Castlegar Community Album: Downtown Castlegar
The downtown area was slow to develop in Castlegar. First there was a CPR water tank in 1899, then the first train station built in 1902 along with a boarding house. W.J. Farmer bought an existing store from a man named Nabor and moved it close to the station. This was downtown Castlegar at a very early date.
Farmer's General Store expanded to include the Post office and a community hall upstairs. Mr. Farmer operated the store until 1930 when he sold it to Ralph West. This grew into West's Department Store which still exists downtown.
William Gage was the station agent when the CPR station burned down in 1907. Shortly after this incident he purchased the CPR boarding house and moved it across the street from the station. This became the Castlegar Hotel and the place to stay in the Castlegar district. Development moved slowly By 1911 there were about 1,500 people within a three mile radius of the railway station.
In 1921 Mr. Sam Thorpe had become the proprietor of the Castlegar Hotel, also offering dry goods and groceries for sale. In the early 1920s Peter Fomenoff constructed a general store and in 1925 Fred Eremenko went into competition with his general store and associated businesses. in 1936 Defoe's Transfer opened for business and the next year the Castlegar Co-operative Transportation Society was established.
Development slowed again during the Depression, after which Castlegar sustained a steady growth. Water services were installed in 1937, resulting in a surge in residential construction.. As well, the transportation system improved exponentially with the resurfacing of the Castlegar-Trail road. All of a sudden Castlegar was an appealing place for smelter workers from Trail. Some 50 new homes were built in 1938. This resulted in three new stores in 1939 as well as a new Anglican church.
Sustained growth in the 1940s resulted in a new modern Bank of Montreal, the Castlegar hardware and Leitner's Clothing among other enterprises. Cominco Magazine promoted it as a community that "has a future, and a promising one." In 1947 the Castle Theatre opened and the Castlegar News entered the publishing scene. To top it all off Castlegar was incorporated.
The more recent history from the 1950s on saw the filling in of downtown Castlegar as transportation networks grew and the lumbering industry became consolidated. Celgar was granted a forest management license on the condition that they construct a pulp mill, which they did, opening in 1960. In that same year the Project Society completed the arena, curling rink and community hall, marking the growth of the community. Castlegar has not looked back. It now perches as the transportation centre of West Kootenay and the logical place to centre services that reach out to Nelson, Trail and Rossland.