International Peace Arch
Peace Arch Provincial Park
Links and documents
1920/01/01 to 1921/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Peace Arch is a monumental white-painted concrete arch located on the Canadian and American border on the 49th Parallel, between Surrey, British Columbia and Blaine, Washington.
The Peace Arch is valued as a symbol of the peaceful co-existence of two nations and marks the western edge of the longest undefended border in the world.
The Peace Arch is significant for its association with Samuel Hill, American millionaire and founder of the Washington State Good Roads Association and the Pacific Highway Association. As a Quaker and humanitarian, Hill was an ardent advocate of peace. The last hostilities between Canada and the United States ended in 1814 with the Treaty of Ghent, and Hill sought to commemorate that event with an appropriate public memorial. The First World War delayed his efforts, but after Armistice he pursued the idea as part of his road-building schemes for the Pacific Northwest.
The Peace Arch is significant for demonstrating cooperation in commemorating over a century of peace between the two countries. Hill's friends and supporters from both nations donated their services. The main proponents included Canadians; Albert E. Todd, credited with the idea for the monument and Robert Pim Butchart, who operated a quarry on Vancouver Island and donated construction materials. Americans, W.H. Bassett acted as the lead contractor and E.W. Simmons was the engineer. Permission to build the Arch had to be received from both Canadian and American authorities. Completed in 1920, the Arch is located diagonally on the border with one pylon support in each country.
The significance of the Peace Arch also lies in its architectural symbolism. The design is based on the classical Doric Order. Massive in scale, the Arch dominates the view. Two huge piers support a monumental pediment. Mouldings and ornamentation are over-scaled, intended to be viewed from a distance. The colour of the paint, pure white, symbolizes peace. References to the peaceful ties between the two countries are an integral part of the architecture. Mounted on the exterior walls are bronze plaques to two famous ships, the Hudson's Bay Company "S.S. Beaver" on the Canadian side and the "Mayflower" on the American side; wooden relics from each ship were originally sealed behind each plaque. Also significant is the design and construction of the Peace Arch structure. A massive example of reinforced concrete construction, the Arch stands over twenty metres high and seventeen metres wide. It is believed to be one of the first structures in North America designed to be earthquake resistant.
The Peace Arch is also valued for its association with famed American architect, Harvey Wiley Corbett (1873-1954), who donated the design. A graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, Corbett's practice was based in New York City and he is credited with the design of some of that city's more prominent commissions, including several early skyscrapers. Corbett's firm was one of three that were teamed together to design Rockefeller Centre in New York.
The Peace Arch is valued for its setting within the Peace Arch Provincial Park in Canada and Peace Arch State Park in the United States, symbolic of the good will between the two countries, who have jointly undertaken planning and development of the park. School children from both sides of the border participated in fundraising to acquire additional park land to enhance the setting of the Peace Arch. The Canadian portion of Peace Arch Park was officially dedicated in 1939.
Peace Arch Park has also been the site of symbolic events and protests, such as the four famous concerts performed by American singer and peace activist Paul Robeson, from the back of a flatbed truck after his passport had been revoked by the American Government. The Park continues to be a catalyst that brings people from the two countries together to participate in annual events celebrating peace and friendship.
Source: City of Surrey Planning Department
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Peace Arch include its:
- location close to Canadian Highway 99 and American Interstate 5, diagonally astride the Canadian-American border
- position in the central median of the highway
- placement within a landscaped park setting, including an expanse of lawn, planted flower beds and mature shrubs and trees
- form, as expressed by a flat arch with pediments; oversize scale; and monumental size and massing
- reinforced concrete construction
- Classical expression in the Doric Order
- inscriptions on the Arch: "Brethren Dwelling Together in Unity" on the Canadian side and "Children of a Common Mother" on the American side
- wrought iron gates, fixed in an open position, with inscriptions above: "1814 - Open One Hundred Years - 1914" and "May These Gates Never be Closed"
- moulded bronze plaques, such as relief panels of the "S.S. Beaver" and the "Mayflower"
- two spruce flagpoles, each over seven metres high, flying the Canadian and American flags
- symbolic use of the colour white
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
1939/01/01 to 1939/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Governing Canada
- Canada and the World
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Philosophy and Spirituality
Function - Category and Type
- Commemorative Monument
Architect / Designer
Harvey Wiley Corbett
Location of Supporting Documentation
City of Surrey Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection