As the District of Hope gets ready to tear down the town’s station house, memories abound of two years and 11 months in the late 1980s when the building was saved from demolition the first time around.
It was a huge community effort, said Sharon Blythe, to raise $17,000 in two years that allowed the arts community to have the building picked up from where it stood near the train tracks in Hope and moved to its new resting place.
The building was originally built in 1916 at a cost of $7,250 by the Great Northern Railway, according to a fundraising brochure, and was used as a station by CN, the Vancouver-Victoria Eastern and Great Northern Railroads. After being used until the 1950s and sitting empty until the 1980s, the building was slated for demolition by CN Rail if someone in Hope didn’t step in to buy and move the building.
So the Village Arts and Crafts Society stepped in to see if they couldn’t get this done.
From 1984 to 1986 the town was abuzz with fundraisers, from the traditional art auctions and bake sales to some more wild and slightly risque ways to draw in dollars. Behind a lot of these fundraising plans was Fran Simpson.
“She had nutty ideas like a Mr. Hope contest. We had 10 guys who came and ran to be Mr. Hope,” Blythe said. “And Ray Zervini won, and can you believe, he came out in a Speedo and the wife of the radio station guy [Peter Slack] dressed him into a tophat and a tuxedo.” There was also a fashion show where local men were dressed up as women and “they loved it” said Blythe. Another fundraising dinner featured barely-dressed Chippendales.
One idea was to have celebrities stamp their feet into wet cement, a plan which floundered but not before Provincial Secretary Grace McCarthy and visiting celebrity runner and cancer fundraiser Steve Fonyo had their footprints memorialized.
“All the people in Hope were so excited to have [the building moved],” she said. “I don’t have a list of all who donated, but everybody was into it.”
At the opening of the arts centre, Mayor Bud Gardner gave kudos to the bunch of “crazy women” who made the move possible. And, as the Hope Standard wrote at the time, “the ‘crazy women’ are proud of the label, and their achievements.”
So with these funds in hand, the building which had sat empty since the 1960s was saved from demolition. It was purchased from CN Rail for $1 and moved across town. “They took it across the tracks, it was on the Hope side of 5 Avenue…and they ended up up at the junction of 6 and Old Hope Princeton Way and then came down and took it into the yard,” Blythe said. The foundation was already there, donated by Corbett cement works, so the building was put down on top.
The historic building, built around the same time as the Othello Tunnels, was renamed the Rainbow Junction Arts Centre and became a space for all types of art as well as housing a teahouse.
There was a tiny performance space, just large enough for the play itself to be held but not big enough to have a back stage area. So performers would wait downstairs, listening intently to the script, before dashing outside the building and inside again when it was their turn to perform Blythe remembers with laughter.
The arts centre closed in 1996, Blythe said, as the cost of heating and money owed to the government made the operation of the space too difficult. Now, over two decades later and despite attempts to revive and re-open the building to the public, the building is once again slated for demolition in early 2021.
The demolition is part of a settlement between the District of Hope and the owners of the land station house stands on, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
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