Discover the history of Downtown New Westminster. Take a stroll on Columbia Street or take in the sights along beautiful waterfront boardwalk at the Quay. Downtown New Westminster is easily accessible from the sky train stations and is a perfect place to spend the day to take in the various festivals or community events.
New Westminster is located in the centre of Metro Vancouver on a hillside overlooking the Fraser River. It was Queen Victoria who named New Westminster after the City of Westminster in England in 1859, and it’s still known as the Royal City to this day. The city was founded by Major General Richard Moody as the capital of the Colony of BC in 1858 and continued in that role until the Mainland the Island Colonies merged in 1866. A year later the City became the first in BC to be incorporated and had an elected municipal government. It became a major outfitting point for prospectors coming for the Fraser Gold Rush as all travel to the gold fields in Yale, and Port Douglas were by water.
In 1878 the Government of Canada opened the British Columbia Penitentiary, the first penitentiary west of Manitoba. It was known as the BC Pen, or simply the Pen was located between Sapperton and what is now Queen’s Park. It housed maximum security prisoners for 102 years before closing in 1980. The original centre of the Pen still stands and has been converted into office space, the gatehouse, steps and the old coal house also are still standing, but the rest of the grounds have been filled with condominiums, townhouses, and parkland.