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The Passing of a Canadian City

C.M. Campbell, a resident manager of the Granby Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, while living in Grand Forks in 1921, wrote an interesting forensic analysis of the "Passing of Phoenix" in his article in the Canadian Mining Journal. The following are a few clips from this document:

"Phoenix, in the province of British Columbia, is, by the grace of the laws of that province, classed as a city. Incorporated over twenty years ago, with a population of 800, it gradually increased until it contained over 2,000 residents. In the last few years, however, citizen after citizen has packed up his belongings and moved elsewhere and its present claim to notice is the fact that it is completely abandoned."

"That Phoenix appeared on the map when it did is one of the results of the building of the Dewdney Trail through Southern British Columbia. Prospectors, using that trail as a base, penetrated the Boundary District and located the chief mining claims about Phoenix in 1891, at almost the same time as the locations were staked on the slopes of Red Mountain, which afterwards caused such a rush to Rossland. Due to the lack of railway facilities, the Phoenix properties were much slower in being developed and it was not until 1900 that ore shipments began and the city was incorporated, taking its name from one of the claims included in the townsite".

Desite its small size as a city, "as in the case of Phoenix, with its schools, churches, banks, graded and paved streets and other attributes of city life, its industry was of such size as to give the camp a prominent place among the world's mining districts. Ores from Phoenix supplied the entire tonnage of the Grand Forks smelter, for years the largest smelter in the British Empire and the second largest in the world; an appreciable part of the tonnage smelted at the Greenwood smelter, also a smelter of the first magnitude; nearly the entire tonnage smelted at the Boundary Falls plant and a million tons of the total smelted to date at Trail. From these ores amounting to 16,000,000 tons, about 350,000,000 pounds of copper and $16,000,000 in gold and silver have been produced, having an aggregate value of $65,000,000".

"The Phoenix output, was on such a scale that, for the greater part of two decades, with almost clockwork regularity, year in and year out, four train loads, comprising: over 4,000 tons and often over 5.000 tons, were sent down the hill every twenty-four hours".

Revisualizing the historic townsite of Phoenix, B.C.

Awe-inspiring panoramic views of Phoenix ...

There are two outstanding birds-eye view photographic images of the Phoenix townsite as it appeared over a hundred years ago ... the spectacular Cirkut Camera panorama by the famed Spokane photographer W. J. Carpenter (Link) and the four part composite by Rossland's M.M. Stephens. (Link) Created within a year of each other and generally from the same vantage point from the Spion Kop hillside, these two images offer us a wide, near 180 degree, perspective encompassing both upper and lower townsites, the main streets, buildings, and the railroads and copper mines located on the slopes surrounding the city.

Impressive and unique though they may be, the images do not however actually identify specific places of interest within the Phoenix townsite by name. In reality, this can be accomplished rather easily in the digital realm ... much like using a felt marker to label a complex photograph to clarify its contents. An example is posted here to demonstrate what this might look like, making use of the Carpenter panorama. The example essentially superimposes a digital layer of placename labels adapted from an old paper map of the city over the panorama, creating a sort of hybrid "photo-map". The results of this effort can be seen here. (Link)

Visualizing the townsite with an online interactive map ...

Aside from the two panoramic images referenced above, there are a number of impressive more narrowly focused large format photographs of Phoenix by these and other recognized professionals such as Vancouver's R.H. Trueman, and the Montreal Notman photogaphers. And there are many more available photos taken by unknown individuals, and some are as we might expect, of lesser quality. Nevertheless, if sufficient numbers of all of these images could be amalgamated and organized by location in a wider geospatial context, they could help us better understand the functional layout and the unique character of this historic mining town. A map and a digital layering technique similar to the previous example can be used to accomplish this.

For this purpose, the previously referenced 1911 Canadian Department of Mines paper map of Phoenix (Link) was scanned at high resolution, cropped and tailored somewhat, and a layer of numbered place markers superimposed over top of it. The markers were placed over significant places of interest and individual links were created pointing to selections of online photographs associated with those particular locations. The resulting map is presented here as an interactive Acrobat pdf file with clickable hot spots, 26 in number in its current form (July 27, 2019).

If you are interested in exploring this interactive online map, you might want to start with Marker No. 15 as shown on the page-top header. This marker is linked to five east and west view street-level photographs with cutlines, of Knob Hill Avenue at its best, in Upper Town Phoenix. Marker 16 photos depict the same Knob Hill Avenue (looking east) a decade or two later after the demise of the City of Phoenix itself. On close examination you will recognize a small number of buildings from Marker 15 still standing.

View the full-sized interactive Phoenix Map - current iteration (July 27, 2019) here: (Link).

Note: Regarding the navigation of this map using a mouse ... you may need to be ambidextrous to do this.

> To Pan the map Up or Down, simply spin the center mouse wheel.
> To Zoom In and Out - use one hand to hold the Cntrl Key, the other hand to spin the center mouse wheel.
> To Pan the map Left or Right, use one hand to hold the Shift Key, and the other to spin the mouse wheel.


The Phoenix Pioneer

Copies of the old Phoenix Pioneer newspaper are available online in the UBC BC Historical Newspaper Archive (Link). The articles and advertisements in these papers have played a small part in the design of the interactive map on this web page to identify the specific street addresses of various townsite buildings and business establishments. Aside from newspapers, the Phoenix Pioneer has also produced and published other interesting graphic and informational material, including detailed maps and promotional booklets celebrating its own town and the wider Boundary region. Their excellent illustrated Midwinter Boundary Mining Journals are particularly noteworthy, prepared as Christmas supplements to their weekly newspaper and sold for a mere 25 cents. At least two issues are freely available online and the 1905 copy has been downloaded, digitally restored somewhat and reposted here for interested viewers (Link). You can find the humble Phoenix Pioneer establishment itself in this historic panoramic photo (Marker 2) at the extreme right, beside the Presbyterian Church (Link).


Another two-layered map of Phoenix

Top Layer - locations of old Upper and Lower Townsites, a few old places of interest, railroads and mine site locations traced from the historic Phoenix map referenced and used above.
Lower layer - a current Google Earth Satellite view of Phoenix


Other related links ...

> Google Map Street View of Gibbs Road from Spencer Hill to Phoenix ...
> Google Map Street View (Phoenix Way) of the abandoned Phoenix open-pit mine site ...

Youtube Video
The Phoenix Granby mines made use of the latest available methods, technologies, tools and machines to do their work. They employed three state-of-the-art Thew Automatic Steam Shovels to remove mine debris, prepare roadbeds and load railway cars. One such steam shovel can be seen at work via Marker 20 on our map. You can also view one of these monsters in action on a Youtube video below.

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