A series on West Kootenay/Boundary place names
The Boundary ghost town of Summit City was five miles northeast of Phoenix and three miles south of Eholt on the CPR. It was closely associated with Oro Denoro, a prosperous mine with a namesake townsite that was adjacent to Summit City.
The mining camp the fledgling town belonged to was first mentioned in the Fairview Advance on May 3, 1894: “Mr. Schofield will continue development work on the Mountain Rose in the Summit camp …”
But the town didn’t become a going concern until 1899, when William C. Haywood organized the Summit Townsite Co. and applied for a liquor license for the Hotel Summit.
The Cascade Record of July 1, 1899 announced: “Work has commenced on clearing the new townsite of Summit, near the BC and Oro Denoro mines in Summit camp. Like all new towns, great things are predicted for it.”
Summit was carved out of lots 1557 and 2005, but it’s not known who drew the plan or what it looked like.
The first time we see it referred to as Summit City is in a list of townsites published in the Greenwood Miner of Sept. 1, 1899. On Oct. 28 of that year, the Cascade Record indicated R. Grieger was applying for a license for the Oro Denoro Hotel and T.J.Gorman for the Summit City House, both at Summit City.
In April 1900, William Haywood sold a quarter-interest in the townsite to Percy E. McMillan of Toronto for $25,000 (something like $730,000 in today’s figures). The Greenwood Miner explained: “Mr. McMillan became heavily interested in mining property in Summit camp last summer and was so well pleased with his holdings that he decided to increase them by the purchase of an interest in the townsite.”
The Grand Forks Gazette of May 14, 1900 further described the town: “Summit Camp embraces a sea of mountains drained by Boundary, Browns, and Fisherman creeks … It is 2,500 feet above the Kettle River Valley. The ‘city,’ for such it is ambitiously called, already boasts of many of the adjuncts of civilization. True, its population scarcely exceeds 100 [but] there are three hotels, one saloon, four stores, a laundry …”
A post office application for Summit City was filed in early 1900, but inspector W.H. Dorman noted a petition had already been filed “under the name Oro or possibly Denoro.”
He added: “I understand that an effort is being made by the owners of the rival townsites to combine them into one town — if this is accomplished I will have no hesitation in recommending the establishment of a post office, but at present the post office is wanted more to boom a townsite than from actual necessity.”
Nevertheless, the Summit post office operated from June 1900 to February 1902.
The 1902 civic directory listed two hotels, one general store, several mining companies, a sawmill, and the Summit Water, Light, and Power Co. Ltd., of which William Haywood was also manager. The following year, there was still an entry for Summit, but no residents or businesses were listed.
In 1904, there were still hotels in business at Denoro, but another at Summit was described as “long deserted.” By 1911, there was a long list of delinquent property owners, including Charles E. Tilley, Alex Miller, Bertram Miller, Charles Cummings, Samuel K. Green and J.L. Jarrell. Each owed back taxes on at least ten lots. By 1920, only one lot, owned by George McAuliffe, was in arrears.
There was also a Summit siding on the Nelson and Fort Sheppard Railway, between Hall Siding and Nelson, first mentioned in the Nelson Tribune on Dec. 14, 1893. It didn’t amount to much.
Summit Lake (one of 16 in BC by that name), also known as Summit City, was the highest point on the railway grade between Nakusp and Slocan Lake, at about 2,500 feet (760 m). It first shows up on Perry’s Mining Map of 1893, which also indicated that Walsh’s Hotel operated there.
In the Nakusp Ledge on Oct. 19, 1893, an ad first appeared for the Half Way House at Summit Lake, operated by H. McKay and A. Risdale. It’s unclear if this was the same building as Walsh’s Hotel, but the following week Ledge publisher Robert T. Lowery recounted a recent trip in which he “struck the trail for Summit City. A mile or two from the coming city we came upon the grade of the N&S Railway, and followed it until we reached the Half Way House. Here we camped for the night and found an excellent and merry crowd. Mr. McKay, one of the genial landlords, thinks Summit City will be surely in it this winter, and if the track does not reach any more than this point until spring we think it will ourselves.”
Elsewhere in the same issue, the Ledge added: “Including side tracks, 11 miles of track have been laid on the [Nakusp and Slocan]. The main line is within five miles of Summit City, and will reach there in a few days, provided the rail supply does not pinch out.”
The hotel was enlarged that fall, hosted a memorable Christmas party, and continued to operate until at least July 1894, when it was nearly destroyed in a forest fire. Its final ad appeared in the Ledge that month.
A post office operated at Summit Lake from 1910-16 and 1917-23, which coincided with the operation of the Summit Lake Lumber Co. Today Summit Lake is best known as the site of two campgrounds and a ski hill.