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Tipis on the Nelson waterfront

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

Recently Doug Jones bought a batch of early Nelson photos from someone in England. There were lots of terrific shots, but what left Doug (and me) slack-jawed was a never-before-seen Neelands Bros. photo of three tipis near the CPR wharf with the SS Nelson in the background.

“When I saw the tipi image, I had to get it,” Doug says. “It’s such an amazing undiscovered picture, it just had to come home. The seller was a dealer in England, who kindly included about 20 more local pictures, which aren’t in great condition, but are fascinating and important glimpses into early Nelson. Some of the photographs have important historical information — the age and location of certain buildings, etc.”

“I have a feeling that this may have been Neelands’ own album, as there is a notation on the back of one that sounds like notes to himself regarding darkroom printing.”

The tipi photo dates to between 1891 and 1899, when H.G. Neelands worked as a photographer in Nelson. Local historian Michael Cone says several clues point to the earlier part of that window:

• Capt. Troup had the Nelson’s wheelhouse rebuilt. Originally it was very wide and looked proportional to the rest of the steamer (as per the picture). I suspect this was done at the same time as her hull was sheathed along the waterline, which was in late 1892, November, I believe. What I do know for certain is that the work was complete before the flood of 1894. So the picture couldn’t have been taken later than June 1894.
• Tied alongside the Nelson is George Buchanan’s tug Kaslo. The Kaslo was completed in the spring of 1892. This sets the early parameter as the spring of 1892.
• In my opinion, the water looks very low and there doesn’t appear to be any snow on the mountains, which suggests the photo was taken in the spring. By my reckoning, this places the picture sometime in the spring of 1892 or 1893. Also, the CPR wharf looks to be almost new, which makes me lean more toward 1892 than 1893.

I also sought an opinion from local author Eileen Delehanty Pearkes, who has written extensively about local First Nations.

“This is all part of the alluvial fan and shoreline wetland associated with Cottonwood Creek,” she replied. She noted the “curious scaffold-structure on the left doesn’t look like a tipi frame. I’m also thinking canvas would not have been widely and cheaply available in Nelson’s early days, but maybe more so a decade later.”

Here’s what the original image looked like before being cleaned up in Photoshop, followed by a selection of other photos in the collection. My thanks to Doug for letting me post them here.

Doug writes of the photo below: “One thing which seems slightly shocking to me, is that the original wooden Tremont Hotel is still in this picture. Our building [Cartolina Cards, which was once part of the hotel] appears to be there on the right, beside it. The third wing of the Tremont is on the other side, book-ending the old wooden one. This seems weird to me, as the brick versions were built in 1899, but the info thus far was that the wooden version was to be moved to the back of the lot.”

I also find it interesting that the vacant lot on Vernon Street, where a seniors housing development is now proposed, was just as empty then as it is now.

Below: Looking east.

Below: Caption on the back reads “Construction of dam,

Athabasca mine to drive stamp mill.”

Next two pictures below: Doug writes: “These are the people who seemed to have owned this collection of pictures originally. I believe their names were Fred and Celia Painlon. I wonder if they were relatives of the Neelands brothers.”

Below: This one might be the Painlons as well.

Below: Looking down the West Arm of Kootenay Lake,

with the Hall Mines smelter seen at left.

Below: Man riding in an ore bucket on a mining tram.

Next two photos below: Hall Mines smelter in Rosemont, 1897.

Below: Looking across to the North Shore. The corner of Hall and Vernon

is seen at the centre, with the Lakeview Hotel on the left and Occidental Hotel on the right (the latter became the Civic and is today Finley’s).

Below: The caption on this photo reveals the name Pulpit Rock

was in use much earlier than previously thought.

Below: Doug writes: “This one is a poor picture, but a great bit of the story. The photographer’s ‘first view of Nelson from the sternwheeler.’”

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Greg Nesteroff
Greg Nesteroff
19 Eki 2018

Likewise Doug! And thanks again for sharing.


19 Eki 2018

Thanks so much for putting this together Greg, great work as always! I love what you do.

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