Flowers in the Thompson Okanagan, Photo Allen Jones
Located in Boundary Country in the southernmost area of the Thompson Okanagan region, history is what makes Greenwood tick. Visitors come here to see the colourful, quirky, buildings – over 60 at last count – with many offering a peak into the past such as the Deadwood coffee house and antique store. When you have explored the town, a hike up Jubilee Mountain offers stunning views over the valley. Trails are aplenty in this area especially with the historic Kettle Valley Rail Trail nearby. You can walk or bike for miles along this popular trail that once transported people and goods by rail. Fishing, golfing and water sports are all nearby in the many rivers and lakes.
Rich in historic charm, the story of Greenwood dates back to the discovery of rich lodes of copper-gold ore by prospectors in 1891. The dreams of Robert Wood came true, when in 1895 he purchased the land that is now the site of the city, built a General Store, and named the settlement Greenwood. With the discovery of rich copper ore came an influx of people from far and wide, and within two years the former rugged wilderness region had been transformed into a booming frontier city, one of the busiest and richest mining regions in Canada. Greenwood had become the social and economic hub of the entire Boundary region.
The City of Greenwood was incorporated in 1897, and by 1899, the population had reached 2,000, with the city boasting many fine hotels, an opera house, a newspaper, and countless other stores, services, and businesses that served the other mining camps in the region, such as Eholt, Boundary Falls, Phoenix, and Deadwood.
Greenwood’s new smelter plant was commissioned in 1901, processing copper-gold ore from the nearby Motherlode Mine, and mines in Nelson and Rossland. The smelter’s 121 foot brick smoke stack that looms over the city is one of the few surviving in the province, surrounded by mounds of black slag that once glowed red hot, an ever-present reminder of the early golden days of mining.
By 1910 the mining boom had peaked, with both Greenwood and nearby Phoenix enjoying steady business. However, copper prices soon plummeted, the market died, and by 1918, Greenwood was virtually deserted.
This changed with the onset of the Second World War, when a thousand displaced Japanese Canadians arrived by train to be interned in the vacant houses in the town during 1942. They were part of the 22,000 people of Japanese descent who were forced to leave their coastal homes during the first nine months of 1942, representing the largest mass movement of people in the history of Canada. Thus Greenwood was saved from the ghost town status that befell virtually every other mining community in the region. The new residents of Greenwood transformed the town into a bustling community, once again, and when the war ended in 1945 and many city councils endorsed the deportation of Japanese Canadians, Greenwood stood fast in supporting its much appreciated community members.
Today, Greenwood has evolved into a historic tourism destination, and remains deeply committed to mining and forestry, and is expanding its role as a regional continuing education centre.