the hometown of Raymond Burr of Perry Mason and Ironside fame. His burial plot is in my neighbourhood, not too far from the gravesite of Gassy Jack, after whom Vancouver’s Gastown is named. The Fraser Cemetery is home to many other interesting “residents,” and a popular pastime for many citizens is participating in cemetery tours put on by Archie and Dale Miller of a Sense of History Research Services.

While you may not have visited New Westminster, you’re very likely to have seen it. One of Canada’s most famous photos, “Wait for me, Daddy,” was taken on a downtown New Westminster street. More recently, New Westminster has set the scene for many movies and TV episodes/series, including The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants; I, Robot; New Moon, Supernatural, Smallville, and more.

Whether you’re a lacrosse fan, a history buff, or just plain starstruck, New Westminster is a fascinating city to live in and a great place to visit.

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