The West Kootenay Power and Light Company was incorporated in 1897 to supply power to the booming mines of Rossland. A hydro electric generating plant was built at Lower Bonnington Falls on the Kootenay River.
Power was delivered to Rossland over a 20,000 volt transmission line 32 miles (52kms) – the longest and highest voltage transmission line in the world at the time.
One of the early customers of W.K.P. & L was the struggling little smelter at Trail. At one stage the W.K.P. & L threatened to terminate service to the smelter because of an overdue account. The same smelter ultimately grew into the world wide Cominco complex of today and in 1916 the W.K.P & L Co. became its wholly owned subsidiary.
Abundant low cost power from the subsequent W.K.P. & L hydro plants on the Kootenay River made possible the future growth of the largest base metal plant in the world at Trail.
The first Post Office was erected in 1894 by Rossland’s first Post Master, David Stussi. The new office was located on Columbia Avenue, where the Garage is located today. As Rossland’s population grew, so did the amount of mail and a larger building was built by Mr. Stussi in April 1895 and remained at this location for six months.
On October 1, 1895, W. Wadds was appointed Post Master and he relocated the post office for a third time to another building and for a fourth time to a large building situated on Columbia Ave.
The new Post Office, the fifth in Rossland’s history, was a three storey structure built with granite blocks quartered in Rossland. The first floor was utilized as the post office, the second floor became the customs office and Inland Revenue offices and the third floor housed the caretaker.
Tragedy struck on March 1, 1929 as fire tore down the north side of Columbia Avenue, between the Bank of Montreal and the Post Office, demolishing buildings and leaving nothing unscathed. The Post Office suffered the loss of its third floor. Fortunately, the rest of the building was saved due to the granite and brick composition of the bottom two floors. The Post Office today is composed of the remaining two floors.
Cindy Devine is an integral part of the history of mountain biking in Canada and has mentored a nation of mountain bikers, both competitors and recreational riders, with her world class accomplishments, professionalism, and sheer talent. She is credited as a role model, elite athlete and flag bearer for the mountain bike movement in Canada.
During her “Queen of Downhill” era, Cindy repeatedly put Canada on the national and international podiums. Cindy learned to mountain bike in 1987 and by 1990 became the first UCI World Downhill Champion. This is was when she moved from Whistler, BC to Rossland, BC. Rossland offered the same alpine steeps needed for vigorous downhill mentality plus the altitude hemoglobin growth for high altitude professional racing.
Cindy went on to add two World Bronze medals to her credit. During her reign she achieved three Mammoth Mountain Kamikaze Downhill titles, five Canadian Downhill Titles and a Governor General of Canada Commemorative Medal.
In 2003 Cindy was inducted into the World Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
In 1895 there were at least 100 school age children in Rossland but no school. A Methodist Minister, Mr. Birks was hired as a school teacher for $60.00 a month.
In September 1895, a schoolroom was set up in the only building available – the one room Methodist Church, located above the Sour Dough Alley, the roughest part of town. The room was freezing and the children were herded together on hard wooden benches. Sickness spread so quickly that Mr. Birks could count half the students being absent on any given day. In December the church-turned-school was “lined with paper and otherwise rendered weather proof.”
In 1896 a two-room building was built on Kootenay Avenue with $1,390 dollars from the BC Government. There was only enough money for benches and desks in one classroom so locals made more but not enough for the 143 students. By 1897, 500 students crammed into the two-room school.
Citizens continued to pressure the government until they received a grant of $11,700 dollars to build a larger school. In 1898 the new eight-room Central School was ready for Rossland’s 500 plus students. By using the old schoolhouse as well as the new one, the average number of students in each class was reduced to approximately 50. Central school was located on the corner of Fourth Ave and St. Paul Street.
By 1915 a second school was constructed at the corner of Second Ave and St. Paul Street. However, on the night of June 23, 1917 Central School was reduced to ashes. Although arson was suspected, it was never proven.
In 1929 the Trail-Rossland Ski Club was formed. Just 3 years later, in 1933, a group of Rossland skiers formed their own ski club known as the Rossland Ski Club (RSC). In 1934 the RSC built a jump on Monte Cristo, north of the reservoir, and a cabin was also built. In addition, the Trail Ski Club (TSC) installed a gas-driven rope tow on the present lift line on Red Mountain, approximately towers 2 to 5.
Skiers from both clubs used the cabins as a base for touring up to the higher peaks and ridges. For even easier access cabins were built in Squaw Basin, the first of which was the Klister Club Cabin which is still in use today. The Yodel Inn was built in 1945.
Talks between the TSC and the RSC resulted in the amalgamation of the two clubs in 1947, forming the Red Mountain Ski Club. The organization combined their resources to build a chair lift to the top of Red Mountain. The first ride up Red Mountain on the chairlift was December 16, 1947.
This unique exhibit has been developed with the assistance of community groups, local businesses, and individuals who give voice to artifacts from the Museum’s permanent collection as well as items belonging to local collectors and groups.
The artifacts in this display help tell the story of Rossland, evolving from its early years as a flourishing mining town, to a vibrant arts and sports community of today.
As you experience the exhibit, we invite you to ask your own questions about what from the past is important. How a story – be it a biography or historical perspective – can be told from a different point of view.
Four main themes emerged in the development of this exhibit: mining and industry; sports; community history; and culture. However, each theme is not independent of the others, for the story of Rossland is as layered as diverse as its miners.
The Centre Star Gulch Trestle was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway to reach the Centre Star Ore Bins in Rossland. Shortly after completion, they started a 20 year project of filling in the trestle with waste rock from the mines.
The present day connecting roads of Plewman Way, McLeod Ave, and Kirkup Ave to Highway 3b are built over the trestle. The timbers of the trestle remain buried under the roadway.
The legacy of almost 40 years of mining is a vast honeycomb beneath the City of Rossland consisting of a total of 128km (80 miles) of tunnels and drifts on 22 levels to a depth of 730 m (2200 ft) – or practically down to the Columbia River. In their heyday, the mines employed a work force of approximately 1200 men; with the value of ore produced during this period worth approximately $3.3 billion at 2010 prices.
The mines in Rossland operated from 1890 to 1929 and consisted of the Le Roi Mine, Josie Mine, War Eagle Mine, Centre Star Mine and the Black Bear Mine to name a few.
The Rossland Historical Museum is at the site of the former Black Bear Mine.
Our bottle room consists of a collection of bottles ranging from the years 1890 to 1910 and were either gathered or dug up from the old Rossland Dumps. This collection also represents 10 years of collecting by local Jim Heidt.
As with any of the old mining camps, the saloon was the gathering place and recreation choice of the miners and Rossland was no exception. During the Rossland’s peak the town consisted of 42 saloons, 4 breweries and 2 wholesale liquor stores.
Liquor was brought in from many parts of the world. Medicines were mostly of the patient type and sold across the counter. All writing was done with NIS type pens and as you will see there are many different ink bottles. Perfumes or Madam came mostly from Paris or New York. Many of the foods came in glass bottles and, similar to today, home canning was done in glass jars.
In 1896, the boom town of Rossland needed a hospital.
“Energetic, young strangers jostling and pushing to make a dollar, suffered misunderstandings, especially when liquor was added to the mix. Luckily for back alley combatants, for those careless or unlucky at their jobs, and for those that just took sick, Father LeMay, founder of Sacred Heart Church, had convinced nursing Sister M. Stanislaus and Mother Teresa Moran to leave the convent of St. Joseph of Peace in Jersey City and travel to Rossland to establish a hospital. Arrived in April of 1896, the pair soon set up an infirmary in rented premises. The need was great and their services appreciated, and Sister Superior Teresa Kiernan and Sisters Ursula, Carmelita and Joseph Marie were summoned to help. A property was acquired towards the eastern end of Columbia Avenue, construction commenced on April 16th, 1897, and on that June 4th of that year the Mater Misericordiae hospital opened its doors.”
The Sisters of St. Joseph operated the hospital for 72 years until 1969 when it was turned over to a local board. Over the years, the original hospital was replaced by a modern structure.
This display commemorates the Sisters’ Chapel in the now demolished original wing of the hospital.
The organ is from the First Catholic Church in Rossland.