Last Wednesday was the end of an era for the old green A-frame on Water Avenue that once housed Hope’s visitors centre and museum.
Stretching even further back into the building itself and into Hope’s past, the building demolished on Oct. 7 also used to house those who ran afoul of the law in an RCMP jail cell.
Brian McKinney, who does all things tourism at the provisional visitors centre currently housed in an Atco trailer, said it was an emotional moment seeing the building go. McKinney got first swipe at tearing down the A-frame and he later reflected on how he was helping bring down a piece of Hope’s history and usher in a “new beginning” for the town.
The building was also erected in part with his father Barry McKinney’s hard work, who at the time had been a Rotarian for at least 26 years. Barry passed away in 1998, his son explained, “way too young.”
“I have a feeling that he was probably part of a lot of evening work parties here where Rotary Club members would come to the location, wherever they’re working or whatever project they’re working on in the community,” he said. “I can envision these guys having their carpenter belts on and probably some cold beer going in a cooler or something and working on a fun community project.”
“To be able to take the first swipe, for me, I don’t know if it was poetic or symbolic or what it was but it was a pretty cool moment for sure.”
The A-frame addition, a “labour of love” as past president of the Hope and District Historical Society Lindsay Thacker described it back then, was officially opened on Brigade Days weekend in 1980.
The opening, on Saturday, Sept. 6 at 1 p.m., drew a crowd of around 50 to hear speeches by MP for Fraser Valley East Alex Paterson, Alderman Alex Kirilows, Mayor Keith Gardner and Hope Band Chief Ronald John. Gardner called the day a “historic occasion” for the town.
In a Museum Report in the Standard’s Sept. 10 edition, Rita Walsh noted that 151 people signed the guest book at the new museum on opening day. Many residents, Walsh noted, loaned items to the museum including a charcoal burning iron. A rare piece, noted Walsh, a predecessor to the electric iron and one which reminded Walsh of the laundry businesses active in B.C. towns at the time that she calls “Chinese Hand [Laundries]” that would stiffen collars like no other.
The A-Frame, Gardner explained, was part of a gas station acquired by the town. It was a Pacific 66 gas station, McKinney added. “The A-frame was attached to the old court house and jail which was no longer needed because of the opening of the new Provincial Court at this time,” the Hope Standard’s Sept. 10 edition noted.
The Hope Rotary Club was behind getting the building ready, with a federal youth grant, as well as lottery grant funding to the tune of $20,000 matched by $20,000 raised by the club and the Hope and District Historical Society. “It takes a lot of hard work by Rotarians to raise 20 grand, believe me,” noted Rotarian Jim Sinclair.
So from the basement of district hall, McKinney explained, visitors services was moved into the A-frame.
The building housed the visitors centre until late 2017 when staff discovered mould in some floor tiles and the decision was made to vacate.
The museum items, which have been moved to another location that is safe, could one day form the components of a school program offered to SD78 students. “I can envision kids coming here from basically all over our school district and coming here to learn about First Nations history, our gold rush history, our transportation history here,” McKinney said.
As McKinney and executive director of AdvantageHOPE Shannon Jones watched the demolition he wondered aloud whether they got all the First Blood stuff. The answer is yes, and these items will also form part of a future museum exhibit. “Obviously the First Blood fans are going to get a good fill, because we’ll be able to build a proper memorial tribute to the production of the movie,” McKinney said.
A piece of the building’s history, the original RCMP jail cell door, is the only part of the building itself preserved.
Where this cell door will end up will depend on a facilities master plan the district has on their 2020 to do list. Council will ultimately decide what will happen at the site and such a plan would help them make this decision.
This means the visitors centre will likely remain in the portable likely into the third quarter of 2021, Hope Mayor Peter Robb told the Hope Standard in July.
McKinney says whenever a new building is built, be it 2021 or 2022 or whenever, he is excited for it and for tourism in Hope and in the entire province.
The visitors centre has been one of the most-visited of such centres in B.C. for a number of years. Prior to the pandemic Hope was one of the top 15 centres in the province in terms of visitor numbers McKinney said.
And tourism in the province will depend on the future centre he added. “We are where the province meets. We are the only jurisdiction in the province that has four major arterial highways that go through it, under it, beside it and over it,” he said.
And those visitors don’t just want to come and see the Rambo shooting locations, McKinney said, they are also people who will not only visit but also move to and invest in Hope.
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