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A Heritage Walking Tour of Fernie

Three tragic disasters have nearly brought total destruction to Fernie since its founding over a hundred years ago. However, the persistence of its locals have always restored the town back to its glory. As you walk around town look hard and you'll see that Fernie exudes history the moment you step into the downtown area.

This tour visits eight of Fernie’s most iconic Historic Downtown buildings and features a variety of architectural styles and photo opportunities. Beautiful deep gold and rose-tinted brick and sandstone buildings line 2nd Avenue and are unique to Fernie. Look for evidence of the 1908 fire in the form of soot and smoke residue on the brickwork.

As if alighting from an arriving train, begin a walking tour of Fernie at the former CPR Station, 501 1st Avenue, now the Fernie Arts Station. 

Accessible, paved sidewalks | Approx. 30 minutes – 1 hour

Fernie Downtown Historic Landmarks Map

1. CPR STATION

601 1st Avenue | Now in use as The Arts Station

In its early years, the Canadian Pacific Railway station was the centre of activity in Fernie whenever a train stopped to unload passengers, mail, and other goods. As use of the automobile grew, rail travel declined and so did use of this Second-Class station. Passenger services were finally discontinued in 1964. The train tracks are still in daily use however, carrying the freight trains that regularly pass through the Elk Valley. The beautiful Rocky Mountaineer can also occasionally be spotted on a charter trip. Since 1987, the Fernie & District Arts Council has used this facility as a performing and fine arts venue. Dine trackside at the Blue Toque Café and imagine yourself arriving on the platform for the first time 100 years ago!

2. THE HOME BANK

491 2nd Avenue | Now in use as The Fernie Museum and Visitor Information Centre

This highly decorative building was constructed in 1910 to house a branch of the Home Bank on the main floor and the Herchmer-Mitchel Law Office on the second floor. Except for the paint, the exterior is in its original configuration making this a significant heritage building. The failure of the Home Bank in 1923 cost Fernie depositors $800,000 and led to a rewriting of Canada’s banking laws. These new rules prevented the widespread bank failures in the 1930s.

3. THE IMPERIAL BANK 1909

401 2nd Ave | Now in use as The Brickhouse Bar & Grill

On August 1, 1908, on the corner of 2nd Ave and 4th St, the members of the Fernie Fire Department made their last stand in the fight of the catastrophic fire that would consume Fernie in just 90 minutes. The Imperial Bank of Canada built a new bank here in 1909, using a standard small city branch design. The company merged with the Canadian Bank of Commerce in 1961 and closed the branch in 1963. Although some features have been altered, the brick and sandstone exterior retains many of its striking original features. Step inside for a taste of today; the Brickhouse serves up a large selection of Fernie Brewing Company Beers, BC wines and a tasty pub menu. The original bank vault is still in use as the chef’s pantry.

4. THE COURT HOUSE

401 4th Ave | Now in use as Fernie’s Government of BC Offices

Lauded as one of BC’s best buildings, the Court House is a spectacular chateau-style building rarely found in the area. Enjoy the grounds and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. See p26 for more.

5. HOLY FAMILY CATHOLIC CHURCH

521 4th Avenue

The history of the church dates back to the beginning of Fernie when Father J. Welsh was sent from Cranbrook to hold masses for approximately 200 miners in 1898. Some of these miners donated one day’s wages every month towards the construction of a place of worship and volunteer parishioners completed this church in 1912. It was and still is home to Fernie’s largest congregation.

6. THE CROW’S NEST PASS COAL CO. OFFICES

501 3rd Avenue | Now in use as City Hall

In 1905, the Crow’s Nest Pass Coal Co. constructed this building as the head office to manage its expanding coal mining operations. It also housed the offices of the Crow’s Nest Pass Electric Co. and the Morrissey-Fernie-Michel Railway, subsidiaries of the coal company. Constructed in cement blocks and standing on a spacious lot, the building survived the 1908 Great Fire and served as a place of refuge during and after the fire. It has served as Fernie’s City Hall since 1984; Mayor Giuliano welcomes visitors. Located on the grounds, The Miner’s Walk is a fascinating glimpse into Fernie’s coal mining heritage. The walk features interpretive panels, sculpture, challenges for children, ironwork art from the Fernie Forge and municipal garden with picnic tables and benches.

7. THE FERNIE POST OFFICE AND CUSTOMS OFFICE

492 3rd Avenue | Now in use as the Fernie Heritage Library

This imposing Romanesque Revival building reflects Fernie’s importance as a government centre for the region; the engraved stone signs above the entrance to the Post Office and Customs Office are still in place. The building, for a time, served as the US consul office for the region. Built in 1907, the building was gutted but not destroyed in the 1908 Great Fire. An exhibit on the 1908 Great Fire is located on the landing of the main staircase.

8. FERNIE CARTAGE COMPANY

701 2nd Avenue | Now in use as Urban Settler and private residences

Unlike many businesses in Fernie’s Historic Downtown, the Fernie Cartage Company rebuilt its livery using rubblestone from the banks of the Elk River, rather than brick, following the 1908 Great Fire, making it unique in downtown Fernie. For many years before automobiles were commonly used, the company delivered milk, coal, and other goods with a fleet of horse-drawn drays. In the 1920s, it was “The Up-To-Date Garage,” servicing a number of makes of early automobiles, and owned by prominent Italian entrepreneur, Al Rizzuto.

The walk ends on the corner of 2nd Avenue & 7th Street. Take a stroll down Main Street, sometimes known as Victoria Avenue, and enjoy streetside patios, boutique shopping and cultural attractions. Visit working artists and artisans in their studios and soak in the atmosphere of a town rich in history and heritage. Look up for the beautiful art banners on downtown lampposts featuring a variety of new local artwork.

-Rebecca Hall

Learn more about Fernie's history at the Fernie Museum, and also in the Fernie & Elk Valley Cultural Guide. Special thanks to the Fernie Museum for the kind usage of the photographs.

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