Explore Princeton with Culture Days

Culture Days is an annual, nation-wide initiative to celebrate and explore Canada’s culture, history, and art. As part of this celebration, On This Spot is featuring a different town or city across Canada each day on its blog. Today, we’ll dive into the history, artwork, and environment of Princeton, in British Columbia, with our two self-guided walking tours. Both of these tours are available for free both online and through the On This Spot app.

Indigenous peoples have come to Princeton for thousands of years to seek the valuable red ochre found in a bluff a short distance west of town. When Europeans, like the pioneer John Fall Allison, began to settle here at the confluence of the Tulameen and Similkameen rivers at the end of the 1850s, they called the place Vermilion Forks after the ochre they found on the riverbed. More settlers followed, and by the end of the 19th Century the settlement—by then renamed Princeton—was surrounded by a network of gold, copper, and coal mines. Since then, Princeton’s fortunes have risen and fallen with the mining industry. Today, its economy relies heavily on logging and tourism, since the region furnishes an enormous number of summer and winter recreational opportunities.

Our first walking tour in Princeton explores its pioneer past. For a town of its size, Princeton has a rich, fascinating, and surprisingly turbulent history. The region’s mineral wealth has played an important role in making Princeton’s history so interesting. The ebb and flow of mining has led to frantic gold rushes, shocking economic collapses, overnight rags-to-riches stories, and bitterly fought labour struggles. The scope of Princeton’s history is too vast to comprehensively cover in a single tour. In this tour, we will look at some of the most exciting episodes from that history: stories like the ancient Vermilion Cave, the groundbreaking pioneer John Fall Allison and his wives, the ‘Gentleman Bandit’ Bill Miner, the gold rush at Granite Creek, and many more.

Our second walking tour explores art and the environment rather than history, taking visitors and residents alike on a sculpture walk throughout downtown Princeton. Each of the bronze sculptures on the tour were recently installed around downtown Princeton as part of the town’s beautification plan. On this tour, we’ll learn about the local animals that have been honoured in bronze.

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