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Port Coquitlam Business Improvement
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A history in Photos

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check 1827 - Fort Langley established

Pitt River was originally called Pitt's River, cited by James McMillan (of the Hudson's Bay Company) in an 1827 letter "as if it was already a familiar name to him." It is also sometimes referred to in Hudson's Bay Company journals as the "Quoitle" River, possibly a Kwantlen word.

check 1853 - The First Settlers

The Rob Roy (a schooner) drops the McLean family off, the first European settlers. Donald McLean, was only two years old when he arrived with his Mother, Father (Captain Alexander McLean), his brother and a hired hand. They erected a cabin on the lush meadows, which also provided a welcome source of food for his cattle. McLean begins a dairy farm.

check 1859 - The Letter

January 28: a letter from Royal Engineers Colonel Richard Moody to Colonial Governor Douglas mentions Mary Hill. (The hill was named for Mary Moody, the colonel's wife.) And "Mary Hill" is shown on an 1859 Admiralty survey chart made by Capt. Richards of H.M.S. Plumper

check 1860 - Ned Atkins

The Ned Atkins family arrives in Coquitlam from Ireland, and "took 160 acres east of Mary Hill near the foot of Pitt River Road."

check 1862 - Lots for Sale

A private firm contracted out by the Royal Engineers constructs Pitt River Road. Unsurveyed lots of up to 160 acres in this area are free, although land in what will become the Port Coquitlam area, already surveyed, costs 10 shillings an acre.

check 1864 - First Farm

"About" 1864 T.J. Scott of New Westminster begins to farm in the future Port Coquitlam area.

check 1885 - The CPR

The CPR, at the request of New Westminster businesses, builds a spur line - running south from the main line that goes into Vancouver. Where the spur line meets the main line is called New Westminster Junction, or just Westminster Junction (and sometimes just "the Junction".) The area around the Junction - eventually to become Port Coquitlam - is growing as a farming and logging community.

A CPR station opens at Westminster Junction.

check 1886 - Settlement

And the people came to settle!!

All kinds and manner of people came. The vast majority stayed and settled and it is these people who started the valley on its next dramatic step!

check 1890 - End of the Sternwheeler's

Sternwheelers gradually begin to ease out of service on the Fraser River.
The Junction Schoolhouse is built.

check 1891 - Incorporation

The valley became incorporated as Coquitlam Municipality in 1891. Land could be bought for $25.00 per acre and was in a wild state, as deer, bear, skink, wild cat and other animals roamed freely. A by-law was passed for payment of bounties for the following:

  • 1 bear............$2.50
  • 1 mink............$0.25
  • 1 raccoon.......$0.50
  • 1 skunk.........$0.25
  • 1 hawk..........$0.05
  • 1 wildcat.......$2.00

check 1892 - Coquitlam municipal hall is built.

check 1894 - Flooding and the Gold Rush

There is severe Fraser River flooding, and some people leave for good.
The Klondike gold rush. Pioneer John Gately went to the gold fields, succeeded, and on his return was able to speculate in real estate in what would become Port Coquitlam.

check 1900 - First logger and map

A. R. Millard comes to Port Coquitlam "about" 1900. He is believed to be the first logger to operate extensively in the district, logging along the Coquitlam and Pitt Rivers and on Burke Mountain. Millard becomes a prominent PoCo merchant, running a general store, hardware store and a liquor store!
A map of the PoCo area is drawn. The map shows the Dewdney Trunk, Pitt River, Coast Meridian and Pipeline Roads and the names of the pioneer landowners.

check 1903 - Junction Hotel opens

1,000 acres in Coquitlam are purchased by the Province of B.C. for a new mental hospital. Part of the area purchased was in what is now Port Coquitlam. Work on construction will start in 1905.
Thomas W. Quilty comes to Westminster Junction, later opens the Junction Hotel.

check 1906 - School days

The Stave Lake Power Company increases the capacity of its dam on Stave Lake in Maple Ridge to supply power to Maple Ridge and, beginning in 1912, to Westminster Junction.
There are now two school classes at the Junction School, on present-day Wilson Avenue. It is not uncommon for local students to walk seven miles to school.

check 1909 - Hospital for the Mind

The first permanent building for the provincial mental hospital, later called West Lawn, is built north of Colony Farm on the area known then as Mount Coquitlam. The asylum was then known as the "Hospital for the Mind"

check 1911 - A busy year!

February 25, 1911: The foundation stone for the provincial mental hospital, Essondale, is laid by the Lieutenant-Governor.

The Coquitlam Star starts publishing. It lasted several years.

Coquitlam Star, Sept. 8, 1911: "What Pittsburgh is to the United States, so Will Coquitlam be to Canada" The paper prints a map of the area.

The CPR proposes a major expansion of its facilities in Westminster Junction including a shipyard at the mouth of the Pitt River. There is much speculation in land and Coquitlam invests heavily in the development of new streets and sidewalks, costing more than $200,000.

The CPR moves its freight operations from Vancouver to PoCo.

The newly-arrived Coquitlam Terminal Company promotes Westminster Junction as a site for larger industries.

"Panama Fever" hits the area as a result of the impending opening of the Panama Canal. This will give an assured boost to the local economy.

check 1912 - Why Port Coquitlam?

In 1912, the boom resulting from "Panama Fever" continued and residents soon agreed that Westminster Junction should become a city.

In 1911, the Coquitlam Terminal Co. had initiated a contest for a new name for the area. Many leaned toward the name "Westminster Junction" & considered it more suitable as it favoured the railway.

Others supported the original Indian name "Coquitlam". Eventually, as the City's future was thought to be centred on it's role as a port, "Port Coquitlam" was chosen.

January 18: The Commercial Hotel opens at the corner of Lougheed Highway and Flint Street. There are 46 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms, a bar, dining room, reception, ladies rooms, and two stores on the ground floor. "The hotel will be furnished in modern style and in every room there will be hot and cold water, each room being heated by hot water radiators and lighted with electricity."

Westminster Junction gets power from the BC Electric dam on Stave Lake.

By the end of 1912 there are five schools in Coquitlam: Millside; Blue Mountain; East Coquitlam; Westminster Junction and James Park.

September 12, 1912 Premier Richard McBride visits the Junction to open the new $6,000 Agricultural Hall. The building is described as of "modernized Moorish design." The building later became a community hall.

check 1913 - From the Weekly Globe and Canada Farmer

March 7, 1913: Westminster Junction secedes from Coquitlam and takes the name Port Coquitlam. The new little city assumes 5/8ths of the original municipal debt of $225,000.

PoCo's population at incorporation is estimated at 1,300.

1913 - From the Weekly Globe and Canada Farmer "The natural geographic position is the most desirable for an industrial site and a port. Level land in a "Sea of Mountains" is more valuable than in any part of the Dominion. Considering there are 6,000 acres of level territory, with more than six miles of frontage on Pitt River, the possibilities are unlimited. In her capacity as a Port, however, Coquitlam will achieve her greatness. The CPR Co. has noted that by its interest."

March 23, 1913: The first baby born after incorporation is Jim David. Mr. David is still living in 1999.

April 18: Inauguration Day, the formal celebration of the new city's creation. The inaugural ceremonies and activities are covered in all the Lower Mainland newspapers; the first mayor, James Mars (who had been Mayor of Coquitlam) gives medallions to local school children. Mayor Mars predicts a population for Port Coquitlam of 10,000 in three years. It will actually be more than 50 years before the city will achieve this level.

Kelly's Hall, on Kingsway, is used as Port Coquitlam's first City Hall.
(This building will be destroyed in the 1920 fire.) A new hall (the present one) will go up in 1914. Kelly's Hall becomes the fire hall.

"The natural geographic position is the most desirable for an industrial site and a port. Level land in a "Sea of Mountains" is more valuable than in any part of the Dominion. Considering there are 6000 acres of level territory, with more than six miles of frontage on Pitt River, the possibilities are unlimited. In her capacity as a Port, however, Coquitlam will achieve her greatness. The CPR Co. has noted that by its interest."

check 1914-1919 - Shipbuilding - The War Years

Canada was at war and Port Coquitlam's main wartime industry was shipbuilding. At its peak, it employed 500 carpenters, shipwrights and metal workers, paying a total of almost $3,000.00 a day in wages! Six wooden vessels were built, with hulls that were 300 feet long and powered by steam engines.

check 1918 - Spanish Influenza

September 14 and 21: Port Coquitlam publishes, in Vancouver newspapers, a seven-page listing of properties available for sale as a result of nonpayment of taxes. Most of the tax arrears are astonishingly low, many under $20, but people have no money.

A September 25 auction attracts fewer than a dozen people, and they buy 83 lots of the 1,300 for sale. Total proceeds: $3,545.53. Value of the land in city hands: $81,037.05. The Vancouver World newspaper comments that even at the low prices - in some cases less than 10 per cent of their 1913 boom prices - the lots could not now be sold

The deadly Spanish influenza epidemic, which will kill millions worldwide, strikes Port Coquitlam. On October 5, military authorities commandeer the Aggie Hall for an emergency hospital. 160 soldiers have the flu.

Later the vacant Terminal Hotel "on Busteed Avenue" is also used. The first death from the flu (a Private Johns) occurs October 12. Schools, theater's and bars are closed. The first civilian death, John Raymond, happens October 26. Others follow.

check1919 - the Oldest Business

R.G. "Harry" Galer and two partners start Port Coquitlam Transfer Co. (The company will be registered in 1921.) They truck coal and other things, have a contract to truck coal to the boys' industrial school at Essondale. The company, still in business today as PoCo Building Supply on Mary Hill Road, is PoCo's oldest.

check 1920 - DISASTER!

August 5, 1920: A fire that began in the fire chief's apartment in the PoCo fire hall gets out of control and burns down the firehall. The flames spread to the downtown district, then on to Dewdney Trunk Road (now Kingsway) and much of Port Coquitlam's downtown is destroyed.

Among the people with claims against the city for losses because of the fire is William Routley. "His settlement included the Minnekhada Hotel, today the Wild Duck Inn."1921

October 28, 1921: Severe flooding in PoCo. The bridge across Dewdney Trunk Road (now Kingsway) is washed out, and people's homes are inundated. People are transported across the Coquitlam River on an aerial cable. St. Catherine's (Anglican) Church floats away and is stranded on a sandbar. The Myrtle Hotel, Sinclair's Jewelers and Jack Baumgartner's barbershop are also swept away.

PoCo's 1921 population 1,178.

check 1923 - The first May Day

The Coquitlam-Moody News is publishing, run by J. J. Dougan, of the Valley Publishing Co., Port Hammond.
The May Day tradition begins in Port Coquitlam.

check 1926 - Gregory Tire and Rubber

The Gregory Tire and Rubber Company is established. It will go into receivership in 1933 and be purchased March 23, 1935 by Huntington Rubber Mills of Canada.

check 1929 - Coquitlam Herald

J.C. Machesney establishes the Coquitlam Herald, in the midst of the depression. By this time Pacific Stage Lines is running a bus between Vancouver and Harrison Hot Springs that stops at PoCo en route.

check 1939 - John Galer

John Galer starts working for his dad at Port Coquitlam Transfer. He's still dropping in to check on the business, 60 years later.

check 1941 - The Firechief

Port Coquitlam's population is 1,539, an increase of just 227 in ten years.
John Galer becomes chief of the PoCo Volunteer Fire Department, and will hold that post for 20 years. The pay is $10 a month, plus $2 a call.

check 1951 - Major Growth

Port Coquitlam begins to grow rapidly. The Lougheed Highway, completed in 1951, brings new business and industry to the area and the population doubles quickly. The majority of working people in PoCo are employed by either the CPR or Essondale Hospital.

PoCo's 1951 population 3,232, an increase of 1,693 in ten years, more than double.

However, with the accessibility from the Lougheed Highway and the reasonable Real Estate prices, large scale Businesses were also becoming attracted to the Port Coquitlam area.

check 1957 - Pitt River Bridge opens

Premier W.A.C. Bennett visits Port Coquitlam to open the Pitt River Bridge.

check 1959 - Esco opens

Esco, manufacturers of mining equipment, establishes in PoCo. In 1999 the company is honored at Port Coquitlam city hall for its 40 years in business.

check 1961 - Population boom

Port Coquitlam's population in 1961 is 8,111, an increase of 4,879 in ten years. PoCo's population again has more than doubled in 10 years.
The Coquitlam River becomes log-choked and floods.

check 1967 - History begins, "officially"

February 16 from the Vancouver Sun: "A committee has been appointed by city council to compile Port Coquitlam's early history. Members: Robert E. King and Mrs. King; Mr. and Mrs. J.E. Duncan; Mr. and Mrs. E.J. Routley.

check 1970 - POCO Nature Trail

Port Coquitlam finally linked up with the Greater Vancouver Transit System, giving easy & convenient access to Vancouver. Rapid residential, industrial and commercial development led to more recreational and educational services.
A 22 mile nature trail, completely surrounding the city was built to be used by hikers, joggers, cyclists and horseback riders. This scenic nature walkway, now maintained by the city, truly provides memorable pleasures to anyone who wishes to relax and enjoy the "outdoors".

check 1971 - Population doubles

Port Coquitlam's population in 1971 is 19,560, an increase of 8,349 in five years and 11,449 in ten years. Again, within the space of ten years, PoCo's population has doubled.

check 1976 - And again!

PoCo's rapid growth continues. The 1976 population is 23,926, an increase of 4,366 in five years, or roughly 22 percent.

check 1978 - The Azelea

Valerie Patenaude begins an archaeological dig at Baker Creek, near the mouth of the Pitt River. The dig continues to 1981, and local school children will participate at times. Thousands of artifacts from the dig are now in the provincial museum. (This area was regularly occupied by native groups for over 4,000 years.)

June: The azalea is declared Port Coquitlam's official flower.

check 1980 - Terry Fox - "Hometown Hero"

In spite of his handicap, Terry Fox, began his "Marathon of Hope"! In 1977, at the age of 18 years, he had lost his right leg to cancer. Before a fatal recurrence of cancer, he was able to complete 3,329 miles of his intended "run" from one side of Canada to another. He managed to raise over $23 million dollars for Cancer Research. Since his death, the Terry Fox Run has been held annually as a tribute to his courage and conviction.

check 1981 - Death of a Hero

February 1: Terry Fox's dream of raising $1 from every Canadian for cancer research is realized. The Terry Fox Marathon of Hope donations reach $24.1 million.

June: Terry Fox dies. Since his death, the Terry Fox Run has been held annually as a tribute to his courage and conviction.

Len Traboulay is elected mayor of Port Coquitlam for the first time.

PoCo's 1981 population is 27,535, an increase of 3,609 in five years.

check1990 - The Present

PoCo's 1991 population is 36,773, an increase of 7,658 in five years.

Port Coquitlam prepares its Official Community Plan.

The Port Coquitlam Business Improvement Association is incorporated as a Society.

March: PoCo receives approval for the construction of a new bridge under the Canada/BC Infrastructure Works Program. It will be known as the "Red Bridge," after the original.

PoCo's 1996 population is 46,682, an increase of 9,909 in five years.

The population has more than doubled between 1976 and 1996-a growth rate of approximately 3.5% per year.

February: the regional courthouse opens.

Between 1986 and 1996, Port Coquitlam's housing stock grew from 9,340 to 15,890 units - an increase of more than five per cent per year.

November 12: a news release reports that PoCo's Red Bridge is completed. The new four-lane bridge, named for the original, greatly improves traffic flow.

With payment of one outstanding bill, Port Coquitlam becomes the largest city in BC to be debt free.

From the April 24, 1996 Vancouver Sun: "In spite of fiscal restraint, the city has embarked on a series of a major projects over the past six years that have given it a host of new features.

They include a major expansion of city hall, a new firehall, works yard, a bridge, improved parks and a popular aquatic centre, as well as environmental protection for several sensitive areas around the city's perimeter. By relying on internal funds, including revenue from taxes and sale of lands, the city proved it could have its cake and eat it, too."

The Planning Department completes an overall plan for the downtown area.

PoCo's estimated 1997 population is 49,636, an increase of nearly 3,000 in one year.

Port Coquitlam is the fifth fastest growing city in all of Canada. The city enjoys a small-town feeling with a strong sense of community. It offers more than a striking downtown, with its nearby Coquitlam River. The POCO Trail gives easy access to fishing, wading, swimming or exploring. The new Shaughnessy Station Mall is a modern complex of shops and services.

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