About Prince Rupert

About the North Coast of BC:


Archaeological evidence indicates the North Coast of British Columbia has been inhabited by First Nations for over 10,000 years. Prince Rupert is located in the traditional territory of the Tsimshian Nation. By the mid 1800s salmon canneries dotted the coastlines, trading posts had been established in Port Essington, Port Simpson, and Metlakatla, with steamships and paddlewheelers serving the area.


Grand Trunk Pacific Railway:


Plans to build a railway to the North Coast sparked the commencement of surveys in the area in l903. Charles M. Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP) and officials toured across Canada and up the Pacific coast, arriving in Tuck Inlet on September 3, 1904. The decision to locate the GTP western terminus on Kaien Island was made on this trip. The magnificent 14-mile harbour is one of the deepest, natural, ice-free harbours in the world. Located 550 miles north of Vancouver, B.C., a port at Kaien Island would provide the shortest shipping route to the Orient. 


In March 1905 the GTP acquired a crown grant of 10,000 acres and another 14,000 acres in March 1909. In October the GTP sponsored a nation-wide contest and the name "Prince Rupert" after Rupert of the Rhine, governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, was selected in February 1906.


A GTP survey party set up camp on Kaien Island in May 1906 under Joel H. Pillsbury, assistant harbour and townsite engineer, and clearing of the townsite commenced. A piledriver, rented from George Cunningham of Port Essington, was used for the construction of a wharf that was to be completed by July 1st. Next a building was erected for harbour engineer, James H. Bacon. A 12 foot wide plank road, Center Street, was laid from the wharf. Parallel to the waterfront was Rupert Road in the settlement known as Knoxville, named after prospector, John Knox in 1907. Permission had to be granted from the GTP to establish a business at Prince Rupert. When denied, Knox filed a mineral claim under the name of "Grand Turk Fraction" on Indian Reserve land that the GTP was negotiating to buy. John Houston, the founder of the first newspaper "The Empire", also filed a mineral claim to the disappointment of the harbour engineer. 


Incorporation of the City of Prince Rupert:


Clearing of the 2000 acre townsite and construction took place throughout 1907 and in January 1908, landscape architects of the Boston firm Brett and Hall arrived in Prince Rupert to plan the new city. Once completed, a public auction of 2400 Prince Rupert lots took place in Vancouver from May 25 to 29, 1909 and in Victoria the following week. This auction generated worldwide interest. After the land sale, the population tripled and the following year on March 10, 1910, Prince Rupert was incorporated. The first municipal election took place on May 19, 1910 with Alfred Stork elected as mayor.


Halibut Capital of the World:


The Canadian Fish & Cold Storage plant opened in 1912 and was the reason Prince Rupert enjoyed being known as the Halibut Capital of the World. A drydock and shipyard was completed in 1915 by the GTP and eventually taken over by Canadian National Railway. It operated until 1954.


On April 9, 1914 the first through train arrived from Winnipeg, fulfilling the vision of Charles Hays who perished in the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912. Today a statue of Charles Hays stands next to City Hall and the mountain overlooking the city and a local high school have the distinction of being named after him.


World War II to Present:


During World War II the strategic geographical position of Prince Rupert resulted in the arrival of thousands of American and Canadian troops. Supplies and material passed through the US Army's Prince Rupert Sub-Port of Embarkation. The population escalated to estimates of 21,000 and new buildings, homes and facilities were erected. Construction of a highway east of Prince Rupert for national defense purposes was approved on March 16, 1942 and resulted in the official opening of the Skeena Highway on September 4, 1944.


Post-war decline was eased when a pulp mill was developed on nearby Watson Island, officially opening in 1951. The mill operated for almost 50 years, contributing significantly to the economy of Prince Rupert.


Access to Prince Rupert was augmented in the 1960s by the opening of an airport and the Alaska and B.C. Ferries terminals. With transportation links secured the city began focusing on port development. In 1977, Prince Rupert's first deep-sea facility, Fairview Terminal, opened followed in the early l980s by the coal and grain terminals on Ridley Island. A new cruise ship dock was ready to welcome cruise ship passengers in May 2004 and early in 2006, construction of a container port got underway at the Fairview Terminal site.