Aliceville

Aliceville: A Resort Town on Burrard Inlet

submitted by Skye

The eastern end of Burrard Inlet, modern Port Moody, was used by the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, and Musqueam as a summer camp, they lived alongside the streams and creeks, such as Noons Creek, collecting shell fish and hunting in preparation for the winter (Norton 1987). Later, the British and Spanish began to explore the coast, looking for a quicker passage to the east in order to become part of Asia’s vast trade network.

In 1858 with the beginning of the Fraser River Gold Rush the population of British Columbia grew from 300 to 30,000 as many Americans travelled north in search of riches (Village of Belcarra 2012). Following the Gold Rush some of the Americans chose to settle and would later visit Aliceville, such as the Gaynor family (Green 1944; Norton 1987). As the population grew the Royal Engineers were sent from England to survey British Columbia. Soon after, 150 sappers arrived with their families and set up homes in an area of New Westminster now known as Sapperton. The sappers and Royal Engineers worked together to survey townsites, build roads, and map present settlements and terrain. After the sappers and Royal Engineers completed their work for the Crown in 1863 the officers returned to England while the sappers chose to settle (Village of Belcarra 2012). Those that chose to settle in the area received 150-acre parcels of land from the Crown. While four of the sappers received acreage in Port Moody, only the Murray family chose to settle here, later becoming a prominent family who would visit Aliceville (Port Moody Heritage Society 2012).

John A. Webster, one of New Westminster’s wealthy landowning merchants and director of the Canada Southern Railway founded Aliceville. Webster was also owner of property in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood (Norton 1987). In 1874 Webster received a grant from the Crown for 160 acres of land on the eastern side of North Road, along Burrard Inlet where maple trees and conifers mixed before giving way to sandy beaches with a calm tide. The coast of the Inlet was isolated, yet still close enough to the city to access modern amenities (City of Port Moody 2015).

At first the community was a place for an afternoon of yachting or picnicking, but soon Mr. Webster built the first hotel followed by a few small cabins allowing guests to stay for weeks or months at a time. Later, a second hotel was built by John Johnson; officially making the community a leisure destination for British Columbia’s wealthy (Norton 1987).

The location of Aliceville, in the most Northwestern area of Burrard inlet, can be seen in this aerial photograph from 1950 (Heritage Burnaby 1950).

The location of Aliceville, in the most Northwestern area of Burrard inlet, can be seen in this aerial photograph from 1950 (Heritage Burnaby 1950).

In the early 1880s, the western terminus for Canada’s transcontinental railroad was projected to begin Port Moody. Although the plans for the terminus station’s construction in Port Moody fell through, when the station was built in Coal Harbour the trains began to pass by the idyllic resort town (Port Moody Heritage Society 2012). While the noise of the trains caused interruption, they also provided convenient transportation and soon Mr. Webster named the whistle stop at the resort Aliceville, after his youngest daughter (Port Moody Station Museum 2009).

Portrait of Alice Webster, 1889 (British Columbia Archives BCA A-08076 in Green 1944).

Portrait of Alice Webster, 1889 (British Columbia Archives BCA A-08076 in Green 1944).

Madeleine and Alice Webster in swimming costumes on the pier near Johnston’s Hotel, 1880s (British Columbia Archives BCA A-08070 in Green 1944).

Madeleine and Alice Webster in swimming costumes on the pier near Johnston’s Hotel, 1880s (British Columbia Archives BCA A-08070 in Green 1944).

Aliceville at its prime and peak of population; Webster’s Hotel, Aliceville, Burrard Inlet 1887 (British Columbia Archives BCA B-00493 in Green 1944).

Aliceville at its prime and peak of population; Webster’s Hotel, Aliceville, Burrard Inlet 1887 (British Columbia Archives BCA B-00493 in Green 1944).

Despite the modern convenience that the transcontinental railroad provided, the noise and constant traffic did not suit the resort lifestyle and those looking to vacation began to choose other destinations. By the 1940s Aliceville had been deserted and soon after the landmark structures such as the two hotels were demolished. (Green 1944; City of Post Moody 2015). Today there is little evidence that Aliceville existed as the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and dense vegetation cover most of former townsite. The Reed Point Marina is built adjacent to old resort as the coastline has been drastically altered, as seen in the aerial photo (Heritage Burnaby 1950). However, for those looking to see the former location the Trans Canada Trail runs behind where Johnston’s and Webster’s hotels previously stood.

The Johnston’s hotel, in 1892 housed many guests looking to relax in the resort town (Burnaby Historical Society BHS 421-001 in Green 1944).

The Johnston’s hotel, in 1892 housed many guests looking to relax in the resort town (Burnaby Historical Society BHS 421-001 in Green 1944).

References Cited

City of Port Moody
   2015 Port Moody History. Electronic document, 
     http://www.portmoody.ca/index.aspx?page=76, accessed June 6, 
     2015.
Green, George
   1944 Aliceville Now B.C. “Deserted Village”. Vancouver Province 
     4 March 1944:6. Vancouver.
Heritage Burnaby
   1892 Aliceville hotel [1892]. Photograph of the Aliceville Hotel 
     at Burrard Inlet which was built in 1892. City Archives. 
     Electronic document,
     http://heritageburnaby.ca/Photos/hpo/_Data/_Archives_Images/_
     Unrestricted/371/421-001.jpg?w=600, accessed June 3, 2015.
   1950 Aerial Photograph – Port Moody and Aliceville. City Archives.     Photograph shows an aerial view of Aliceville in the northwest       section of Port Moody, bordering on Burnaby just east of the 
     Barnet Village site. Electronic document,
     http://heritageburnaby.ca/Photos/hpo/_Data/_Archives_Images/_
     Unrestricted/478/478-170.jpg?w=600, accessed June 3, 2015.
Norton, Dorothea M.
   1987 Early History of Port Moody. Hancock House, Surrey, BC, 
     Canada.
Port Moody Heritage Society
   2012 Tracks in Time: Port Moody’s First 100 Years. Port Moody 
     Heritage Society, Port Moody.  
Port Moody Station Museum
   2009 Port Moody Station Museum. Electronic document,
     http://vcn.bc.ca/pmmuseum/services1.html, accessed June 5, 2015.
Village of Belcarra
  2012 Belcarra Historical Timeline. Electronic document, 
     http://www.belcarra.ca/reports/Belcarra_Historical_Timeline.pdf,      accessed June 7, 2015.

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