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Whispers from the Past: The Untold Tales of Phoenix, British Columbia

Nestled in the serene mountains of British Columbia lies a hidden gem, a place where history whispers through the abandoned streets and the echoes of a once-thriving community linger in the crisp mountain air. Welcome to Phoenix, British Columbia, a ghost town that offers a captivating glimpse into the past. Once a bustling mining hub in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Phoenix now stands as a testament to the ebbs and flows of human enterprise and the relentless march of time. In this blog post, we'll explore the fascinating history, the rise and fall of this forgotten town, and the haunting beauty that continues to draw visitors to its deserted streets. Join me as we unravel the story of Phoenix, a place where the past is ever-present and the silence speaks volumes.

 

Nestled in the Boundary Country of British Columbia, just 11 km east of Greenwood, lies the ghost town of Phoenix. Once a booming copper mining community, Phoenix now stands as a haunting reminder of a bygone era. Known as the "highest city in Canada" by its citizens, it sat at an impressive 1,412 metres (4,633 feet) above sea level. This blog post delves into the rich history of Phoenix, from its rise in the late 1890s to its decline after World War I, and the remnants that tell the tale of its vibrant past.


Copper was first discovered in Phoenix in 1891 by American prospector Bob Denzler. This discovery marked the beginning of a rush that transformed the area from a modest settlement known as Greenwood Camp into a bustling town. By 1895, the area's full potential was realized, leading to a significant population and economic boom. The Canadian Pacific Railway and the Great Northern Railway arrived in 1896, solidifying Phoenix's status as a major copper mining hub. At its peak, Phoenix boasted a population of 1,000 citizens and was home to an opera house, twenty hotels, a brewery, and its own city hall. Phoenix's magistrate, Judge Willie Williams, famously declared himself "the highest judge, in the highest court, in the highest city in Canada." The town even had its own newspaper, the Phoenix Pioneer, which started in 1896. By October 1, 1898, the settlement was officially renamed Phoenix with the opening of its first post office. The Granby Consolidated Mining, Smelting and Power Company operated the Phoenix Mine, producing an impressive 13,678,901 tons of ore before ceasing operations on June 14, 1919.


Phoenix was not just about mining; it was a vibrant community with modern amenities for its time. The town had electricity, telephone services, a hospital, a banquet hall, a ballroom, and an opera house. Social life flourished with fine dining and accommodations, such as the Brooklyn Hotel, which served elaborate meals including Russian caviar, Green Turtle soup, and English plum pudding with brandy sauce on Christmas Day 1911. The town's hockey team even won the provincial championship in 1911 and sought to compete for the Stanley Cup.


The end of World War I in 1918 brought a sharp decline in copper prices, which had a devastating impact on Phoenix, entirely reliant on its mining industry. The last shipment of ore left in 1919, and with it, the town's population dwindled. By 1920, wrecking crews had arrived to dismantle and relocate the remaining structures, leaving Phoenix as the largest ghost town Canada had ever seen. An open pit mine operated in the 1950s until 1978, further altering the landscape and burying many historic buildings. Today, Phoenix stands as a ghost town, but not without its relics. The World War I cenotaph remains a poignant reminder of the town's past. In nearby Greenwood, a commemorative phoenix bird sculpture erected by the miners of the 1970s symbolizes the hope that Phoenix might rise again. Recent efforts by locals have restored the pioneer cemetery, preserving a piece of the town's heritage.

Phoenix, British Columbia, may no longer be a bustling mining town, but its story continues to fascinate and draw visitors. The echoes of its vibrant past and the silent testimonies of its abandoned streets offer a unique glimpse into the history of the Canadian frontier. Join us as we explore the remnants of Phoenix and uncover the stories that shaped this remarkable ghost town.

 
summer lake scene with green trees and bright blue sky

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