by Henning von Krogh
& Cole Harris

This is an account of a West Kootenay village, New Denver, during its first decade. The almost instant creation of a mining rush, it began in a speculative frenzy, then grew much more slowly than its promoters has hoped. Yet, unlike most of the townsites created in the Slocan in the early 1890s, it survived the mining rush, and remains to this day a small, fascinating place.

Over the years, it has been situated, from a vantage point of some isolation, in the changing matrix that has been a modernizing British Columbia. People have come and gone. Few living in New Denver today are descended from the New Denverites of the 1890s. But that is when New Denver began, and we have sought to sketch the nature of New Denver during those first few years.

We have approached early New Denver primarily by examining its built form. We have wanted to know what this new settlement looked like, and to this end have relied on a photographic record that probably begins in September 1894. To the photographic record, we have added a thorough search of the early newspapers, insurance maps, and other documents for information about specific buildings. As would be expected, our sources yield a good deal about principal buildings, far less about ordinary houses. To this information we have added my grandfather J.C. Harris’s accounts, written in the 1940s, of the New Denver he first encountered in 1896 and of some of its principal inhabitants./p>

Finally, we have used the nominal Canadian census of 1901, which provides a good deal of information about every New Denverite at the time of enumeration, to construct a social profile “Unlike most of the townsites created in the Slocan in the early 1890s, New Denver survived the mining rush.” of New Denver at the end of its first decade.

The first part of the booklet describes the New Denver townsite, both its legal surveys and its charred, stump-and-rock-strewn appearance. The second part describes the townscape—the overall look of the place. It relies on four panoramic photographs, a painting of New Denver’s main street, and such identifications as we have been able to make of the buildings shown. The third part describes particular buildings, their functions, and inhabitants. The selection is not random, rather of the buildings about which we were able to obtain a fair amount of information. The final part, a general reconstruction of New Denver’s society, is based entirely on the nominal census of 1901.

Henning and I have collaborated closely on this booklet, but the principal research on photographs and buildings is his. He has been meticulously through the photographic record, and built up the files about particular buildings. My role in parts 2 and 3 has been primarily editorial. I am responsible for parts 1 and 4.

—Cole Harris, Vancouver B.C.,
May 2017