Description of Historic Place
The Fish Cannery, also known as Gulf of Georgia Cannery, is prominently located at the western end of Steveston’s Cannery Row on Moncton Street in Richmond, British Columbia. Projecting over the north bank entrance to the south arm of the Fraser River, the complex of buildings is set on a timber, post and beam wharf. The large, wood-frame structure consists of a combination of low, wide, and long gable-roofed sections with shed-roofed additions, including a main block, east wing, main block extension and various outbuildings. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.
The Fish Cannery is a Classified Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.
The Fish Cannery dates from a period of intensive growth in the fishing industry during the mid-1890s. As the Gulf of Georgia became the centre of fishing and processing, a large number of canneries emerged along the two-kilometre waterfront strip adjacent to the village of Steveston, including the Fish Cannery in 1894. Unlike most of its contemporary neighbors, the Fish Cannery managed to survive the numerous fluctuations of the industry and remain in continuous operation as a major fish processing facility for over eighty years, until its final closure in 1979.
The Fish Cannery is celebrated for its good aesthetic qualities and excellent functional design. The cannery underwent numerous alterations throughout its history, mirroring changes in mechanization and reflecting transitions in the commercial fishing industry and the operations of the cannery itself. The complex is comprised of the main block (built in 1894), east wing (built in 1897), main block extension (built in 1906) and various additions and outbuildings constructed after 1940. An early industrial facility, its walls are clad in cove siding and in plain and corrugated cement board. A variety of roof elements that include clerestories, ventilators, catwalks and chimneys, add visual variety to the functional appearance of the cannery. The aesthetic appeal of Fish Cannery springs from this mixture of shapes and massings that emerged in the course of its evolution as an industrial complex.
The Fish Cannery is valued for its excellent contribution to local development in the Steveston community, reflecting the expansion of the commercial fishing industry from the Fraser River. In relation to surrounding buildings, the irregular shape of the property harmonizes with the configuration of the utilitarian plant and several outbuildings. The cannery’s location on the edge of Steveston's commercial core and adjacent to the public wharf makes it the most conspicuous fish processing plant in the area and a well-known landmark.
Sources: Edward Mills, Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site, Steveston, British Columbia, Federal Heritage Building Review Office Building Report 85-013; Former Gulf of Georgia Cannery, Steveston, British Columbia, Heritage Character Statement, 85-013.
The character-defining elements of the Fish Cannery should be respected.
The heritage value of the Fish Cannery resides in the form and fabric of the complex, the historic equipment it contains and its compatible context, namely:
- the wharf on which the building rests, constructed in round timber posts and heavy timber beams and lateral bracing;
- its vernacular rather than highly engineered design;
- the original timber framing, including light timber framing for the roof, walls and floors, and heavy timber for posts, beams and mezzanine supports;
- the combination of low, wide, and long gable-roofed sections with shed-roofed additions;
- the exterior cladding of cove siding and corrugated cement board;
- the external red and white colour scheme;
- the clerestories, wood and metal ventilators, cat-walks, chimneys, and the variety of roof and wall finish materials that contribute to the varied composition of the exterior;
- the vitamin oil shed, separate oil tank storage building and ice house, which feature medium-pitch gable roofs, clad with drop siding, and details found on earlier exterior walls;
- the dryer shed with a medium-pitch gable roof and cement board cladding;
- the limited number of access points through both land and water which maintain the internal orientation of the cannery;
- the evolutionary character of the interior, as expressed by the presence of both self-contained and interconnected spaces;
- any remaining interior features which testify to its prior use as a fish cannery, including script, temporary fasteners and the rich patina of dirt, oil and fish-scale deposits.
The manner in which Fish Cannery reinforces its historical associations with the commercial fishing industry, as evidenced by:
- its evolutionary architecture which adapted to the changing demands of the industry;
- its physical relationship and proximity to the navigable water of the Fraser River.