Sunday, June 13, 2010

Barkerville, B.C. Street Bridges confirmed

The elusive Barkerville, British Columbia Street Bridges confirmed

Around the year 1883 a photographer set up his camera in Barkerville, in BC's Cariboo, at the corner of the Theatre Royal and took a photograph looking down the main street, north toward St. Savior's church. He, or she, may not have known it, but they recorded for history the only known photo of an elusive Barkerville street bridge.

Not much is known about the two bridges that are said to have crossed the street.  In my first book on Barkerville I wrote that near the Mason and Daly Store, "one of two street bridges crossed here so that better-dressed businessmen and ladies would not have to walk through the mud, water and manure of the busy street.  Will Bowron (son of John Bowron) recalled watching the frequent horse races from their vantage point."

Modern visitors insist on using the main street as their path, and complain about the horse apples, not wanting to believe that "in the day" the boardwalks were used as the streets were, indeed, mud and manure.

This did not change in subsequent editions as no further information was found, other than a photograph of Andrew Kelly standing in front of his store with some strange posts attached to the board walk, remnants we now know, of a bridge and waterline.

About a month ago, (June, 2010) a glass side such as used in the old "magic lantern" projectors appeared on an online auction.  Two folks were bidding.  It was clear even from the low rez online photo that this photo showed one of the elusive bridges.  I was fortunate enough to become the high bidder, at some cost, and the "winner."

The photo, shown here at low rez, shows the old Hudson Bay store on the left, then several buildings and the clearly identifiable Masonic Lodge, and further down the street St. Savior's church.  On the extreme right corner is the corner of the Barkerville Hotel porch and boardwalk. The height of the flag poles is remarkable.

There is lots to be learned from this photo, after a high rez scan is made and studied; such as who the men on the boardwalk are and what buildings we are seeing.  But what is clear is that the boardwalks in Barkerville were at this time much higher than we normally think. At the HBC they are a good 10 feet off the ground.  The bridge is higher yet, and it begs the question, "could stagecoaches go under."  The answer is yes, based on the measurement of the current stage being worked in Barkeville, with passengers.  However, we might also ask whether stagecoaches used the main street and if so why are there no photos of stagecoaches in Barkerville? Perhaps they only used the back street.

The provenance of the photo is unfortunately lost.  The UK collector I purchased from bought it as one of a group of 3400 glass slides in an estate sale in middle England.  It appears there are no others of Barkerville in the collection. How did this slide get in the collection? Likely we will never know.
Nevertheless, it is an interesting and exciting window to our town and it is now back in Cariboo.

For an update on the research on this photo go to Richard's blog:

Copyright 2010, Richard Thomas Wright