YOUR HISTORY: Centennial projects revisited
As the city of Coquitlam plans it 125th birthday celebrations for 2016, now is a good time to look back at previous centennial projects.
Don Cunnings, a special advisor to city council and a board member of the Coquitlam Heritage Society, recently produced an at-a-glance reference, revisiting centennial projects from 1958, ’67, ’71 and ’91. Many of these will be familiar to Coquitlam residents, some of whom may not know that the well-used amenities are a result of previous celebrations.
In 1958, the province celebrated the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the mainland colony of British Columbia. The then District of Coquitlam had one of 333 locally established centennial committees, which were provided with grants for centennial projects. In Coquitlam, the project was a swimming pool in Blue Mountain Park. It was the municipality’s first major public recreation facility and opened on Aug. 23, 1958 — without a dressing room, showers or a filtration system (added later). Generations of learned to swim in that pool, which has since been demolished.
In 1966 and 1967, the District of Coquitlam celebrated two confederations: the uniting of the colonies of Vancouver Island and the Mainland to become the one colony of British Columbia in 1966; and the Confederation of Canada in 1867. (B.C. did not actually join Canada until 1871 but Coquitlam went ahead and celebrated anyway.)
The municipality’s major project was the Centennial Social Recreation Centre, located at 630 Poirier St., where it continues to serve residents, although now it is called the Poirier community centre. The centre was officially opened on July 1, 1967 by reeve Jimmy Christmas. A secondary project was a totem pole carved and erected near the centre, along with a bronze sculpture within the courtyard. The totem pole was paid for with stock certificates, a joint venture with The Columbian newspaper, while the $2,000 bronze sculpture was paid for with contributions from Coquitlam residents. As well, the Parks and Recreation Commission’s 1956 commemorative project was a water feature and garden in Blue Mountain Park, south of the Scout Hall.
More than 370 centennial committees throughout the province marked the 100th anniversary of B.C.’s entry into Confederation. In Coquitlam, the project chosen was the first indoor public swimming pool in the district, along with the adjacent Centennial Room. The pool on Poirier Street officially opened on Dec. 9, 1972 and was called Chimo Pool. Only the Centennial Room remains as Chimo Pool was closed in March 9, 2009, with the opening of the modern Poirier Sports and Leisure Complex.
Coquitlam’s actual centenary year was focused on the 1991 BC Summer Games, a huge endeavour that involved thousands of people as volunteers. We have many memories of that summer, including the Town Centre Park Stadium that was dedicated in 1989; the bowling green and Centennial Rose Garden at Dogwood Pavilion; and a time capsule that was buried at the base of totem pole just north of Dogwood Pavilion’s rose garden. It is due to be opened in 2041.
What will the city of Coquitlam undertake to mark 2016? We know that what is decided today will make a difference for our community for years to come. The Coquitlam Heritage Society is supporting a free-standing museum with display space and meeting and program rooms along with a dedicated archive.
Wouldn’t this be the perfect way to celebrate this important date in our city’s history? We think so, and we hope you do too.
Your History is a column in which, once a month, representatives of the Tri-Cities’ three heritage groups writes about local history. Jill Cook is executive director of the Coquitlam Heritage Society.