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Description du lieu patrimonial
Courtenay’s Fifth Street is the main commercial street in downtown Courtenay, stretching from the Courtenay River in the north to the Lake Trail Middle School to the south. The two-lane street encompasses both residential and commercial uses in distinct districts; the commercial downtown consists of one or two-storey businesses along a pedestrian street while the residential consists of modest homes immediately adjacent to the sidewalk. The historic place consists of the length of the streetscape and its component built and landscape features.
Fifth Street is valued for its historical, cultural and aesthetic significance, particularly as part of the early organization of the City of Courtenay, its early and ongoing connection between the Courtenay River and Comox Lake via the Lake Trail Road, and its vestiges of an untouched commercial main street in a small British Columbia town.
The heritage value of Fifth Street lies in its historical association with leading Courtenay pioneers of the late 19th century, particularly Joseph McPhee, who was the visionary behind the original subdivision, and its historically central role in the commercial culture of the city. It is important as an identified constituent of the very earliest conception of the City of Courtenay, being part of the original townsite and noted as Union Street on the town’s first survey by George F. Drabble in 1892. This early subdivision paved the way for the establishment of Courtenay’s commercial core, which thrived after the opening of the Cumberland mines beginning in 1888, and the arrival of businesses which established Courtenay as the service and commercial centre for the resource-dependent Comox Valley.
The street is important for connecting key aspects of the city. In the late 1800s, the bridge over the river at its northern end was a key connection point to sawmills and other industries to the north. The street connects the commercial heart of the city in its central blocks to houses further south and the Lake Trail Middle School property before continuing southward to join Lake Trail Road. Also important is the visual connection southward to the Comox Glacier, a reminder of the closeness of the natural heritage of the area and which contributes to the character of the street. The change in character and land use between the main street commercial and modest residential portions of the street are a valuable reminder of the continuing expansion of Courtenay as its population grew.
Fifth Street is important for its early and ongoing role as the commercial centre of town, seen in its early establishment as a service centre for adjoining mining settlements, such as Union Bay and Comox, and through the development of a variety of businesess over its history catering to the needs of worker, citizen and visitor alike. It is important for its social role as Courtenay’s ceremonial route, as the city’s embodiment of the ‘main street’ in small towns throughout North America, and for having withstood the vagaries of the economy and the growing dominance of the automobile in Courtenay beginning in the 1930s and 40s.
Fifth Street is important for its aesthetic values, seen less in the individual buildings and structures than in the overall effect of its physical characteristics, combined with the intangible values of community life and social use of the street. The low profile buildings, boutique stores, open air shopping, the intimate relationship of street, sidwalk and storefronts, and 1950s feel combine to cement the particular character of this rare, viable, surviving main street in a small British Columbia town.
Source: City of Courtenay Planning Department
Key elements which define the heritage character of Fifth Street include its:
- retention of original survey pattern and lot layout
- north-south alignment with a gentle graded slope down to the river
- curve of street after it passes over the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway tracks
- views to southwest and the Comox Glacier, views to northeast and the Courtenay Bridge
- open space of the Lake Trail Middle School anchoring the residential end of the street
- spatial definition of the commercial area by one or two-storey buildings
- more open character of the residential area
- minimal setbacks in the residential area
Buildings and structures
- mostly continuous walls of building fronts in the commercial core
- false-fronted architectural style of the commercial buildings with raised parapets, awnings and plate glass storefronts, often with recessed door openings
- modest homes in the residential section
- wood-frame building materials
- contrast between commercial and residential areas
- long time businesses still remaining in the commercial area
- variety of signage including Leung's Grocery and the Clock
- intimate relationship of building, sidewalk and street
- street furnishings, including benches, trees, and lamp standards
- pockets of tree planting in the residential portion
- front yards in the residential portion
Autorité de reconnaissance
Administrations locales (C.-B.)
Local Government Act, art.954
Type de reconnaissance
Répertoire du patrimoine communautaire
Date de reconnaissance
Données sur l'histoire
Thème - catégorie et type
Catégorie de fonction / Type de fonction
- Transport terrestre
- Route ou voie publique
Architecte / Concepteur
Emplacement de la documentation
City of Courtenay Planning Department
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