On This Day In New West History

On February 6, 1929, Richard McBride School burned to the ground.

Current day photo courtesy of Mario Bartel.

Archival photo from the New Westminster Public Library’s collection. It is dated July 23, 1926 and depicts the original Richard McBride School before it burned to the ground. Accession # 144.

Many thanks to Dale Miller of A Sense of History Research Services for the text that follows. 

Richard McBride School was the third public school in the Sapperton area of New Westminster. The previous ones were located on Hospital Street near E. Columbia, and on Major Street near Fader.

Throughout the early 1900s, there were discussions about the need for a new, larger school in Sapperton, and in 1911, the contract was awarded to Gardiner and Mercer for a new “thoroughly modern” and “up to date” school. Sitting on 4.6 acres, it opened in the fall of 1912, and was initially referred to as the “Sapperton School”, but renamed for its opening as “Sir Richard McBride School”.

However, soon after the school’s opening, Sir Richard McBride wrote to the School Board asking that the “Sir” be removed from the school name, as he felt that the citizens of New Westminster knew him best as simply “Richard McBride”, without his knighthood title. The school board agreed to the request but apparently failed to notify the provincial authorities and so the “Sir” technically remained on the school for a number of years.

In 1925, a foundation and a new wing were added to address overcrowding, and in 1928, an assembly hall was added. On February 6, 1929 the entire school, except for the gymnasium, burned to the ground.

Richard McBride School Burning 6 February, 1929 NWPL 145
Richard McBride School Burning 6 February, 1929
NWPL 145

Emergency tents were used as a temporary school for the students until the new school was ready.

Emergency tents used after the McBride School fire in 1929 NWPL 1795
Emergency tents used after the McBride School fire in 1929
NWPL 1795








A new Richard McBride School was opened in 1930 and it is this school, with a number of alterations and additions, which is in use today.

Richard McBride School circa 1940 NWPL 2346
Richard McBride School circa 1940
NWPL 2346

Reflecting on the Importance of Connections

Especially during times of upheaval and worry, community matters.

Connectivity to New Westminster is something I took for granted until recently when this community carried me through my husband’s critical health issue and continues to play a significant role in in his recovery.

Working for the City of New Westminster, living in New Westminster and raising our school age daughter in the same community has given me the luxury of getting to know a lot of people in my community. However, sometimes this luxury is not as “luxurious” as it may sound. Quick trips to grocery store can turn into an ad hoc meeting with a community member resulting in action items that I must somehow remember between buying milk and carrots.  Eating at a restaurant is sometimes an opportune time to be cornered by someone who wants to share their opinion on every issue with the City, even though it doesn’t pertain to my portfolio.  While I understand and applaud their enthusiasm, I honestly just need milk!

So, when word of my husband’s health and hospitalization started to spread, I didn’t realize how much I would actually start to value the connectedness to this community. While I have amazing family and friends, many live outside the lower mainland so when I say connectedness to New Westminster carried me, it’s true.

Well wishes at the grocery store, hugs at school drop off, the tweets- it seemed everyone in the City was collectively sending healing thoughts and prayers. There were offers to help in anyway they could, and many did. They dropped off meals (like that delicious quiche missing from the plate in the photo), babysat our daughter, kept up the yard, put out the garbage- honestly, I don’t even recall exactly who did what. It all just magically happened. Even now, as my husband goes for his healthy heart walks I am comforted in knowing if anything were to happen to him as he was out walking alone, someone in our neighbourhood would help him.

While residents can be divisive about traffic management, affordable family housing, festivals and multitude of other issues, this is ultimately a City with a solid and caring community. The outpouring of support has left me embracing the connectiveness my family has to this community. Bumping into someone I know while getting milk at the grocery store is now considered a privilege and no longer a nuisance.


Slideshow: Brew Day

Behind the scenes at the local brewery

Brewing beer at Steel & Oak is part science, part art, and a whole lot of toil.

Since opening in the summer of 2014, the craft brewery next to the Third Avenue overpass has already expanded its beer making capacity to 270,000 litres and added a bottling line. The tasting room has become a community gathering place; even baby and momma groups meet there on some afternoons, their strollers parked akimbo amidst the tall industrial steel stools and wooden tables.

But it’s in the back where the magic happens. Continue reading “Slideshow: Brew Day”

The Power of Open Civic Data

Understanding its usefulness and role in connecting citizens

Free, open and user-driven access to public information is the first step for citizens to become well-informed and properly engaged in the public policy decision-making process. Being able to access information about the communities we live in empowers us to hold governments accountable and participate fully in the democratic process.

The City of New Westminster is modernizing how it engages with residents. They’ve implemented a social media presence, are about to launch a completely revamped and more user-friendly website, have developed an app for the New West Police that includes fairly real time data on crimes in the city, and have jumped on board with use of issue-reporting app See Click Fix

The latest step is the launch of its Open Data website, providing residents and businesses with better access to a wealth of information and data sets. Municipal data is released with an open licence, and is free of charge for anyone to use and reuse. From emergency incidents to the commuting patterns of New Westminster residents, anyone can visit the website and gain insights into the city’s workings. Continue reading “The Power of Open Civic Data”


Jen introduces this month’s theme.

When I first moved from Vancouver Island to New Westminster in 1995 in my early 20s, I chose it for three reasons, and three reasons only: it was the last city before a bridge, it was on the Skytrain, and it had cheap rent.

I’m not alone. When I talk to people who moved to New West at roughly the same age as I was, they often say the same things are what drew them here.

However, now when people ask me why I stay in this city I cite totally different reasons. It feels like a community, and not just a city. I love the city’s diversity and yet it still manages to feel like a small town. For the most part, the people here are friendly and giving. In a word, connectedness keeps me here.

At some point, I became connected to the community in a way I never anticipated when I signed that rental agreement on a beige apartment on Agnes.

Much of that feeling of connectedness was as a result of the work I did with the Royal City Farmers Market from 2009-2012 and the volunteering I do now for various groups. Through the course of these positions, I have interacted with and gotten to know many of the groups that contribute to this community, often thanklessly and mostly unseen.

The connections I now feel to this city produce interesting results in how I feel toward others. For example, I feel a shared sense of happiness and celebration when people I am connected to in the city – no matter how tenuously – have good things happen to them.

So this month on Tenth, we’re exploring themes of connectedness as they pertain to the city we call home – getting connected, staying connected, being and wanting to be disconnected, and exploring what services, supports, and activities are available to help us connect or disconnect as we choose.

We’re all just people in this place together, right?

A few resources / food for thought:

  • Not to get all woo-woo here, but connectedness can go a long way to help people feel empathy. Check out this three minute long animated short featuring Brené Brown for a look at the difference between empathy and sympathy.
  • City planners know that social connectedness is an essential human need. For a bit of a longer read, check out this article on social connectedness on Plan H, a multi-agency program implemented by the BC Healthy Communities Society to support local government to create healthier communities.

If you’ve got something you want to contribute to this month’s theme, please don’t hesitate to get in touch – I prefer to have your voices here, not mine. And feel free to submit your community event to our calendar.