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Nelson’s Railtown before the highway interchange

Updated: Sep 24, 2021

Photos of Nelson’s Railtown neighborhood prior to the construction of the Highway 3A-6 interchange in the early 1970s are inexplicably scarce. But here are a few.

The project resulted in the relocation of some homes and demolition of many others, as well as the loss of a rock wall, a set of stairs on Silica Street, and the portion of Falls Street that used to descend into the area where the Cottonwood Market is now.

The first photo was taken by Ellis Anderson sometime in the 1960s, and shows many of those lost features. (The bridge in the background, built in 1957, was painted orange in 1969-70.)

Here is a key to what’s since disappeared and what’s still there.

The second photo was taken a few years later (the bridge is now orange) and published in an unidentified magazine. It shows several empty lots where there were once buildings. One of the remaining homes was only torn down in the last few years.

Between the time the two photos were taken, several homes were demolished and replaced with the building now home to Pacific Northwest Garden Supply and Kootenay Woodstoves.

Due to how much the trees have grown up, it’s difficult to impossible to take a comparison photo today from the same angle. At least my efforts were unsuccessful.

Greg Scott found this fascinating ad in the Nelson Daily News of March 27, 1969, inviting bids to demolish seven buildings in the neighbourhood.

The Shawn Lamb Archives at Touchstones Nelson has some ca. 1940s photos of this neighborhood — which was only christened Railtown in 2011 — showing other homes and the Stangherlin grocery store which stood where Finning Tractor was built (now Nelson Ford). The photos were part of a family collection accessioned a few years ago, but unfortunately I can’t remember the name.

Here are two ca. 1910 postcard views that show the now-vanished section of Falls Street, as well as a few houses depicted in the later photos.

The card above is by Victoria photographer J. Howard Chapman, while the one below is unsigned.

Another interesting note about the Anderson photo at top is that it shows the back of the Royal Hotel and Oddfellows block. (The latter name has long since fallen out of use, but it’s the building now home to Dr. Matt Ospechook and Comishin and Astle accountants.) It’s surprising to see so many windows at the rear.

Additions to both buildings have covered up most of those rear windows. The Royal’s backside is wrapped up in a concrete cocoon (this is the squash club — read Stephen Harris’ comment below), while only a few windows peek out from atop the Oddfellows block. Here’s what the buildings look like today from behind.

Updated on March 7, 2019 to add the 1969 demolition ad.

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