Steveston in Richmond
Historic Steveston Village, now a section of the City of Richmond, British Columbia, is a former Canadian salmon canning centre at the mouth of the Fraser River on Lulu Island. Since 1945 it has hosted an annual Steveston Salmon Festival on Canada Day, 1 July.
The Early Days
Manoah Steves arrived with his family in 1878 from Moncton, New Brunswick by way of Chatham, Ontario as the first to settle in the area. The town site, which became Steveston in 1889, had numerous canneries by the 1890s. In 1880, Manoah’s son William Herbert Steves had bought land to develop a town that he hoped would grow into a seaport to rival Vancouver. The British Army Engineers helped him lay out the lots and squares. By 1890, Steveston had a steamboat wharf, an opera house, hotels, retail stores, a newspaper, and a hospital. Each summer throngs of seasonal fishermen and cannery workers joined the growing population of year-round villagers. Fishing supported boatbuilding, and sailing ships from around many parts docked at the harbour to load cargoes of canned salmon.
By 1912, however, with automated fish processing demand for labor decreased, and the town’s population declined quickly. Canning as a part of the local economy finally faded out in the 1990s. The Gulf of Georgia Cannery, built in 1894 and at one time the largest in British Columbia, reopened in 1994 as a National Historic Site of Canada. The present post office, museum, and tourist information centre was once a branch of the Royal Bank of Canada. The Steveston Historical Society has operated the museum since 1979 in the 1905 building that had been first the bank and then a doctor’s office.
Post-war Steveston developed along with Richmond into a residential suburb of Vancouver as farmland converted to housing. Since the 1970s the community, still a fishing port, has developed its heritage character and its waterfront to attract tourism and related service businesses.
Picturesque Steveston is a frequent location for feature films and television programs. It was a stand-in for Marblehead, Massachusetts in the 2010 film adaptation of The Death and Life of Charlie St Cloud and the scene of fictional Steveston, Maine in the TV movie A Cooler Climate. It has been a location for the X-Files series as Steveston, Massachusetts and in a Stargate SG-1 episode as Steveston, Oregon. Steveston storefronts and business façades along Moncton Street near the cannery form the cinematic set for the television series Once Upon A Time. The 2014 remake of Godzilla filmed some scenes in Steveston on the same street locations as those for Once Upon a Time.
Today Steveston still maintains the character of a quaint, historic fishing village. Over 350 businesses and services accommodate a growing population. Steveston in 2002 was the site of a rendezvous of hundreds of restored tall sailing ships that attracted 400,000 to the dramatic spectacle along the coastline.
The canneries are gone, but Steveston is nevertheless home port to a large fishing fleet of over 600 vessels. Steveston remains a fishing village with tourism expanding quickly as an economic driver. The village retains a pleasantly tranquil atmosphere even with thousands of visitors on the streets on sunny summer days. Two National Historic Sites of Canada, the Gulf of Georgia Cannery and Britannia Heritage Shipyard Park, are colorful reminders of its maritime past.