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Nelson from the air, 1961

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

Below is an ad that appeared in Trade and Commerce magazine in March 1962. It’s a fascinating aerial photo of Nelson from an unusual angle. Judging from the lack of snow, I presume it was taken sometime in 1961.

Of particular note is the bottom section (which I really wish they they hadn’t obscured with a black bar). It shows the seldom-photographed intersection of Front and Hall streets, including several buildings that no longer exist.

The large building on the far left (labelled A in the detail view below) is Central Truck and Equipment, which was at 702 Front. In the late 1980s, it was the site of the car barn during the restoration of Streetcar 23. Today the site is the City of Nelson parking lot next to the aquatic centre, and can be yours for $950,000. (Update: It’s now the site of Hall Street Place, built by Nelson CARES.)

I’m not positive what the smaller building labelled B was, but the 1955 civic directory (which included street listings) indicated the Chunking Chop Suey House and Hong Wah grocery were at 624 Front. Neither was listed by 1959. Today that side of the intersection is home to the West Arm Plaza. In behind is a building at 214 Hall Street that as of 1955 was home to the Nelson Machining Co., International Construction, and Ever-Lite Fluorescent Ltd.

The building across the street, labelled C, is today known as the Corner Brick. It was originally the A. Macdonald Co. warehouse and at the time of the photo was Kelly & Douglas Co. wholesale grocers. What’s interesting is how the vehicles are arranged, including a truck backed up to what was then a loading dock, but is now a side entrance. Back then, you apparently backed in perpendicular to the building. Today there are a few parallel parking stalls on that side, while the street has been split into three lanes. Also noteworthy are a few planes on the primitive airport runway (labelled D) that was built on fill.

Above the black bar we get a rare glimpse of the city’s former red light district. Only one ex-brothel is clearly visible at 524 Lake Street (which became the Chinese Nationalist League building by 1939), while the rooftops of three others can be seen, including 601 Lake Street in the bottom right, which I devoted a post to recently.

Further up the street, at the corner of Ward and Front, we see the old provincial jail, demolished in the early 1970s to make way for the new provincial government building, now city hall.

Another interesting bit: I thought the upper storey of Central school was demolished and the roof line flattened following a fire in the 1940s. Not so, this photo reveals. It was still there in the early 1960s.

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