The Fraser River Gold Rush began in 1858 and New Westminster was built in 1859 on the site of a Kwantlen native people’s village. Under the British colonial governor, Sir James Douglas, New Westminster was incorporated in 1860, and is Western Canada’s oldest incorporated city. The new capital of British Columbia was given its name by Queen Victoria, in honour of her favourite district in London. New Westminster is still known as “The Royal City” today.
The Great Fire of 1898 destroyed New Westminster’s downtown core, wiping out businesses, warehouses, wharfs and steamboats along the waterfront. By 1910, the city had been rebuilt, with an electric railway connecting New Westminster with Chilliwack. The Canadian National Railway arrived a few years later in 1915.
(The New Westminster post office after the fire of September 11, 1898. Source: Library and Archives Canada.)
Modern Day New West
In the 1980s, the redevelopment of the Fraser River waterfront began and included growing neighbourhoods and the building of the Westminster Quay public market. In 1981, Irving House was designated New Westminster’s first heritage site. Then, in 1986, the SkyTrain rapid transit link connected New West to Vancouver, coinciding with Vancouver hosting Expo ‘86.
(Downtown New Westminster and Westminster Quay. Source: Tourism New Westminster.)
Symbolism of the Coat of Arms and Flag of New Westminster
The coat of arms and flag presented to the city by the Governor General of Canada in 1992 are a unique expression of the City’s natural and historic heritage.
The city flag is modeled after the national flag, with blue bars on each side and the shield of the city’s arm in the centre. The shield is based on the emblem drawn by Corporate White of the Royal Engineers, which was adopted by City Council in 1860, the year of incorporation. The flag contains symbols evoking the situation and economy of the young settlement in colonial British Columbia: transport by sailing ship, the agriculture of the lower Fraser valley, the natural heritage and wealth of the great coastal forests and the salmon riches of the Fraser River.
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