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Superincumbent Snow Caved Roofs

December 21, 2016

The first couple of weeks of January were significant for snow accumulations locally if the number of building collapses is any indication.

In January 1880 a shed owned by the Herring Brothers and used as a boathouse caved in under the weight of snow “smashing a number of boats.”

On the other side of the Fraser River, in New Westminster,

 “The roof of the large shed formerly owned by Lane & Co., for a store-house for canned salmon, gave way with a loud crash on Wednesday last, owing most probably, to the superincumbent weight of snow.”

In January 1887,

“The portion of the Brownsville cannery fronting on the river, collapsed on Wednesday night last, owing to the weight of snow on the roof.”

1890 – Two Old Cannery Buildings Succumb to Weight of Snow

In January 1890, two old cannery buildings, at opposite ends of New Westminster, collapsed due to the heavy burden of snow.

Laidlaw Cannery Building Flattened

At Sapperton, it was the old Royal Engineers’ storehouse that succumbed.

“A section of the Laidlaw cannery at Sapperton collapsed on Monday night under the weight of snow which had accumulated upon the roof.

The building was completely wrecked and the contents, composed chiefly of cannery furnishings and machinery, were rendered of little value.”

 “Ominous Sound” A Timely Warning  – Two Men Escape As Roofs Falls In At Ewen & Co. Old Cannery

It was at the other end of town that the most devastation collapse occurred, with two men narrowing escaping injury. and galvanizing householders into action to save their own houses.


Wood frame buildings abounded along the Fraser River wharves at the lower end of Front Street and Columbia Street in 1887. – Notman Photo – McCord Museum

“Collapse of an old-timer –

Yesterday morning about 10 o’clock a terrific crash was heard in the vicinity of the C.P.R. station at the foot of Front Street. . . .
For twenty years a long barn-like structure of wood has stood on its piles next to the hardware emporium of Messrs. A.M. Cunningham & Co., extending from Front Street to Columbia Street.

The property belonged to Messrs Ewen & Co., and was formerly used as a cannery.
. . .

The constitution of the old barracks was never very robust and the frail roof was weak with old age.
Scores of tons of snow have been allowed to accumulate on the roof with the result that shortly after Mr EH Port and Mr Frank Scott, an engineer in the employ of the firm, had entered the office yesterday morning an ominous sound was heard as of a general breaking up of all things visible and the west wall caved out.. . .

Both as if animated simultaneously with the same bright thought of self-preservation, sprang to the end wall, when the snow-covered roof crashed down with the report of a young earthquake. Both men were knocked down. . .
This accident, which was so painfully near the lines of fatality, was immediately taken as a practical warning by the householders all over the city, and snow-shovelling from the roofs was the order of the day.

Not much damage was sustained by either of the firms who had goods stored in the collapsed building, and the absence of the unsightly structure is rather an improvement than otherwise.”


On  January 12, 1890 a foot of snow fell at New Westminster, leaving an accumulation of 22 inches on the ground.

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