Coquitlam Then & Now
Opening Day of Coquitlam Centre, August 16th, 1979 (Source: Photographer Craig Hodge, Columbian Company fonds, City of Coquitlam Archives)
European settlement began in the 1860s with the construction of the North Road from New Westminster to the Burrard Inlet. Original landowners like Alexander McLean, John Thomas Scott, and E.A. Atkins were given Crown land grants and began to settle the eastern part of the district in the mid-1880s. By 1887, the landowners requested a post office in recognition of the small community that was growing up around the Canadian Pacific Railway stop at Westminster Junction. In 1891, the Lieutenant-Governor in Council received a petition signed by a majority of registered land-owners, asking to be incorporated as a municipality.
The Corporation of the District of Coquitlam was officially incorporated on July 25, 1891. The centre of administrative activity was Westminster Junction, which is in present-day Port Coquitlam. The first Reeve for the newly established municipality was R.B. Kelly, who also operated the post office from 1891 to 1898.
Meanwhile, the north bank of the Fraser River was starting to bustle with activity. The Ross McLaren Mill was established in 1890, and for a short period, shipped lumber all over the world. Production did not last long, however, and the mill was largely dormant for the next 10 years. Fraser River Sawmills Ltd took over the property and began shipping lumber in 1906. Prosperity followed, and the mill soon had a great need for workers. Systematic anti-Asian sentiment—an unfortunate reality of the time period—meant that the company hoped to recruit a white workforce. They looked to Canada’s East, recruiting French-Canadian workers known for their forestry skills.
The recruitment campaign offered workers the promise of housing, a church, religious schooling and a community. Many families took the chance, with the first wave of migrants arriving by train in September 1909. A second wave arrived in May 1910, and the community of Maillardville began to take shape. Taking its name from Father Maillard, the first priest of the Notre Dames de Lourdes parish, Maillardville became a second centre of activity in the new District.
Finally, a third centre of modest activity was growing along North Road, known as Burquitlam. This settlement was mainly agricultural in nature, with several families establishing large greenhouses.
There was great enthusiasm and hope for the future development of the Westminster Junction area during the years leading up to the First World War. A review of the Coquitlam Star and the Columbian reveals countless advertisements for land. The ads highlight the substantial development that was to come, given that Westminster Junction was to be the Pacific Coast Terminal of the Canadian Pacific Railway and was the location of the CPR’s freight operations as of 1911. The great promise of prosperity led to the area seceding from the District of Coquitlam and incorporating as Port Coquitlam, on March 7, 1913.
During this time, the area south of Maillardville, which was mostly owned by the Canadian Western Lumber Company Ltd, successfully petitioned the province and was incorporated as the Corporation of the District of Fraser Mills on March 26, 1913. It was a small municipality, amounting to only 390 acres of land.
By 1921, the population of Coquitlam had increased to nearly 2,400 people. The Depression era prompted many French-Canadians to settle in the West, which brought a third wave of migrants to Maillardville. Along with the rest of the Lower Mainland, the City experienced significant population growth following the Second World War.
Development increased substantially after the war years with the opening of the Lougheed Highway in 1953, which made Coquitlam much more accessible. Many of Coquitlam’s residential subdivisions like Ranch Park and Harbour Chines emerged during this time. By 1971, the decision was made to amalgamate with the District of Fraser Mills. For the first time, Coquitlam’s borders included this area along the Fraser River, which had historically been the source of employment for much of the District.
The construction of the Coquitlam Centre and Westwood Mall prompted a surge of growth in the Town Centre area during the 1980s. With an eye to hosting the BC Summer Games in 1991, Town Centre Park was developed into a major sporting complex, while the Lafarge gravel pit was transformed into an urban lake.
Coquitlam celebrated its Centennial in 1991, with over 60 events, including the BC Summer Games. As part of the celebrations, the District applied for city status, which was granted on June 18, 1992. The City of Coquitlam continued to grow over the next 20 years, pushing upwards as more land was developed on the mountains surrounding the city.
Today, Coquitlam is a vibrant city centrally located in Metro Vancouver, easily accessible from major transportation routes and public transportation. Visitors and residents alike can enjoy Coquitlam’s excellent amenities, an abundance of parks and green space, a number of arts and cultural venues, and numerous recreation facilities.
Coquitlam has a population of more than 140,000 and is British Columbia’s fifth largest municipality. The community is also home to over 6,200 businesses who contribute to local employment and the City’s prosperity. Coquitlam’s population is diverse—approximately 42% of the City’s residents are immigrants—Korean, Farsi, Mandarin, and Cantonese are the top four languages spoken at home, preceded only by English.
Coquitlam is a dynamic urban centre positioned to experience significant growth over the next 30 years. The vision for Coquitlam’s future is to be a community of neighbourhoods within a vibrant urban city where people choose to live, learn, work and play.
Coquitlam will continue to grow and thrive as more people discover this gem in the Lower Mainland. Contemporary culture, a rich heritage, new residents from around the world, indigenous peoples, bustling businesses and peaceful neighbourhoods—you’ll find it all in Coquitlam!