Revelstoke was settled in 1885 during construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR.) The original name of the settlement was Farwell, after surveyor A.S. Farwell, who applied for a Provincial grant for land here. The CPR had assumed that all of the land here would be under their control, as part of a deal they had with the Dominion government. When the CPR reached here, they disputed Farwell’s claim to this land and, refusing to deal with him, located their station and yards east of his townsite. This created a rival townsite, and within a few years, the business district had relocated from Front Street, on the riverbank, up to Mackenzie Avenue and First Street, as most business owners wanted to be closer to the station for easier access to their goods.
In 1886, the CPR asked the federal post office department to change the name of the settlement to honour Lord Revelstoke, whose British banking firm had provided the funds to ensure the completion of the railway. A court case between the CPR and Farwell delayed development of the town for many years, and it was 1897 before landowners could get clear title to their property, and 1899 before the City of Revelstoke was incorporated.
Revelstoke CPR Station from the hill above, circa 1940s. Earle Dickey photograph.
A Booming Community
Revelstoke was once one of the largest and most prominent communities in the interior of the province, mostly due to its importance as a railway center. Steamboat traffic from the south connected with the Canadian Pacific Railway making this an important transportation center. The city had many facilities that would only have been seen in a large city, such as an Opera House, a fully-equipped YMCA gymnasium, and many large businesses, including C.B. Hume’s Department Store, which in the early 1900s was the largest department store in the interior of the province. Settlers came from Great Britain, Italy, Sweden, Norway, the Ukraine, China, Japan, and other countries.
A Diversified Economy
Mining and forestry have always been important parts of Revelstoke’s economy. A gold rush along the Columbia River just north of Revelstoke took place in the 1860s, prior to the establishment of a townsite here, and it is estimated that in two years, over $3,000,000 in gold was mined. Mining in this region has taken place intermittently since that time. There have been sawmills in Revelstoke since the 1880s and logging is carried on throughout this region. Revelstoke began an innovative program in the 1990s when the Revelstoke Community Forest Corporation was set up to purchase a treefarm licence for the community.
A Building with a history
Our beautiful building was constructed in 1926 as the Revelstoke Post Office and Customs, on a site chosen in 1910 by Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier. The building became home to Revelstoke Museum & Archives in July 1974.