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Stanley Docks on Fraser River

November 17, 2015

In the first week of October 1889 a start was made on building a new freight shed, or warehouse, at the Front Street premises of Mathers & Milligan. Architects for the facility were CH Clow and Samuel Maclure. By the first week of November the shed was nearly finished and was expected to be the host venue for the official reception of the Governor-General, Lord Stanley of Preston.

“The Vice-Regal visitors are expected to land at Mather’s & Milligan’s new wharf on Front Street. The new shed which is capable of holding many thousand of people will be nearly completed by Wednesday.”

It was on this visit to British Columbia that Lord Stanley was shipwrecked on HMS Amphion in transit to the mainland, dedicated Stanley Park and planted a tree in Queen’s Park. He also took a cruise along the river at Brownsville on the Dominion snagboat Samson, landed for a tour of the fish hatchery and cannery at Bon Accord and walked the just completed railbed of the New Westminster Southern Railway.

On the New Westminster waterfront, the cavernous freight shed of Mathers & Milligan, just completed and unoccupied, was to be an early version of a waterfront convention facility, at least for one day.

“The morning of Saturday, November 9th broke upon us under circumstances anything but reassuring. The rain poured down in torrents until after 9 o’clock and the heavens looked prophetic of a wet day. But at 9:30 a.m. the weather improved slightly and the prospects brightened. Promptly at 10 o’clock a.m. the Governor General’s special car stopped at the new Front street freight sheds and the illustrious visitors were conducted through the cheering crowd to the platform which had been erected, decorated with evergreens and carpeted and furnished for their use.”

Lord Stanley - 15th Earl of Derby - by Sydney MarchStanding at the front of the platform, Lord Stanley greeted the crowd, and in turn was welcomed by local dignitaries. In the absence of James Punch, Reeve of Surrey, and HT Thrift, Clerk, their welcome address was read by David Robson, Clerk of New Westminster City Council. (David was the brother of John Robson.)

The city directory for 1890 identifies the wharf and freight sheds of the Mathers & Milligan company as the “Stanley Docks,” an important landing place and trans-shipment facility.
The name did not appear to stick, and people continued to refer to the place as Mathers & Milligan’s. In any event, the facility lasted only until 1898, as it was there that the great fire that destroyed the business district of New Westminster was said to have started. After the fire, architects Clow & Maclure designed a new wharf and warehouse for Brackman & Ker.

William John Mathers (1859-1929)
Manager of Mathers & Milligan and later Brackman & Ker, was William John Mathers.

At the time of his retirement in 1916, it was said that Mathers had seen his establishment “grow from a small, one storey structure to its present magnificent proportions, with elevators, huge storage space and trackage, and with a business clientele which includes practically every successful farmer in the Fraser Valley west of Hope.”

Brackman & Ker Milling Co - National Mill No 2 - New Westminster - 1898The firm’s stores and elevators dominated the skyline of many a small town.





Further about Mathers & Milligan in the post Gladys Under Way.

Architect Charles Henry Clow is best known south of the river for his design of the Municipal Hall in Cloverdale, now housing the Surrey Archives. There was also a Clow Road, now 156 Street.

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