River Stories: Terry Hughes

In preparing for the print edition of Tenth focused on Rivers (now at our distributors!), we heard a lot of river stories. Some false, some exaggerated, and some completely true. One such story is about Terry Hughes (b.Dec.17, 1940, d. Nov.8, 1959).

The name may be familiar to you – this is the sports field and playground park on the corner of McBride and 8th Avenue, beside École Glenbrook Middle School. But who is Terry? And why was this part of New West named after him? And why am I calling this a “river story” when it’s easily a kilometre away from the riverfront?

Horizontal and vertical lines- pilings in the water. Photo by Kevin McConnell
Horizontal and vertical lines- pilings in the water.
Photo by Kevin McConnell

The City of New Westminster has a great little info sheet about Terry Hughes Park, that is factual and solidly written. It’s buried in a PDF so needed some lightweight sleuthing to find it. Thanks to Dale Miller at A Sense of History Research Services for pointing me this way and to the City for giving me permission to reproduce portions of the text here:

Hughes was a New Westminster boy who attended Lord Kelvin Elementary and had just graduated from New Westminster High School. While playing with some friends on log booms along the shore line near the Queensborough Bridge, a young girl fell into the Fraser River. Hughes died trying to save her.

In reporting the tragedy, the British Columbian newspaper wrote: “Young Hughes had dove into the water to help nine-year-old Carol St. Pierre who had fallen into the river from a boom of logs… Hughes was sitting on the shore with Michael Lamb and another companion. Without hesitation he dashed for the river and plunged in, trying to swim upstream to reach the girl. Robert Thomas, 28, also heard the cry and plunged into the water to help. Terry was holding the girl’s head above the water when Thomas neared them. Suddenly the youth and the girl vanished beneath the water. When they reappeared, Thomas grabbed the girl and started back for shore. Witnesses said Terry was having trouble staying afloat. Thomas told officers the youth grabbed his leg when he started for shore with the girl. ‘We all went under. I broke free when we came up, but I thought I had really had it,’ related Thomas. ‘The little girl climbed on my back and had her arms wrapped around my throat. I couldn’t breathe. … I was taking a lot of water and nearly blacked out.’ Then Kenneth Heron dove into the water, swam to the struggling pair and grabbed the girl. Thomas, who said he was not a strong swimmer, ‘just made it’ to a log boom where his wife and two men pulled him to safety. Witnesses said Terry sank beneath the surface right after Thomas took the girl. They said the youth broke water once more then vanished.”

Terry’s body was recovered the next day. He was buried in Fraser Cemetery with a police guard of honour and mourned by a community shocked by the tragedy. Terry’s mother, Mabel Hughes, accepted the presentation of the Royal Canadian Humane Association’s Medal of Bravery in his memory.


How the park came to be named Terry Hughes Park is another story from the City’s Info Sheet:

This site was part of a large civic property purchased by the federal government in 1947. It became the location of a new Westminster Regiment armoury which replaced the historic 1896 structure at Sixth Street and Queens Avenue. The new building was planned for construction after World War II, but funding was not available; eventually the project was abandoned and the federal government turned part of the site into the rented apartments of the Glenview Veterans Housing project. The lower, swampy portion of the site occupied by a section of the Glenbrook Ravine had been partially filled as part of the Glenbrook Sewer project of 1912. Eventually, the ravine was completely filled, and the City leased the site from the federal government. It was partially developed at that time and called Jackson Park, after Mayor Toby Jackson.

In 1959, a local boy named Terry Hughes lost his life while attempting to save a young girl who had fallen into the Fraser River. Councillor Jack Allison suggested re-naming the park in Hughes’ memory. The leased park site was developed in 1961 with a playground and softball diamond. In 1992, the federal government announced the redevelopment of the Veterans Housing site. The city negotiated a significant portion of the land to form the site of the new Glenbrook Middle School as well as a new civic-owned Terry Hughes Park. The new, improved, and rebuilt park was dedicated on September 30, 2000 with members of the Hughes family in attendance at the ceremony.

Terry’s grave is in the Upper Fraser section of the Fraser Cemetery, and is often included in walking tours of the cemetery.

The Bridges of Stump City

This article first appeared in our August 2016 print edition.

Bridges of Stump City-01

Stepping off the Hudson’s Bay Company steamer Beaver in 1859, Col Moody faced a wall of massive trees—an ancient forest where the only signs of people were Native trails and a narrow village along the river. Founding a new city meant growth and movement, getting from A to B. For the Royal Engineers, that meant building bridges.

A bridge is rich in symbolism: it reaches for new places, makes connections where none existed, and links ‘what if?‘, us and them, and technical innovation. In the early days of our city, the need to “get my wagon across that damn gulley!” was reason alone.

The first bridges of New Westminster were timber structures that spanned numerous creeks to create our modern roads, like Columbia Street. As the city grew so did the scale and complexity of its bridges.

Photo by Mario Bartel
Photo by Mario Bartel

In 1904, the railroad bridge to South Westminster was built—the first span to cross the lower Fraser River. Amazingly for the day, the wooden top deck of the bridge was built for cars. This bridge is with us still—albeit without the cars— and is an intriguing example of 19th-century engineering.

Bridges of Stump City-03In 1937, the Pattullo Bridge, named for provincial premier “Duff” Pattullo, opened. The bridge has a graceful through-arch design, its arch an iconic parabola exactly follows the structural load profile—math made visible. The mid-century modern colour scheme of soft blue and pale orange is unique.

Other bridges of New Westminster include footbridges in parks like Glenbrook Ravine. The traditional offset wooden footbridges found in Friendship Gardens which links New Westminster with its sister cities in Asia, have a gentle zen-like rise, emphasizing one’s passage “over” what lies below.

Photo courtesy of the City of New Westminster
Photo courtesy of the City of New Westminster

The Quayside timber rail bridge is a thrill for kids on the footpath underneath when the noisy locomotive trundles right overhead. The timbers creak and groan but do their job well.

Alas, many bridges in New Westminster are simply paved roads. Gullies are filled and culverts replace creeks in our rush to flatten and obscure nature. What started as a simple need to get a wagon to the other side has led to a loss of topography. Perhaps current ideas to “daylight” our streams could foster new bridges over reclaimed waterways, such as Tipperary Creek as it crosses Royal Avenue.

One bridge that we know is coming will surely be, like nearly every bridge ever built, a design marvel and something we will wonder how we lived without. The proposed Q2Q bridge as it is known (the pedestrian bridge connecting the Quayside neighbourhood to Queensborough), will likely be the longest pedestrian span in Canada. The possibilities and implications are fascinating.

* From the City of New Westminster’s Memory Band information: “Around the time that a site for the capital of the united Victoria and British Columbian Colonies was being considered, “Stump City” became a derogatory term for New Westminster, coined by some Victoria‐based newspapers. The nickname was derived from the fact that the site for New Westminster needed to be cleared for settlement and this process left many stumps in place, as can been seen in some early photos.”

Changing Currents

From its earliest days, New Westminster has sent and received products by ship on the Fraser River. On December 17, 1859, a local newspaper reported that the schooner DL Clinch had left for San Francisco with a cargo of 60,000 feet of cabinet wood and 50 barrels of cranberries. As she left, she received a 13-gun salute as the first vessel with a cargo of BC produce to leave New Westminster for a foreign port.

A sailing ship lodging in early New West, NWPL 273
A sailing ship lodging in early New West, NWPL 273

Before that, salt, nails, gunpowder, molasses, kettles, tobacco, rum, guns, mill wheels, and oxen were frequently carried up the Fraser to Fort Langley, while salmon in barrels, shingles, furs, and beaver skins were carried on the return trip downriver.

In 1925, the British Columbian declared: “Not entirely, but to a great extent, the hopes of New Westminster’s development industrially are based on the river and its recognition as a fresh water port. Shipping in the Fraser River is engaged largely in carrying to all parts of the world the product of industrial plants on its banks. There is also, however, a growing activity in the shipping of products from elsewhere, in itself a valuable recognition of the claims of the Fraser to become one of the major outlets on Canada’s Pacific seaboard.

Aside from a freshwater harbour, normally open year round, the city had wharves and warehouses served with trackage and, through the only inter-switching facilities in the far west, access to four trans-continental railway systems and one of the largest electric railway systems on the continent. This unique combination of water and rail shipping facilities was quickly recognized and the number of ocean-going vessels entering the port of New Westminster jumped from 20 ships in 1923 to 150 ships in 1925.

New West docks circa 1955 NWPL 675
New West docks circa 1955 NWPL 675

By the end of the 1920s, there was a great variety of goods coming and going from the port at New Westminster. Tons of corn and canned corned beef from Argentina and coffee from Brazil were transshipped by road to Vancouver, while the same vessel left with bar metal. The same year, 1929, the Roman Star left with 5,000 cases of fresh eggs for the United Kingdom, France, and Germany–the first such export in a refrigerated ship. In 1937, 60 cars, or 50,000 boxes, of apples were sent to the port, destined for three fast “express freighters” going to the UK.

Liners at the New West dock circa 1940, A Sense of History Collection
Liners at the New West dock circa 1940, A Sense of History Collection

As is often the case, war had a major effect on industry and the import/export of goods. During World War II, the principal export was lumber with some metal and assorted cargo, and the prime destination was the UK. Just a few years later in January 1952, a record was set for the shipment of wheat to the UK with just over 1 million bushels leaving on 13 vessels that month alone. Lumber was the export leader with nearly 32 million board feet being shipped. Of this total, roughly 27 million board feet went to the UK, 3.5 million board feet to Australia, followed by the Hawaiian Islands, Tahiti, Samoa and Fiji. The UK also took the bulk of other lumber products of plywood, shingles, and box shooks, as well as lead and zinc. The export of apples to the UK was down but the entire export of whiskey went to Japan and Fiji.

In 1972, a $3-million auto distribution centre was built on Annacis Island in cooperation with Nissan Auto Co. (Datsun) offering full draft berthage for super car carriers, a 32.7 acre site, and space for 7,000 cars. Now, almost 50 years later, this terminal is known as WWL Vehicles Services Canada and handles vehicles from about 15 different auto manufacturers. The cars arrive on “RoRos,” vessels designed for cargo that rolls on and off its decks. A single RoRo handles roughly 3,000 to 4,000 vehicles, and it takes about four hours to unload the cars. The terminal can store up to 25,000 vehicles at one time.

In 1974—two years after the opening of the Annacis distribution centre— New Westminster moved into the “big league” of the shipping world with the opening of a new container-handling dock equal in size and capacity to any other in the world. A pair of huge gantry-type cranes, the largest in Canada, especially for containers were described as the “heart” of the docks: The Columbian of December 10, 1974 described the cranes as “So important are they to the operation of the dock that they were designed first, and the other facilities were then designed to back them up.

A 1979 Fraser Port brochure describes the port as one “of international stature”:

Imports from, and exports to, Japan are the perennial tonnage leaders, with automobiles and steel accounting for almost 90% of total import tonnage in a typical year. In return, Canada ships to Japan its wood chips and lumber, ore concentrates, and pulp. But the deep-sea traffic which plies the Fraser River carries a truly international bill of lading: asbestos, fertilizer, and wheat for Africa in return for coffee and tea, wine, and twine; lead concentrate to the Netherlands in return for creosote oil; paper products, shingles, and shakes to Australia and New Zealand for their fruit, meat, and nickel.”

A present-day industrial shipping organization near our city is Fraser Surrey Docks. FSD specializes in steel, forest products, containerized cargo, and speciality grains in addition to other bulk cargo. FSD opened in 1962 as a multi-purpose marine terminal. The terminal  handles between 300 and 400 deep-sea vessels annually and when a container ship arrives, it takes over 350 people to unload its cargo.

Those present at the official opening of the New Westminster Harbour Commission in 1913 might not be terribly surprised if they returned to New West today. At the time, Col JD Taylor, New Westminster’s then-MP, said they were marking, “the bringing into being of the port capable of accommodating the shipping of the whole world.” And that is exactly what has happened. The Fraser River is at the very heart of our community and connects us all to the whole world.

Modern Touches Honour The Past

Photo by Mario Bartel Kathryn Matts enjoys a cup of coffee on the stoop of her 1912 Craftsman house across from Moody Park. The house is being featured in this year's 36th annual Heritage Homes tour to be held May 29.
Photo by Mario Bartel
Kathryn Matts enjoys a cup of coffee on the stoop of her 1912 Craftsman house across from Moody Park. The house is being featured in this year’s 36th annual Heritage Homes tour to be held May 29.

The Heritage Homes Tour has been a New Westminster tradition for 37 years. This year’s tour will be held Sunday, May 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Kathryn Matts grew up in a heritage home on Queen’s Avenue. So when she and husband Brian decided in 2009 to move their family back to New Westminster from Burnaby, she knew she wanted to surround herself with walls that breathed history.

Finding the George and Delina Reid House on 10th Street was love at first sight, said Matts.

Photo by Mario Bartel Copper coach lamps around the home's exterior are also original.
Photo by Mario Bartel
Copper coach lamps around the home’s exterior are also original.

The Craftsman house was built in 1911 and still features the original shingles and clapboard siding on its exterior. Inside, the hardwood floors, wooden ceiling beams, dark fir panels, leaded glass doors and 17 stained glass windows are all original, as are some of the art deco lamps.

“It’s pretty amazing when you think of everything that survived,” said Matts.

The house was occupied by CPR warehouseman Joseph H. Method from 1925-26, and then by rancher Alex McPhail and his family until 1963.

Subsequent owners made some changes, like building an illegal suite in the basement; but the bones, the home’s character, endured.

Photo by Mario Bartel The kitchen was completely rebuilt and modernized with an open plan.
Photo by Mario Bartel
The kitchen was completely rebuilt and modernized with an open plan.

Matts knew they’d have to respect that legacy as they modernized their new home to accommodate  her family and their contemporary lifestyle. Electrical and plumbing systems were updated, a music room was converted to a laundry room and powder room. But the biggest change was to the kitchen, which was moved to the opposite side of the house, enlarged and opened up to a family room.

A fireplace was sacrificed, but other details were painstakingly honoured.

“Some things had to go,” said Matts. “We wanted to keep elements that were really important.”

Photo by Mario Bartel The house features 17 stained glass windows, all of them original.
Photo by Mario Bartel
The house features 17 stained glass windows, all of them original.

Each piece of dark wood moulding was removed, numbered, restored and then put back into place, like a puzzle. A pair of stained glass windows from the old music room were given new frames and a new home in the family room. The oak floor was matched to the finish of the original floors elsewhere in the house. New pocket doors between the kitchen and dining room were patterned and finished after the originals, still in place between the dining room and front parlour. An original archway in the front entrance was recreated at the hallway’s other end, leading into the family room.

Photo by Mario Bartel The front entrance features the original fir wood panels as well as leaded glass windows.
Photo by Mario Bartel
The front entrance features the original fir wood panels as well as leaded glass windows.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” said Matts. “I want people to see they can have the kitchen of their dreams with an open concept feeling, but still hold onto the heritage value. Living in a heritage home isn’t all creaky floors and drafts.”

Tickets for this year’s Heritage Homes Tour are already available online. General sale of tickets begins Saturday, May 7 at: Benjamin Moore Royal City Colours, 700 Twelfth St.; Cadeaux Gifts, 467 Columbia St. East;  Champagne Taste Home, 1101 Royal Ave.; GardenWorks at Mandeville, 4746 Marine Dr., Burnaby; New West Archives, on the second floor of the Anvil Centre, 777  Columbia St.

Tickets are $35 or $30 for members of the New Westminster Heritage Preservation Society.

Homes and buildings on this year’s tour will also feature visual and performing art by members of the Arts Council.



On This Day in History: Sapperton


This isn’t a true “On This Day in History” because we don’t know the exact date this photo was shot 36 years ago. This is a view of Sapperton, from the Patullo Bridge. But we like to think it could have been taken in spring. 🙂 We’re posting it today, as today marks the 125th anniversary of Knox Presbytarian, visible in both photos, being constituted as a congregation.

 About the original: Our sincere thanks to Barry at the New Westminster Museum and Archives for granting Tenth to the Fraser permission to use the original shot. IHP # 10001-1084. Photo taken in 1980 by Peter Battistoni, for The Columbian newspaper.

About the modern day photo: Mario Bartel is a one heck of a dedicated guy, and we are thankful. He went back to the Patullo Bridge five times to try and duplicate the original angle. It was trickier than we thought it would be – and the clouds didn’t cooperate on the day he finally managed to line it up properly. Continue reading “On This Day in History: Sapperton”

On This Day In New West History: K de K

Thanks to Mario Bartel for the photo work above.

The photo of the K de K was a very old, low resolution photo, and was tricky to incorporate into a modern day photo. We’ve taken a creative liberty here – we don’t know if this was exactly the position the K de K was in when the photo was taken, but it is a decent guess based on the crossing route and the opposite shore. 

Archival photo is courtesy of New Westminster Public Library, accession number 252. 

And thanks to Dale Miller from A Sense of History Research Services for the historical notes below.  Continue reading “On This Day In New West History: K de K”