Skiing was first introduced to the people of Rossland by Scandinavians who came to the area to work in the mines. The most famous of them was Olaus Jeldness, a mining engineer, who came to Rossland in 1896.
Skiing was mainly jumping and what was called ski running, but there was also a form of cross country and skijoring. The first timed downhill race was held in 1897 and was won by Jeldness.
The first Canadian downhill ski championships were held in Rossland in 1898. The winner of the downhill event was presented with the Jeldness Cup (won by Jeldness himself three years in a row).
Our Ski Wing exhibit showcases four Rossland locals: Nancy Greene Raine (Olympic Gold Medalist and World Cup Champion), Kerrin-Lee Gartner (Olympic Gold Medalist), Kimberly Joines (IPC world champion, IPC World Cup winner and two-time Paralympic bronze medallist) and Olaus Jeldness (First Dominion Champion in 1900).
Rossland’s first fire department was organized on a volunteer basis in 1896.
The first equipment was paid for with money raised by public subscription and by a Ball described as the “biggest and most successful” help up to that time in the mining camp. It was put on by the ratepayers’ association.
Fire-fighting equipment for 1900 was three horse drawn carts complete with ladder, hoses and other apparatus. They lined up in front of the new fire hall on Queen Street and First Avenue.
An electric fire alarm system was installed as early as 1898 with call boxes located at 10 strategic points throughout the city. For many years alarms were announced by the ringing of a large bell which sat atop the Fire Hall.
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.
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 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.
The kitchen was the centre of family activity in early Rossland. Laundry, cooking, preserving and making candles were just a few of the jobs carried out there. Children helped prepare the meals and learned sewing and carving. Clothes were washed by hand with a brush and washboard in a tub of water.
It was the era of flatirons or sad irons, heated on top of the stove. Butter was churned and large amounts of bread were baked. Candles were made in special moulds until coal-oil lamps were used. A woman’s leisure time was used to make clothes, dish towels and bed linen, braiding rugs, crocheting and knitting.
For bathing, a washtub was placed in the centre of the kitchen floor on Saturday nights readying the faithful for the Sabbath. during the week only the face and hands were washed.