The David Thompson Memorial Fort: An Early Attempt to Make a Tourist Attraction Out of Western Canadian History - The Champlain Society: Findings/Trouvailles

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The David Thompson Memorial Fort: An Early Attempt to Make a Tourist Attraction Out of Western Canadian History


By Ben Bradley

Stroll along the shore of Windermere Lake just south of Invermere, British Columbia today, and the building most likely to catch your eye is what appears to be a very old bastion or blockhouse made from hand-hewn logs. Many people mistake this forlorn, weathered structure for a relic of BC’s fur trade days. In fact, it is the last remnant of the David Thompson Memorial Fort, a pioneering attempt to develop a historically-themed tourist attraction in western Canada. Built in 1922, the “fort” was intended to draw wealthy auto tourists who visited the national parks in the Canadian Rockies into the village of Invermere. It was built on a grand scale and given a great burst of publicity when it was completed. But the “fort” failed as a tourist attraction, largely because “history” had yet to be developed into a useful device for luring tourists in a region where natural scenery had long been the staple attraction.


Boosters and landowners in BC’s Windermere Lake district pinned high hopes on tourism during the 1910s. Two key players were the Columbia Valley Irrigated Fruitlands Company (CVIF), which owned 200,000 acres of land in the district, and Robert Randolph Bruce, the company’s vice-president and senior local representative. After Banff opened to automobiles in 1910, Bruce came to believe that a parkway through the Canadian Rockies would draw wealthy tourist-investors to Windermere. His lobbying helped convince the federal and provincial governments to build the Banff-Windermere Highway and establish Kootenay National Park.


The new park and highway would bring auto tourists to the region but not necessarily to Invermere, the CVIF’s townsite. Although Invermere was the largest community in the region, it was off the beaten path for the motoring public, being 15 kilometers south of Kootenay Park’s western gate and on the opposite side of Windermere Lake from the main road through the upper Columbia valley. Local boosters recognized that Invermere needed some kind of special attraction in order to become the region’s premier tourist destination. Searching for such an attraction, they latched onto the explorer David Thompson, who had “discovered” the upper Columbia valley in 1807 and established a trading post called Kootenae House near Windermere Lake. …  Read the full post at:



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