From where exactly was this ca. 1908 J. Howard Chapman postcard of Nelson taken?

A Nelson postcard mystery

A ca. 1908 bird’s-eye-view of Nelson was taken from a seemingly impossible angle.

Latest in a series about local history on the auction block.

A remarkable bird’s-eye-view postcard of Nelson sold recently on eBay for $34 US. While not especially rare — a handful have popped up in the last decade — it is one of the most interesting.

It shows buildings along Ward Street, including the Hume Hotel, post office (now Touchstones museum), opera house, Grand Central Hotel, KWC block, Madden Hotel, and a gazebo in the middle of the street.

The rooflines are outlined in white, creating a drawing-like quality. But what’s really unusual is the seemingly impossible angle.

It’s too high up to have been taken from any roof. It’s too close in to have been taken from across Kootenay Lake. It was mailed in 1909, predating the first airplane’s arrival in Nelson.

So how was it taken?

This stumped local historians until retired archivist Shawn Lamb deduced the most likely answer. The foreground shows the early stages of the courthouse’s construction in 1908, and we know from newspaper accounts that a steam derrick was used to move the granite pieces. The picture, therefore, was probably taken from atop that derrick.

But we can only wonder how the photographer, J. Howard Chapman of Victoria, shimmied up there.

A bird’s-eye-view postcard of the Ironsides mine and old Phoenix townsite sold for $120 US last week.

In addition to the mine’s headframe, the postcard depicts the Granby Hotel, several false-fronted businesses, the Ironsides building, which later served as the city’s hospital, and a denuded hillside.

The postcard was mailed in 1908 from Montreal (where it was produced by International Post Card Co.) to France.

One other copy sold in 2008 for $47.

• A pair of cufflinks and a tie tack bearing the Western International Hockey League’s logo sold for $15 US.

This senior loop existed from 1946-88 and had teams from Trail, Nelson, Rossland, Cranbrook, Kimberley, and Spokane. Its heyday was in the 1950s when people camped outside for playoff tickets.

The cufflinks probably date to the 1970s.

This story will appear in the West Kootenay Advertiser on September 13.

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