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Pacific Highway views, 1931

December 14, 2011

The Pacific Highway, from the Westminster Bridge road to the Johnston Road (152 Street) was paved with concrete in 1920. The roadway 18 feet wide and 7.5 inches of concrete thick was built to last a long time, and it has.  While it has been entirely repaved with blacktop in recent years, parts of the original concrete sections were in use up until the 1980’s

A series of photographs in the Vancouver Archives exhibits the state of the Pacific Highway and its roadsides about 10 years after it was paved. These photographs are part of a series of views of billboards taken along the Pacific Highway in 1931 and 1932 for Neon Products Ltd.

The photos cover the entire length of the Highway, from the U.S. border north to Fry’s Corner and on to South Port Mann and Whalley’s Corner, thence down the hill to the Westminster Bridge.

Here are included only some on Unit 1 of the Pacific Highway, a 3.27 mile long stretch paved by the HP Peterson Construction Company and the Department of Public Works in 1920.

Old Yale Road and Pacific Highway

The first view shows the point where the Pacific Highway pavement rounds the bend at the Old Yale road, diverting  north.

Pacific Highway & Old Yale Road

Pacific Highway and Old Yale Road

This is the site of King George Station on the Skytrain Expo Line. At the time the road was paved, it was called South Port Mann and a Post Office of that name was located here. Before coming under the influence of the Port Mann boom it was known for some years as Timberland.

The little road to the left, heading south, was called Quible Road, after John Quible, who homesteaded  the quarter-section of land at the Townline Road now occupied by the Surrey Memorial Hospital.  Note that the utility lines still continued along the route of the Old Yale Road.

The old highway junction can be viewed while standing at the entrance to the King George Station. The Station was constructed just about on top of the old highway and route of the Yale Road lay across the Holland Park.

With the construction of the Pattullo Bridge in 1937, the Peace Arch Highway was built southwards along the line of the Quible Road from this point south to the U.S. border.  All highway traffic from the upper Fraser Valley and from the U.S. met at this corner—junction of the two busiest highways the province— and it became a notorious choke point known as Highway Junction.  On a summer Sunday evening the traffic returning to the city could back up for 10 miles.

Soon after its completion the Peace Arch Highway was renamed King George Highway to commemorate the visit of King George VI to BC in 1939.

North from  Old Yale Road  to Whalley’s Corner

The next views looking north along the Pacific Highway from Old Yale Road show a beautiful rural landscape and an absence of utility poles.

Pacific Highway view north from Old Yale Road w Pacific Highway view north from Old Yale Road e
Pacific Highway looking north from Old Yale Road corner North toward 104 Ave – East side of Pacific Highway

This section of 3/5 of a mile was paved by the Department of Public Works after taking over the work from HP Peterson in 1920.

About half-way down the straightaway, the road had to be laid over a peat bog, located at the Hjorth Road.  In the late 20’s peat was extracted by a commercial operation, which appears to be the large building in the photo. Locally, the peat was used by poultry farmers to pack eggs.  Next to the peat operation was the Whoopee Dipper, and amusement attraction barely a year old at the time of this photo. It was an undulating plank road circuit for automobiles—a load of fun in the old soft-suspended cars,  likely inspired by trips over some local roads.

Pacific Highway north to Hjorth Road

Pacific Highway looking north to Hjorth Road – 1931


Whalley’s Corner

At the second bend in the highway, a mile and a quarter north of the Old Yale Road corner, George Arthur Whalley, a former fire-warden in Green Timbers forest, built a picnic ground and gas station in 1925.  Here the concrete curves westward, while the road to Port Mann branches off to the northeast.

Whalley's Corner on Pacific Highway

Whalley’s Corner on Pacific Highway in 1931

Shortly after the photo shown was taken, the gas station burned down and had to be rebuilt. There are utility poles to this point coming up the hill on the east side of the road and angling off to Port Mann (Grosvenor Road).

As traffic increased along the Highway, the farms were broken up into smaller holdings, and a commercial strip developed in the 1940’s.  No longer an adjunct to Port Mann, the district chamber of commerce held a contest to rename the area, with Whalley being the approved choice.

After the completion of Skytrain in the 1990s the district fell into a sharp and pronounced decline as land speculators bought up property and allowed buildings to deteriorate as they held on for the big boom. Since the millennium, the area has experienced a resurgence and lately it has been rebranded again as Surrey City Centre.  This section of highway is now called King George Boulevard.

Peterson Hill

From Whalley’s Corner northward, the Pacific Highway descended the hill, curving to the west and running along the flats to the Bridge.

Pacific Highway view north down Peterson Hill Pacific Highway view north to base of Peterson Hill

Pacific Highway – View north down Peterson Hill to the curve

Pacific Highway –  the lower  curve on Peterson Hill

The left side view above is looking  down the road at the upper curve on Peterson Hill, midway between the flats and Whalley’s Corner. Fraser River can be seen in the distance.

In the view on the right, to the lower S-curve on Peterson Hill, the utility poles cross to the other side of the road, where  they can be seen in the next views, from about 128 Street,  looking back up the hill. This situation exists to the present day.

Pacific Highway view south at the base of Peterson Hill Pacific Highway view south to base of Peterson Hill

Pacific Highway looking east at the base of Peterson Hill

Pacific Highway looking east to Peterson Hill

The Flats – Peterson Hill to Westminster Bridge

On this boggy stretch of road, which gave the contractors so much trouble, the road is showing some cracks after 10 years.

Pacific Highway long view to base of Peterson Hill

Pacific Highway on the flats from Westminster Bridge, looking toward the base of Peterson Hill.


Pacific Highway on the flats to Westminster Bridge

Pacific Highway along the flats toward Mile 0 at Westminster Bridge on the Fraser River.

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