Smithers, British Columbia
|Town of Smithers|
|Coordinates: Coordinates: |
|Regional District||Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako|
|• Mayor||Gladys Atrill|
|• Governing Body||Smithers Town Council|
|• MP||Taylor Bachrach (NDP)|
|• MLA||Nathan Cullen (NDP)|
|• Town||15.27 km2 (5.90 sq mi)|
|Elevation||490 m (1,631 ft)|
|• Density||514.9/km2 (1,334/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC−08:00 (PST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−07:00 (PDT)|
|Postal code span|
|Area code(s)||250, 778, 236, & 672l|
Smithers is a town in northwestern British Columbia, approximately halfway between Prince George and Prince Rupert. With a population of 5,351 in 2016, Smithers provides service coverage for most of the Bulkley Valley.
First Nations settlements existed thousands of years prior to European presence.
The planned Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP) required two major divisional points in BC, where additional staff and facilities would be located. After Prince George, various central points on the Prince Rupert leg were considered in the vicinity of Aldermere. A prime choice was Hubert, 3.2 miles (5.1 km) east of Telkwa, initially called Bulkley by the developers, who had amassed the surrounding land. These speculators promoted a future new city, and later a trade centre of the Bulkley Valley, both fallacious claims, since Smithers had already been selected as the divisional point. The Interior News of Aldermere had earlier adopted a policy of refusing advertising from such unscrupulous promoters. The Aldermere Board of Trade was hostile to the idea of Telkwa itself being the divisional headquarters, allegedly because the rail yards would destroy the alder groves. In reality, they likely foresaw that even a station would soon relocate their community down to the stop.
The speculators had not considered the swampy ground 9.2 miles (14.8 km) west of Telkwa at the foot of Hudson Bay Mountain. Averse to sharing land sale profits with speculators, the GTP made this their headquarters, creating Smithers, named after Sir Alfred Smithers, chair of the GTP board. During 1913, the Railway Commission approved the station site as the second divisional point in March. Surveying started in April, 100 of the 160 acres of town site were cleared by August, and 160 acres of railyards by September. The railhead advanced by in July, and the first passenger train arrived in October.
With the standard quarter portion reserved for government facilities, the GTP began marketing plots that month. Despite ditches for draining, the subsoil was layers of quicksand and clay, requiring pile driving for building foundations. Pleas to the GTP to address the swampy road conditions fell on deaf ears.
The temporary train station, built in 1915, was replaced in 1919 by a Plan 100‐166 station building. For decades, the railway remained the dominant employer, but from the 1950s, employee numbers gradually dwindled, and buildings became redundant. In 1994, the Smithers Community Services Association purchased the listed station building.
Professional landscape architects designed the street layout to accommodate a potential 10,000 people, and the municipality largely followed this plan over subsequent decades. In recent decades, expansion has adopted modern planning concepts, instead of the original grid pattern. However, the original design ignored the topography and soil conditions. Consequently, some lots on slopes, creeks or flood plains could not be developed. Main Street was the commercial core, with the train station and Alfred Park at one end and Central (formerly City Hall) Park at the other (now the intersection with Highway 16). Residential development radiated outward. In 1925, the government built a combined courthouse/provincial offices within the latter park. Main Street implemented an alpine theme in 1972.
Commerce & population
The Seymour Lake Lumber Company, having a 15,000-foot capacity per shift mill, was producing 10,000 feet of lumber daily to keep up with the building boom. Swampy land with canvas tents and shacks became what the Omenica Miner described in October 1913 as "the best district in British Columbia."
The Telkwa Tribune, renamed the Smithers Tribune, relocated and the Smithers Review opened. By 1914, there were the two newspapers, two banks, three churches, a three-storey hotel, stores, a telephone system and an electricity supply. Stores and services comprised six rooming houses, five restaurants, four general stores, doctor, dentist, drugstore, hardware store, sawmill, planing mill, two lumber yards, plumber, sheet iron worker, sign works, three contracting firms, two laundries, two poolrooms, livery stable, meat market, shoe shop, and two real estate firms.
After the 1914 Telkwa fire, which destroyed 13 downtown buildings, many businesses relocated to Smithers, a community of 125 permanent buildings and 700 people. The sizable GTP payroll provided a solid base to attract further settlers and businesses. Initial optimism projected a 5,000 population by 1915, which was finally achieved in 1991. The population, that fell during World War I, was 350 in 1918, and 520 in 1920.
Volunteers contained two 1921 fires. The power plant one caused $10,000 damage to a cold storage plant. Months later, two adjacent hotels burned to the ground. By 1925, the population was about 1,000. A 1930 fire caused $25,000 damage to the Hudson Bay Lumber sawmill on the western outskirts A.S. Sargent permanently closed his store after a 1931 fire. During the Great Depression, many businesses closed, and the population hovered around 700.
From the 1940s, many small independent bush mills supplied the two local planer mills. The population increased from 1,204 in 1951 to 2,487 in 1961, 4,570 by 1981, and peaked at 5,624 in 1996.
Public institutions & amenities
The post office completed, J. Mason Adams was the inaugural postmaster 1913–14. He operated the first drug store in Telkwa. The Smithers Citizens Association, formed in December 1913, provided leadership, but could not levy taxes. Miss Mary K. Downey was the initial teacher at the school established in April 1914. In 1915, a permanent building replaced temporary accommodation in the Methodist Church. Citizen donations provided a $15,000 community hall. In 1920, the premier opened the two-storey hospital, which provided 15 beds on remodelling. Smithers became the first incorporated village for BC in 1921.
During the Depression, the basic rural road network was built, the golf course opened in 1931, the airfield in 1933, a fire truck was purchased, the Bulkley Valley District Hospital (staffed by the Sisters of St. Anne until 1969) opened in 1934, and the Dominion Experimental Farm in 1938. Highway 16 was completed to Prince Rupert in 1944. A 1947 referendum approved a town water supply. In 1967, when Smithers became a town, J.F. MacDonald was the first mayor. The combined library/museum built that year housed the books previously shelved in the Municipal Hall garage since 1955. A decade later, the museum moved to the Central Park building, allowing the library to expand. In 1976, the province moved the regional office from Prince Rupert. The Bulkley Valley Regional Pool and Recreation Centre opened in 1990.
Education, health & emergency services
School District 54 Bulkley Valley is one of the largest employers, and three private schools operate. A Coast Mountain College campus provides tertiary education. The Smithers Public Library is open 5–9 hours daily on 6 days per week. The Bulkley Valley Museum has similar restricted opening times.
A 40-person volunteer fire department, and three-ambulance base exist.
Smithers and area now has a BC Emergency Support Services team.
Smithers and the Bulkley Valley have often been described by non-residents as the somewhat culturally unique to the rest of Northern British Columbia. Many factors contribute to the composition of society in Smithers, including the arts, industry smoke stacks outside of town from mills and mining.
Smithers has adopted an alpine theme, which is drawn from the geography of the area. A town bylaw requires businesses in the downtown area centred on Main Street to construct their buildings in an alpine style. A fibreglass statue of a man blowing an alpine horn, commonly referred to as The Alpenman or Alpine Al, is located at the entrance to the main street and has become the town symbol. Similarly, the Smithers chamber of commerce displays an Alpine Al costume at community events and in television advertisements for the town's businesses.
Smithereens have a particularly strong environmental ethic. In 2006, over 600 Smithereens took to the streets to voice their opposition to a proposed coalbed methane gas field near Telkwa, which they claimed would threaten local water quality, landscape integrity and wild salmon populations.
Likewise a proposal by Thompson Creek Metals to develop a molybdenum mine to extract the Davidson deposit on Hudson Bay Mountain near the town was vigorously opposed over a period of years before TCM abandoned the project.
Smithers and the Bulkley Valley are home to many musicians, including Juno-Award-winning Alexis Puentes. The biggest assembly of musical talent happens during the annual Mid-Summer Music Festival in late June. Over the years, the Mid-Summer Music Festival has seen some famous acts like Spirit of the West and the Barenaked Ladies and has drawn audiences and participants from all across North America.
The Della Herman Theatre, named after a longtime resident and former school board official, is the primary venue for shows and performances, though several pubs and even open fields serve as secondary performance venues. Numerous organizations including the Bulkley Valley Community Arts Council operate to keep music and other artistic activities vibrant.
In the 2021 Census of Population conducted by Statistics Canada, Smithers had a population of 5,378 living in 2,313 of its 2,411 total private dwellings, a change of -0.4% from its 2016 population of 5,401. With a land area of 15.26 km2 (5.89 sq mi), it had a population density of 352.4/km2 (912.8/sq mi) in 2021.
|Canada 2016 Census|
|Median age||39.3 years||43 years|
|Under 15 years old||18%||14.9%|
|Between 15 and 60 years old||66.1%||66.9%|
|65 years old and over||15.8%||18.3%|
|85 years old and over||2.6%||2.3%|
The latest census, taken in 2016, recorded 5,351 residents in 1,435 families of an average size of 2.9 persons.
|Canada 2016 Census||Population||% of Total Population|
|Visible minority group
|Other visible minority||0||0%|
|Mixed visible minority||10||0.2%|
|Total visible minority population||340||6.4%|
|Total Aboriginal population||555||10.5%|
Despite its small population, Smithers has produced several notable professional ice hockey players:
- Brothers Joe Watson and Jimmy Watson: won the Stanley Cup as defencemen with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1973–74 and 1974-75 seasons. Jimmy Watson was a five-time NHL All-Star game selection and played for Team Canada at the Canada Cup in 1976. Joe Watson was a two-time NHL All-Star. Both are members of the Flyers Hall of Fame. In their active years, the Watson brothers held an annual hockey school that included the "mid-summer" hockey game.
- Brothers Ron Flockhart (NHL career 1980-1991) and Rob Flockhart, played for the Smithers Nats in the Pacific Northwest Hockey League (P.N.W.H.L), that played for the Fowler Cup in the 1970s.
- Alan Kerr: played for the New York Islanders, Detroit Red Wings and Winnipeg Jets in the 1980s and 1990s
- Dan Hamhuis: retired NHL defenceman who played for the Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks, and Dallas Stars. He won an Olympic gold medal with the 2014 Canadian Olympic team.
- Michael Wall: goalie for the Colorado Avalanche (Traded 2007)
- Ron Homenuke: forward for the Vancouver Canucks. Career ended abruptly after a hiking accident. He later became a missionary.
- Adam Kingsmill: ice sledge hockey player.
- Dean Brody, country musician
- Peter Capak, Astrophysicist
- Robert Chaplin, artist and publisher
- Lisa Conway, musician and sound artist
- Alex Cuba, musician
- Nathan Cullen, federal politician
- Tobin Frank, musician with the Canadian band Spirit of the West
- Andrew George, Jr., chef and publisher
- Ruth Hamblin, professional basketball player in Australia (formerly WNBA)
- Gina Holden, actress
- Daniel Imhof, professional soccer player at VfL Bochum (Germany)
- Susan Juby, novelist, author
- Alicia Kaye, Canadian triathlete
- Dan Mangan, musician
- Robin Mathews, poet, political activist, playwright, teacher, essayist
- Graham Roumieu, author and illustrator
- Antje von Seydlitz-Kurzbach, Canadian Olympic rower
Smithers is known for its world class skiing and fishing (in particular for steelhead). Other popular activities include soccer, volleyball, hockey, baseball, downhill mountain biking, cross-country skiing, hiking, quadding and snowmobiling. Smithers offers a variety of extreme sports, for example quadding in the back country, snowmobiling in the surrounding mountains, paragliding, or mountain biking down Hudson Bay Mountain. Smithers is known for its variety of recreation.
West of Smithers are Witset, New Hazelton, Kitwanga, Terrace, Kitimat, Port Edward and Prince Rupert. East of Smithers are Telkwa, Houston, Topley, Burns Lake, Fraser Lake, Fort Fraser, Vanderhoof and Prince George.
Smithers technically has a subarctic climate (Dfc,) although it is on the borderline of a humid continental climate. Winters are cold and cloudy but highly variable with a January average of −7.2 °C (19.0 °F). Snow is the main type of precipitation during winter. Warm spells can push temperatures above freezing during the winter months, while cold weather systems can reduce the temperature to less than −20 °C (−4 °F). The average annual snowfall is 182.7 cm (71.9 in) with maximum accumulations of snow tending to happen in February when the average snow depth is 29 cm (11 in). Summers are warm with average highs of about 22 °C (72 °F) and an extreme high of 36.0 °C (96.8 °F). Nighttime temperatures are often cool with normal nighttime lows under 10 °C (50 °F). Depending on the year there may be very little or a lot of precipitation. Spring and fall are short transition seasons. Smithers receives an average of 508.5 mm (20.02 in) of precipitation a year with February through April being the driest months. Smithers receives 1,621 hours of bright sunshine a year, ranging from a minimum of 12% of possible sunshine in December to a maximum of 47% of possible sunshine in August.
|Climate data for Smithers (Smithers Airport).|
Climate ID: 1077500; coordinates ; elevation: 521.8 m (1,712 ft); 1981–2010 normals
|Record high humidex||15.0||11.0||18.5||25.5||35.2||35.2||38.1||37.3||32.9||23.7||14.0||12.9||38.1|
|Record high °C (°F)||15.6
|Average high °C (°F)||−3.5
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−7.2
|Average low °C (°F)||−11.0
|Record low °C (°F)||−43.9
|Record low wind chill||−47||−44||−40||−22||−7||−3||0||−2||−8||−30||−45||−50||−50|
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||42.7
|Average rainfall mm (inches)||10.1
|Average snowfall cm (inches)||44.5
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.2 mm)||16.1||11.2||10.1||9.6||11.9||13.5||12.4||12.3||13.8||17.3||16.2||15.4||159.6|
|Average rainy days (≥ 0.2 mm)||3.6||3.2||4.3||7.6||11.8||13.5||12.4||12.3||13.8||15.7||7.3||3||108.4|
|Average snowy days (≥ 0.2 cm)||14.9||9.7||7.3||3||0.5||0||0||0||0||2.8||12.1||14.6||65|
|Average relative humidity (%)||78.3||66.7||52.8||43.6||42.8||48.3||50.8||50.4||57.1||66.7||79.1||82.3||59.9|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||42.5||75.8||128||177||217.8||216.6||239.6||217.2||152.7||87.5||39.7||26.4||1,620.7|
|Percent possible sunshine||17.4||27.8||34.9||41.9||43.7||41.9||46.2||46.9||39.8||26.8||15.6||11.6||32.9|
Movies and television
- Disney's Eight Below, starring Paul Walker and Jason Biggs, was partially filmed here.
- The film The Grey, starring Liam Neeson and Dermot Mulroney, was partially filmed here. It was mostly shot in Vancouver.
- The Comedy Network show, Alice, I Think, is set in Smithers; however, it is not filmed there, aside from location shots.
- Smithers was referenced in the show How I Met Your Mother (Season 7, Episode 6 - Mystery Vs. History).
Smithers is served by four television stations, three of which rebroadcast using transmitters owned by the Houston-Smithers Rebroadcasting Society:
|CTV 2||Rebroadcaster of CFTK-TV (Terrace)|
|Global||Community-owned rebroadcaster of CHAN-DT (Vancouver)|
|CTV||Community-owned rebroadcaster of CIVT-DT (Vancouver)|
|Knowledge Network||Community-owned rebroadcaster of cable-only channel|
Smithers is served by six radio stations:
|The Moose||Variety hits|
|CBC Radio 2||Adult contemporary, public radio||Community-owned rebroadcaster of CBU-FM (Vancouver)|
|CJFW||Country music||Rebroadcaster of CJFW-FM (Terrace)|
|Smithers Community Radio||Community radio|
|CFNR||Classic rock, First Nations community radio||Rebroadcaster of CFNR-FM (Terrace)|
|CBC Radio One||Public radio||Rebroadcaster of CBYG-FM (Prince George)|
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- "2016 Census Profile". www12.statcan.gc.ca.
- "2016 Census Profile". www12.statcan.gc.ca.
- Fort George Tribune, 23 Nov 1912
- Fort George Tribune, 12 Jul 1913
- Fort George Herald, 16 Aug 1913
- Fort George Tribune: 13 Sep 1913 & 4 Oct 1913
- Fort George Tribune: 18 Apr 1914; 20 & 27 Jun 1914; 25 Jul 1914; 7, 14, 21, & 28 Nov 1914; & 16, 23, & 30 Jan 1915
- Prince George Post: 21 Nov 1914 & 3 Apr 1915
- Fort George Herald, 1 Feb 1913
- Kruisselbrink 2012, pp. 59–62.
- Kruisselbrink 2012, pp. 58, 62–63.
- "100 Years of Smithers Main Street". www.northword.ca.
- Kruisselbrink 2012, pp. 64–65.
- Fort George Herald, 2 Aug 1913
- Portage la Prairie Weekly, 20 Aug 1913
- The Voice, 17 Oct 1913
- Fort George Herald: 22 Nov 1913 & 3 Dec 1913
- Kruisselbrink 2012, p. 91.
- Kruisselbrink 2012, pp. 93–96.
- "Image: Smithers temporary station". www.bvmuseum.org.
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- Kruisselbrink 2012, pp. 113–114.
- Kruisselbrink 2012, p. 116.
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- The Winnipeg Tribune, 21 Jun 1913
- Kruisselbrink 2012, pp. 97–98.
- Fort George Herald, 6 Sep 1913
- Fort George Herald, 8 Nov 1913
- Kruisselbrink 2012, p. 89.
- Kruisselbrink 2012, p. 100.
- Kruisselbrink 2012, p. 90.
- Kruisselbrink 2012, pp. 96–97.
- Kruisselbrink 2012, pp. 102–103.
- Prince George Citizen, 24 Jun 1921
- Prince George Citizen, 27 Sep 1921
- Kruisselbrink 2012, p. 109.
- Prince George Citizen, 17 Jul 1930
- Prince George Citizen, 15 Jan 1931
- Kruisselbrink 2012, pp. 109–110.
- Kruisselbrink 2012, p. 111.
- Kruisselbrink 2012, p. 112.
- Kruisselbrink 2012, p. 156.
- Fort George Herald, 18 Oct 1913
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- Kruisselbrink 2012, p. 101.
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- Kruisselbrink 2012, p. 154.
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- Smithers 2008, p. 42.
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- "Bus schedule". www.bcbus.ca.
- Kruisselbrink 2012, p. 97.
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