Downtown Greenwood

KOOTENAY DAY TRIPS: Historic Greenwood

Most of us zip through Greenwood bound for elsewhere, but it is well worth spending a day in this Boundary mining centre.



Another in a series of local day trips

Greenwood might be the most underrated town in our region.

Most of us zip through it en route to Kelowna or Vancouver, perhaps stopping only for coffee, but it is well worth spending a day or more in this historic Boundary mining centre. Among its many charms:

• Downtown boasts a fine collection of commercial heritage buildings, including a beautiful brick post office that marks its centennial this year, making it one of the oldest in BC. It still has its original wicket and brass mailboxes.

City hall, built in 1902-03 as the courthouse, has a restored courtroom on the upper floor and jail cells in the basement. Tours are available through the museum.

Other outstanding edifices include the brick West Kootenay Power substation (which is actually in the adjacent townsite of Anaconda) and Sacred Heart Catholic church, built in 1899. Self-guided walking tours are available.

• The remains of the city’s smelter, which closed in 1918 after a plunge in copper prices, are now a unique park. Alas, it’s no longer possible to go inside the 36-meter tall brick smokestack, but you can still poke around the building ruins and slag pile with its black cones known as Hell’s Bells.

• On the outskirts of town, you’ll find the Tunnel of Flags, a century-old highway tunnel since decommissioned and painted with over 200 of the world’s flags by former mayor Arno Hennig.

• There are still many signs, literally, of Snow Falling on Cedars, which in 1998 transformed Greenwood into the fictional fishing town of Amity Harbor, Wash. It was an appropriate shooting location, for the film dealt with the interment of Japanese Americans and Greenwood was home to 1,200 Japanese Canadians during World War II, some of whom were extras in the movie.

Greenwood welcomed its new citizens, who provided a much-needed shot in the arm for the depressed community, although they endured cramped conditions and many hardships. You’ll find much more about this era in the local museum.

Today, with a population of about 700, Greenwood accurately calls itself Canada’s smallest city — and it could add several thousand residents without risking that title. I’m tempted to join the rush.

HOW TO GET THERE: Highway 3 cuts through the centre of town. Just follow it north from Grand Forks. Start your tour at the Greenwood Museum and Visitor Centre, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily until August 31.

WHILE YOU’RE THERE: A side-trip to the nearby ghost town of Phoenix will complement your visit. While nothing is left of the townsite but a giant open pit, you can see the World War I cenotaph and evocative cemetery.

TRAVEL DISTANCES TO GREENWOOD: Nelson (178 km), Castlegar (139 km), Trail (148 km), Grand Forks (42 km), Cranbrook (460 km)

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