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Coquitlam's founding papers are restored
Two copies of Coquitlam’s letters of patent from 1894 will soon grace the walls of city hall.
On Monday, city archivist Emily Lonie showed council-in-committee a framed copy of the provincial document, which states the boundaries of the newly incorporated District Municipality of Coquitlam. At that time, it included the areas of Fraser Mills — then the biggest sawmill in the British Commonwealth — Port Coquitlam and a western portion of Maple Ridge. (PoCo and Fraser Mills ceded in 1913 to limit their tax liability to the rapidly growing district and Fraser Mills returned in 1971.)
In her first annual report to council, Lonie said the original founding papers had been poorly kept, with tears, tape marks, punch holes and a burn. As a result, they could not be safely handled or displayed.
Last fall, Lonie took the two pieces of paper to Fraser/Spafford Ricci, an art and archival conservation firm in Surrey, where they were cleaned and restored on chemically stable paper. Two digital reproductions were also made and framed, and they are expected to be hung at city hall this spring for public viewing while the original papers will remain in the archive.
Since she took the job last summer, Lonie said the city has acquired a number of significant documents, including records from Emeri Paré, Coquitlam’s first police officer; May Day celebration photos from 1940 to ’62; and annuals from Coquitlam High School. The city also now has in its collection a 1932 petition from the Meridian Heights Farmers’ Institute (on Burke Mountain) asking for separation from the district because of poor infrastructure.
Lonie said she expects the city to receive more documents this year, especially from the Coquitlam Heritage Society, School District 43 and former residents’ associations.
Coun. Mae Reid said she’d like the city to have a booth at its Canada Day festivities at Town Centre Park to highlight the new finds as well as to raise donations for — and awareness of — the archives.
Coun. Craig Hodge, a past president of the Coquitlam Heritage Society, said he’s pleased how much Lonie has accomplished to gather and preserve historical records. And he anticipates more to come, including from the pioneering Booth family, which had one of Coquitlam’s oldest homes in Maillardville — a house the city bought last year. Hodge said he expects history to be a big theme as the city celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2016 (Coquitlam was officially founded in 1891).
Meanwhile, city clerk Jay Gilbert told council the city is expected to launch a history “Lest We Forget” project this fall with Grade 12 students, to tell the story of First World War soldiers from Coquitlam.