Downtown Historic Walking Tour

Quesnel & District Museum and Archives

The museum is located in the beautiful, five acre Lebourdais Park, named for local pioneer telegrapher and historian, Louis Lebourdais. Mr. Lebourdais was also the MLA for the Cariboo from 1937 to 1947. During the 1920s and 30s, this park area was used as a horse racetrack, picnic site, and sports field. Horse racing was a popular form of Cariboo entertainment, and parimutuel betting added to the excitement. The nearby hill overlooking the park, where Dunrovin Park Lodge is today, was the site of the Willingdon Golf Course clubhouse in the 1930s.

Railway Station

Quesnel remained the northern terminus until 1952, when a bridge built across the Cottonwood River allowed the railway to be completed to Prince George. The Railway Station House was built in 1921. Weest of the Railway Station is the original Quesnel Creamery building, built the same year. This creamery, which in 1925 was shipping 46,000 lbs of butter by rail, provided the small farmer with ready cash, and made Quesnel famous as a butter-producing centre along the railway line.

Quesnel Pioneer Cemetary

The earliest marked grave belongs to Thomas Brown who died May 10, 1878. When Louis LeBourdais passed away in 1947, he was buried outside the boundaries of the cemetery, respecting his request that he not be "fenced in" Please feel free to browse through the cemetery, and to take the Pioneer Cemetery Tour.

St. Andrew's United Church

This is Quesnel's oldest church, built in 1911 as the Presbyterian Church. Up on the roof is the bell tower, which houses the 600 lb bell that continues to ring each Sunday morning, calling the people to service.


The Quesnel Cenotaph was built to commemorate those who served and were killed in WWI, WWII, and the Korean War. Originally, this corner site held the Union Church. It was a small building, but served the entire Protestant community from 1898 until 1911, when it was sold to the Anglican congregation for $500 and moved to the trianglar shaped land formed by Kinchant St, Davie St, and the present day Moffat Bridge Approach. there, the Anglican community, in 1913, built a new, large church and clergy residence which were consumed by fire in 1923. A new church, St. John the Divine, was built two years later, in its present location, at the north end of Kinchant St.

Quesnel's First High School

Quesnel's first high school was built in 1936. In 1965, it was named Helen Dixon Elementary, to honour a beloved, long time teacher. After 60 years of constant service, the school was condemned, but it was only vacant for a very short time, before being restored for its present use for continuing education.

Blacksmith Shop site

Where the Fraser River GM dealership now sits was once the site of Quesnel's many blacksmith shops. James Seymour, John Lyne, William Peebles, Wilkie & Co., and John Lazzarin are just some of the names of Quesnel's pioneer blacksmiths, some dating as far back as the 1860s. Before the automobile era, several livery stables also operated along here. Among the most successful were the Johnston Brothers. Between 1909 and 1922 they owned a number of stables in Quesnel; the Quesnel Livery, the Occidental Hotel stables, and the Cariboo Hotel stables. With the coming of the automobile to Quesnel, they established the Johnston Brothers Chevrolet dealership, which the family operated from 1922 until 1999.

Automobile Dealerships

What is now the Cariboo Ford lot has been home to several enterprises over the years, including St. Paul's Cafe, Kube's Shoe Store, the Annex Hotel, and Winston Motors. In the back of the lot were the automobile dealerships: Albert Boyd's Garage in the 1920s, Beath & Matheson/Sharpe Motors in the 1930s, and Meridian Motors in 1965.

First Municipal Hall site

Where Petro Canada now sits was once Quesnel's first Municipal Hall, built shortly after the town's incorporation in 1928. The Fire Bell (also on this tour) was also located on this site. In 1958, the second Town Hall was built on the corner of Kinchant and Barlow.

Alfred Carson's Blacksmith Shop site

Now the Chevron station, this site was home to Alfred Carson's Blacksmith shop and residence during the town's early days. Carson, a Swedish blacksmith, married the daughter of John Boyd of Cottonwood House. Carson Avenue is named after him.

Former Cariboo Observer site

This was the location of the Cariboo Observer office from 1910 until 1924. After they relocated, the building on site became an important annex to the school. In the early 1930s, after it was no longer needed for a school, the building became home to the T.M. Owens Department Store, and remained so, with various additions until Owens retired in 1990 and the building was demolished. West of the corner, on the present location of the Quesnel Music store, was situated Elliott's Tobacco and Billiards, Howison's Hardware and Mrs. Hill's Ladies Millinery Shop, also circa early 1900s. The ever-important Masonic hall occupied the top floor of Elliott's.

Cariboo Observer

This stately brick structure, originally the Royal Bank, was built in 1928, the year of Quesnel's municipal incorporation. For many years Mr Ray Commons managed the bank, which became affectionately known as "the House of Commons".

Former boarding house

The current site of Season's House was the original site of G.B. Wright's residence of 1863. It became the Hudson Bay Co. Factor's residence in 1867 and much later, in 1919, a boarding house known as the Travelers Rest. Miss Sally Thompson, a spinster and owner-operator of the establishment, had many admirers who frequently brought her wild game and birds to serve at her table. In an age before electric refrigerators, Miss Thomspson found it hard to keep up with these gifts, and sometimes had to resort to burying the offerings in her garden.

Hudson's Bay Company

This is Quesnel's oldest building, still in use. Constructed in 1863 by G.B. Wright, pioneer road contractor and steamboat builder, the property was sold to the Hudson's Bay Company in 1867. In 1882, the company enlarged the building on the north and south sides, and built a new and larger roof. When the HBC closed their business in 1919, the building was sold to a local druggist Charles Allison, who found sufficient room to operate his drug store, a bookstore, and an ice cream parlour. The City of Quesnel purchased the building in 1984 and declared it a Heritage Site. This building is believed to be Canada's oldest surviving Hudson's Bay Post on its original site.

Lower Front St

The empty lot next to the Hudson's Bay building held the Bank of British Columbia buiding between 1864 and 1866. Next to this structure was the office of Gold Commissioner Peter O'Reilly. When he was transferred in 1864, the building became Barnard's Express and Goudie's General Store. The lower end of Front Street held James Reid's sawmill and gristmill during the same 1870s era.

Cornish Water Wheel

The Canadian Institute of Mining moved the Cornish Water Wheel to this site in 1930 from its original home on Williams Creek in the Barkerville area. Here it serves as a memorial to the first Cariboo miners.

SS Enterprise boiler

This is the boiler from the first steamship to arrive in Quesnel. G.B. Wright launched this ship near Alexandria in 1863. The Enterprise was one of 12 paddle wheelers to travel the Fraser River between Soda Creek and Quesnel to haul miners, ranchers, businesses, and their supplies to the Cariboo. An information board, next to the Enterprise's boiler details a brief history of the machinery and of steamship travel on the Fraser River

Steam Shovel

At Lhtako Dene Park there is a steam shovel on display. Several information boards throughout the park supply further data on Quesnel's important landmarks. This beautiful park marks the historically significant junction of the Quesnel and Fraser Rivers.

John Strand Park

This small park is named to honour the Norwegian carpenter and construction worker, who built many of Quesnel's early buildings, including the Cariboo Hotel, Catholic church, SS Quesnel Sternwheeler and Quesnel's first hospital. This site, on the corner of Front St and Carson Ave, is also where James Reid built his large, fully stocked general store in the early 1870s. Reid had been a successful miner of the 1860s, and invested his wealth in the community of Quesnel. At one time he owned several businesses including the store, a sawmill, a flour/grist mill, shares in several paddle wheelers, and his own ship, the SS Charlotte. Reid was elected as a Federal Member for the Cariboo in 1881, and became a Senator in 1888. Following his death, a nephew, George Cowan, purchased the Reid store, and operated it as Cowan's Hardware. The building was one of many to perish in the disastrous fire of 1916, but was quickly rebuilt by Cowan, this time with clay bricks, made by the Quesnel Brick Company.

Front Street

Next to John Strand Park is the site of a small building that housed the Bank of British North America from 1911 until its closure in 1917. The Hill Meat Market established by Lynn and Aveline Hill operated on the same lot from the 1930s to the 1960s. the next building was the John A Fraser's General Store, which opened for business in 1909 and continued until 1956. Fraser was an entrepreneur and politician of the early 1900s. He represented the Cariboo as MLA and MP for many years. Following the fire of 1916, Fraser built again, and it is this building which continues to exist on the site. next to Fraser's store, was the site of the Northern Crown Bank. Since the only banking facilities were located in Ashcroft, Quesnel businessmen petitioned to have a bank in Quesnel. Thus, the Northern Crown Bank opened temporary offices in this Occidental Hotel south annex site, in 1909.

Occidental Hotel

Back in the very earliest days of settlement in 1865, this site housed the Occidental Hotel. During the gold rush, Quesnel served as a welcomed rest spot on the Cariboo Wagon Road and Hugh Gillis and Thomas Brown built the Occidental Hotel to cater to the comforts of weary miners as they made their way to the gold-rich creeks. The hotel was sold in 1907, to Edward Kepner of Seattle, who tore down the old building, and built Quesnel's first 4-story structure, containing 100 rooms. The new hotel boasted a large, well appointed dining room complete with bar and billiard table. Unfortunately this beautiful building was also consumed in the fire of 1916, and was not rebuilt. Edward Kepner was ruined financially, and returned to Seattle. In 1922, a local businessman, William T. Ewing, bough the lot, and also the defunct Anglican Church boarding school which was built in 1913 and located on upper Kinchant St. Ewing moved this building down to the Front St site and in 1925, after much renovation, the hotel re-opened as the new British American Hotel. Just days after opening, Mr. Ewing passed away. A later owner, Percy Elsey, in 1930, renamed it the Quesnel Hotel.

Cariboo Hotel

During the 1860s, there were four breweries operating in the Cariboo. Kerr and Duhig were advertising San Francisco Style Lager, English Ales and Porter for sale in their Front Street Brewery Saloon. Mrs McLaughlin bought this modest two-story log building in 1870, and renamed it the Hotel Cariboo. Later, Archibald McNaughton, an Overlander of 1862 purchased this hotel in 1894. Not to be outdone by the renovations being don one the neighbouring Occidental Hotel, the hotel's next owner, John Strand, in 1910, tore down the roughly built structure. He constructed a new 3-story hotel, complete with a theatre annex, known as the "Empress" on the north side. Quesnel's first motion pictures were shown here and this soon became a favourite meeting place for members of Quesnel's society. Unfortunately, this is where the huge fire of 1916 began, the disaster which resulted in eleven buildings being destroyed, amounting to over $250,000 in damages. Despite the loss, Strand rebuilt a 2-storey hotel immediately. this building erected in 1916, with renovations by various owners, continues to operate as the Cariboo Hotel.

T. Marion store site

The 1916 stopped just short of Telesphore Marion's store, which was situated in the parking lot next to the Cariboo Hotel. Mr. Marion, a French Canadian, built his general store in 1894, unique for being the first self serve outlet in the Cariboo. Sitting in a very high chair, he could watch his customers choose their groceries, ensuring their honesty with his constant view. Mr. Marion enjoyed being the first in Quesnel to acquire new and modern inventions. he owned the town's inaugural car, and the first gramophone, which he played for the enjoyment of the public from his second story balcony. In 1933, Alex Moffat purchased the Marion building and established the Northern hardware Store.

Yan War apothecary site

From the 1860s until the 1930s most of Barlow Ave and this section of Front St was called "China Town". Chinese immigrants played an important role in the early development of Quesnel. They came to escape the poverty and political upheaval of their homeland, and while most became miners, a significant number also became successful businessmen. In 1869, Yan War, one such merchant, opened a Chinese apothecary on the corner of Barlow and Front St, the present site of the Ulysses Restaurant parking lot. The Central Cafe, one of Quesnel's oldest restaurants (dating back to 1865), was located here behind Yan War's store, as was the Hing Kee Laundry and restaurant, in business from 1900 to the 1950s.

Wah Lee & Co Store

At the present site of Scotiabank, Chinese entrepreneur Wah Lee owned a combination of stores, restaurants, and rooming houses from 1867 to 1939. Wah Lee's nephews, the Keen brothers succeeded him, and this family continues to operate the business of Keen's Sports, on Reid St.

Chinese Benevolent Society Hall site

This hall served the social and fraternal needs of many of the Chinese members of our community. During the 1860s this was also the site of a gaming house.

C.D. Hoy Restaurant and Boarding House

The first recorded businesses at this site were the Chuie Yen Bakery Laundry, Restaurant and Bathhouse. In 1910 Chow Dong Hoy purchased an adjoining store, and after making renovations and additions, opened it as the C.D. Hoy Restaurant and Boarding House. this building burned down in 1921, but Mr. Hoy immediately rebuilt. By the 1950s he had amalgamated his several buildings into one large department store, containing grocery, hardware, dry goods, and ladies wear sections.

Willis Harper Store

This store opened in 1946 by Bill Willis and his partner Lloyd Harper.

C.D. Hoy residence

This house was built for C.D. Hoy, his wife, and 12 children. Of frame construction, with a full cement basement and many tons of plaster on the walls, it is one of the very few stately houses built during the depression era. Among his many other enterprises, Mr. Hoy was a gifted photographer, and his unique photos of Cariboo residents taken during the early 1900s have recently attracted international notice. You can see them in the Hoy photographic exhibit at the Quesnel Museum.

Billy Barker Hotel

This renovated and refurbished building has operated as a hotel on this site since 1961.

Government Building and Court

The Provincial Government offices and law courts were built in 1965. In earlier times the Richfield Court House in Barkerville held the Cariboo's important court cases. By 1912, the population of Barkerville had declined, and the law courts were moved to Quesnel. The first Quesnel Court House was built in 1914 on this same site, and over the years many famous cases have been tried here by prestigious judges.

Quesnel's 2nd City Hall

Quesnel's second city hall was built in 1958, and now houses Nazko First Nation offices. Attached to this building is the Quesnel Volunteer Fire Department station, which houses several modern fire trucks and equipment. To the left of the entrance, you'll find a 1934 fire truck on display.

Royal Canadian Legion

The local Royal Canadian Legion was instituted in 1927. A tragic fire destroyed the original building in 1995.
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