Baker Street - Nelson, BC
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member ScroogieII
N 49° 29.550 W 117° 17.550
11U E 478817 N 5482248
Quick Description: Baker Street is Nelson's main commercial avenue, as it has been essentially from Nelson's beginnings, in the 1890s.
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Date Posted: 9/13/2020 12:28:11 PM
Waymark Code: WM134FZ
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member bluesnote
Views: 0

Long Description:
Settlement in the city of Nelson began immediately following silver, lead, copper and gold finds in the vicinity of Nelson in 1886 and 1887. Vernon Street, a block to the north, received the first stores, hotels and miners' shacks, but the business community quickly began to build on Baker Street. Though both remain important commercial streets, it's Baker Street which today contains the majority of the historic commercial buildings in Nelson.

A defining moment for Baker Street occurred in 1897, with the passing of a bylaw enforcing the use of brick or stone in all new construction. The city fathers were acutely aware of the fates of other stick built communities which had, one by one, endured massive fires roaring through their wooden downtown buildings and endeavoured to avoid a similar one. With Baker Street's streetscape essentially complete by the very early 1900s, these forward thinking aldermen have succeeded in preserving for us almost all of the built heritage of Baker Street. Only a very few of the street's early buildings have been lost to fire or the wrecking ball over the years, leaving the turn of the century heritage district we see today.

Until 1899, brothels were located on Baker Street's east end, these businesses being relocated to West Lake Street as a means of isolating “undesirable” entities in the city.

The photos below are a view down historic Baker Street from just east of Josephine Street, looking west. The buff brick building on the left with the finials over the cornice is the Burns Block, built in 1899, the most ornate commercial building in Nelson. Further down on the left, the building with the tower and conical roof is the KWC Block, built in 1900.

On the right, the first building, barely visible, is the 1904 Wood Vallance Hardware Building. Next to it, the pink and white building, is the 1897 Aberdeen Block. The large three storey building at the end of the block is the 1930 Medical Arts Building.

Essentially every building which is still in place in the 2015 photo is a Nelson Heritage Building.
Baker Street
Baker Street is the main commercial street of Nelson and the location of a fine collection of historical commercial buildings. Located just up from the waterfront, the street extends from the old Canadian Pacific Railway station at its western end to the steep terrain at its eastern terminus.

Baker Street is valued for its historical, commercial and cultural associations with the early city, its architecture, and its role in the early heritage conservation movement in the province of B.C. Baker Street is named for MPP Colonel James Baker of Cranbrook, B.C.

Baker Street is important as part of the very earliest conception of Nelson, being noted on the town’s first survey by Arthur Stanhope Farwell in 1888, and for its past and ongoing role as the social, cultural and commercial centre of town.

The street is associated with early entrepreneurs during the late 19th century through its use as the traditional retail corridor for the city of Nelson, catering to the needs of mining companies and railway construction crews including brothels located at the east end. Commercial expansion continued throughout the 1890s and early 1900s establishing Baker Street’s impressive streetscape. This was due to the construction of fire-retardant masonry buildings, the result of the 1897 City of Nelson bylaw enforcing brick or stone building material for new buildings and masonry party walls, a means to prevent devastating fires such as those that had occurred in other Kootenay communities. This collection of historic commercial buildings are associated with some of the leading local and provincial architects of the time, including Alexander Carrie Arthur E. Hodgins, Alexander Ewart and Francis M. Rattenbury. The street car system serviced Baker Street from 1899 to 1949.

Baker Street is culturally important for having survived intact both the fluctuations of the local economy over the life of the city and the growing dominance of the automobile in urban life, with its tendency to draw commercial activity away from a community’s main street. The thoroughfare is important for the way in which it physically connects key aspects of the downtown core, including the railway station and industrial lands at its western end, the commercial heart of the city in its central blocks, houses for the elite further east, and the bluff face that defines the downtown’s eastern edge. A section of Baker Street was part of the Southern Trans Provincial Highway system.

Baker Street, and Nelson as a whole, was important in the early years of the heritage conservation movement in British Columbia. With the institution of the first provincial Heritage Conservation Act in the mid 1970’s, Nelson was selected as a case study for the newly emerging concept of community heritage conservation; the results of the study were published in the volume Nelson: A Proposal for Urban Heritage Conservation.

Baker Street is significant as one of the few intact main streets in the province and possesses one of the greatest concentration of architecturally valuable historic commercial buildings of any city of comparable size. The Heritage Canada Foundation recognized Nelson’s uniqueness and used it as a pilot project for its Mainstreet Program, while the Nelson Heritage Area Revitalization Program initiated streetscape improvements and stabilized and rehabilitated downtown commercial facades over a 10 year period in the 1980s.

With community support and a locally appointed Downtown Development Officer, the heritage revitalization of Baker Street set the stage for Nelson’s transformation from a resource based community to one focused on tourism and the arts, while creating the unique and historically significant streetscape character seen today.
From the City of Nelson Heritage Register, Page 13
Official Heritage Registry: [Web Link]

Baker Street
Nelson, BC

Heritage Registry Page Number: Not listed

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