A rare railway structure dating back to 1913 lies forgotten and abandoned as a new glitzy city shapes up at the Foot of Lonsdale. The iconic reminder of BC’s railway history and pioneer spirit was temporarily moved to a city-owned vacant lot on Alder Street to make way for the new Polygon Gallery and other buildings at the Foot of Lonsdale in 2014.
This ‘designated municipal heritage building’ was supposed to be back to the Foot of Lonsdale in 2015. Three years later, this seminal structure lies neglected and forgotten by a council too focussed on developing and reshaping the city. A study by a city consultant even suggested the PGE building could be converted into an ice cream shop or coffee shop in efforts to keep it on the waterfront, but that never happened. Those who value history may have to wait another few years before the council decides what it will do with the PGE building.
Communications manager for the City of North Vancouver, Connie Rabold, said council decided in 2014 that the relocation of PGE Station be referred to the Waterfront Park Master Plan process, which is scheduled for 2020. The abandoned building is a painful sight for former journalist John Kendrick, whose accompanying picture documents the council’s broken promise on the building. “It seemed to have been conveniently forgotten and that is certainly no way to treat a key part of our community’s heritage,” Kendrick said.
“This iconic piece of North Van’s history has been getting treated like this for decades. For the longest time, it sat on the grass in Mahon Park behind Burdett stadium (where nobody much knew what it was), being used as an annex to the North Van Museum, until it was finally decided to move it back to the its original site at bottom Lonsdale. As we now know, that wasn’t to last very long. It’s now sitting in a lonely corner of the municipality overlooking the grain elevators, where nobody sees it.”
Railway historian and archivist at the West Coast Railway Heritage Park in Squamish said the railway operated from the Foot of Lonsdale to Horseshoe Bay from 1914 until 1929. He said the old station has been moved several times since 1929 and faces an uncertain future considering the frenzied pace of development happening in the City of North Vancouver.
“CNV is having trouble keeping up with the development happening at the moment and there are hundreds of old homes being torn down in the name of progress. History and one old station are way down on the list of priorities. Look at how the North Vancouver Museum has been pushed around from one place to other over the years. It looks like they might now have a permanent home but it won’t be ready until 2020,” he said.
According to the Canadian Register of Historic Places, a resource funded by the federal government, the building’s heritage value is associated with its location in Lower Lonsdale, the ‘earliest, most historic area of commercial buildings on the North Shore of Burrard Inlet.’
“The railway had an important role in the economic growth of North Vancouver, providing a link to the resources of the interior of the province as well as passenger services to Horseshoe Bay and West Vancouver. The streetcar, ferry to Vancouver and PGE railway all converged at the south foot of Lonsdale Avenue, the major transportation hub on the North Shore. The PGE station serves as a reminder to the area’s historic significance.”
For Kendrick and Mills and many others City of North Vancouver citizens who value history, the PGE station is now a reminder of something entirely different: of shameless neglect and political amnesia.