There are a number of old buildings in “Historic Ashcroft” that should be recognized as historic. And not at some distant time, but while the buildings are still with us.
Anyone who has lived in Ashcroft long enough knows that historic buildings in and around the village have been destroyed. An arsonist one year kept the village’s volunteer fire brigade frantically busy putting the fires out. One of them was a stately farmhouse on the Thompson River with bay windows. I’m sure there are still people around who remember it. The house faced the clay cliffs, and despite the years had managed to remain intact. Yet it was ripe for the picking. The arsonist did his work, fled, and proceeded into the village proper to attack other buildings. I was told the arsonist thought he was doing the village a good turn by destroying “old” buildings.
Protecting buildings that played a vital role in the history of the village—some of them from the inception of the village as a transportation hub—would result in a tremendous surge of business opportunities. This is no mere dream. Preservation of older buildings in villages, towns, and cities across B.C., and across Canada, has resulted in a corresponding interest in businesses being established. Railway Avenue would have new shops and stores catering to all forms of service and merchandise from one end of the street to the other.
History is no longer seen as a dry, boring subject, as was thought 50 years ago. History has become big business. For example, Prairie towns that were abandoned because of economic reasons have had new life breathed into them, by an investment in the history of the town. Tourism is the result. The more investment that is made into preserving our historic buildings, the more attractive the town will become.
It has proven to be the case, over and over again. All it takes is a little vision; a little exploration of the opportunities that have presented themselves in other communities. That is surely not so difficult. Anyone who has traveled this province over the last 30 to 40 years has seen the growth of towns, cities, and villages that had once lain almost dormant, as they spring into life, with the corresponding increase in busloads of tourists coming from early spring until late fall.
I shall never forget the town of Chemainus—that had once been a miserable little place where one could not get a mug of decent coffee—becoming a thriving main street with a renovated municipal government building, and rows of shops offering all manner of goods and services. I shall never forget Dawson City in the Yukon, with its rows of streets of abandoned houses, turned into a hub of tourist activity. Likewise, Revelstoke and Nelson: cities that suffered a downturn, then rejuvenated themselves years later, by capitalizing on their historic buildings.
I can recall Barkerville. In the 1960s, the deterioration of its incredibly historic street was a sad spectacle of neglect. But the determination of a few people prevailed upon the government to see the history of the village that opened up the province of B.C. preserved and restored.
Ashcroft’s history is a rich and colourful one. Please, let’s see its potential worth as a place that could become the destination of not just a few thousand, but of hundreds of thousands.