Pre-European Contact

Public domain image courtesy of the New Westminster Archives.

Photograph shows an early view of New Westminster dating to 1862-1866. This photo was taken across the Fraser River from Surrey.

Prior to European settlement the Coast Salish had villages scattered along the Fraser River. Some were used during the summer fishing season and used the mouth of Glenbrook Creek. The First Nations of Musqueam, Tsawwassen, Kwantlen, Katzie, and New Westminster report occupation and use of this area prior to its European colonization.

The landscape of New Westminster would have been dominated by large, old growth coniferous trees – western hemlock, western red cedar, Douglas fir and spruce. Along the waterfront of the Fraser River, cottonwood would have been apparent. Early photos of New Westminster show the large trees and stumps that were cleared by the early settlers. Queens Park still has some large conifers.

Watercourses would have flowed down from higher ground toward the Fraser River, mainly fed by precipitation and natural springs. Some of the watercourses would be intermittent, flowing primarily during the wetter months of the year, while others would flow year round. In some places, depending on the surficial material, the watercourses, over time would have made incisions through unconsolidated gravels, deposited during the last glacial period. Some of these, like Glenbrook, would develop into deep and wide ravines. Deep and wide ravines were also found in what we know today as the downtown area. These are evident on the Goads Fire Atlas maps.


Public domain image courtesy of the New Westminster Public Library.

A 1859-1860 survey of the Fraser River and Burrard Inlet carried out by Captain G.H. Richards of the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Plumper.

A survey undertaken by Capt. G.H. Richards, R.N. and the officers of the HMS Plumper along the Fraser River from 1859-1860 shows the mouth of a stream in the location of today’s Glenbrook Creek.

The Royal Engineers arrived  to establish a capital for the colony of British Columbia, situated on the shores of the Fraser River. That same year, Governor James Douglas declared that by the Queen’s decree, this city would be called “New Westminster”.

Public domain image courtesy of the New Westminster Archives.

1862 photograph credited to F. G. Claudet shows a view of the Royal Engineer’s camp in Sapperton. The building on the far left is Government House which was built in 1861 as a residence for Colonel Moody and his family. On the far left of the photo is a part of the mouth of Glen Creek.


The neighbourhoods of Sapperton and Downtown New Westminster are established.


Courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives

1880 map credited to W. S. Jemmett.

An 1880 map titled Plan of New Westminster and Suburban Lots, published by W.S. Jemmett shows the “Glen Stream”. Its headwaters appear to be north of 10th Avenue in Burnaby, likely in the Edmonds area. The ravine itself is not shown. Just south of 10th Avenue, the stream branches into two. This is confirmed on other pre-20th maps of the city.


The city continues to grow both in terms of population and neighbourhoods, with people moving Uptown and into Queensborough, while Vancouver begins to develop in the west.


The Great Fire of New Westminster destroys much of Downtown. Rebuilding efforts take the better part of 14 years.


World War I prompts much industrial growth.


City development continues in the 1920’s, but is then slowed up until the end of World War II.


The post war boom sees much urban expansion, including the West End and Massey Heights. In a June 22, 1949 article in the British Columbian newspaper, reference is made to work carried out for the new lawn bowling green, mentioning that rocks from the project would be used to fill an old well on the north side of Moody Park.

The city begins to deindustrialize, resulting in the decline of Columbia Street.


Deindustrialization continues with the removal of the port and its transfer across the Fraser River to Surrey. The city sees a new wave of urban redevelopment which continues today along the Fraser River waterfront.