Thursday, January 27, 2011

royal remnants

New Westminster, "the Royal City", has not been royal for a very long time...but is undergoing a revitalization bloom to accommodate the ever expanding population bulge.
I had been wanting to see how much change is happening and on a recent Saturday afternoon we drove out to explore this first capital [from 1858-1866] of the colony of British Columbia.  The original main street, Columbia, has perked up somewhat from its drawn out slump since the completion of Highway 1 in the mid-1960's, and the old Royal City Cafe sign is still hanging - but the cafe is no more and a Thai restaurant now spices up the space.
More bizarrely, Columbia Street is afluffed in more bridal salons and ballgown "outlets" than any town has a need for - which begs the question, what really goes on behind the walls of all those Queen Anne mansions??

Not so far from the gracious [and ballgown-filled!] mansions of Queens Park is dark and gritty Front Street, running along the railway tracks and the river, and the location of the original Chinatown of which there is no trace of now in NW...
The rough and tumble dockside atmosphere has been incorporated in certain movie scenes and the few antique stores on this section of Front Street still cater to the movie industry.
[The staircase above leads to an elevated parkade built in the 1960's to facilitate overflow parking from the commercial district.]

sloping side street onto Front Street

the "blue brick" building on a slightly more decrepit 19th century block of Front Street

the contrast of early and late 20th century apartment dwellings - 
[the Telford Block on Royal Avenue is the oldest standing apartment building in this "Brow of the Hill" neighbourhood, and will be preserved and rehabilitated with modest living units.]

We had parked across from this large old factory in the industrial backside of the Royal seat and approached the commercial area through an alley of mechanic garages and small manufacturing plants, descending upon an upscale Salvation Army thrift store encamped in the resplendently restored B.C. Electric streetcar/tram station across the street from a meaty Keg restaurant lodged in the old CPR station...

And such is the essence and mildly outlandish state of New Westminster on one dreary winter's afternoon in the year 2011...

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