WATCH: Jill Bennett takes a look at the ghost town of Mount Sheer.
When she was little, Frances McKilligan would spend her summers in an outdoor swimming pool nature has long since taken over.
“I would leave my house, I would come down, I would take a shower down at the end over there,” she says, pointing to a non-descript area of forest.
“I would dive into the pool, and probably spend three or four hours a day there.”
McKilligan lived in Mt. Sheer, a bustling company town servicing the Britannia mine for much of the 20th century. Her mom was a cook while her father was a manager at the mine, which was one of the largest copper mines in Canada for decades.
McKilligan’s family was one of thousands that lived at Mt. Sheer. Despite being just five kilometres from Britannia Beach, it wasn’t easy to get to – until 1956, the only way to get to Britannia Beach was by ship. Once there, people had to walk up 347 stairs and then take an open platform.
As a result, the townsite, which vacillated in population depending on the price of copper, had a bustling community. Libraries, swimming pools and tennis courts were all fixtures in Mt. Sheer.
But once the Squamish highway was built, the advantages of living at Mt. Sheer diminished. Copper prices continued to sink, and when the mine was temporary closed in 1958, much of the town was demolished to prevent squatters. Acid run from the mine created pollution problems in Howe Sound for years after.
However, some ghost towns have second lives – not as communities, but as tourist attractions. Today, a water treatment plant slowly cleans up the pollution, while the Britannia Mine Museum thrives.
“The museum is an eye opener to people,” said Katherine Flett, a director for the museum.
This year, the Britannia community celebrates 110 years. For more information, click here
- With files from Jill Bennett
“Ghost Town Mysteries” is a semi-regular online series exploring some of the strange sights from B.C.’s past.
© Shaw Media, 2014