June 12, 2018 7:38 pm
Updated: June 12, 2018 7:58 pm

From boom to bust: a closer look at the ghost town of Granite Creek

There's a special stop near Princeton that can take you back to a time of gold rushes and the dream of making it big. And it was a labour of love for a couple in Colemont who brought it to life. Jules Knox reports on the launch of the Granite Creek self-guided walking trail.

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It all started with a lucky strike by John Chance back in 1885, and it didn’t take long for word to get out: there was gold in Granite Creek.

It prompted a gold rush to the area.

“In 1885, Granite Creek had 2,000 people living there. It was the third largest town in British Columbia. The only two that were bigger were Victoria and New Westminster,” Bob Sterne, with the Granite Creek Preservation Society, said.

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From China to California, people headed to Granite Creek looking for gold, he added.

“Granite Creek is really what opened up the Similkameen. It was the first town of any size,” Sterne said.

“Apparently the buildings were so close together, you could barely squeeze a loaded pack horse through between the buildings. It was just a beehive of activity, and it opened up the Similkameen,” he added.

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Ole Juul, also with the Granite Creek Preservation Society, agreed the gold rush opened the region up to the first settlers.

“This is really what started the whole area. People came to Granite Creek and then many stayed, and I think it was the seed for the whole community,” he said.

Granite Creek itself is now a ghost town. A fire in 1907 destroyed most of the community. Parts were rebuilt, but it had been mostly abandoned by 1918, according to the Granite Creek Preservation Society.

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Bob and Diane Sterne worked for years to bring Granite Creek back to life through an interactive walking tour.

It was financed by a Canada 150 grant with help from the regional district.

“You can always find information if you really want it, but I think this gets more information out to more people,” Juul said. “And it just gives a sense of legitimacy, so people can perhaps understand better how important it is.”

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There are 10 stops on the tour, which is about three city blocks long.

“It just shows people the history of this area. The townsite just looks like a field with some ruins in it,” Diane said.

“People can wander around and at least dream of what it might have been like 130 years ago at its heyday,” Bob added.

The couple said they’re pleased to see tourists stopping in and trying the tour.

“It’s really exciting because they’re starting to realize something really did happen here. It’s an important place in B.C.’s history,” Diane said.

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