Heritage Research and Resources
Researching a heritage building allows us to connect to the past, learn more about our community, and better take care of heritage buildings. The following resources are available for heritage research:
Historic Neighbourhood Context StatementsContext Statements are created to determine the broad patterns of historic development in a community.
A historic context statement identifies historic property types or styles which represent the history of the neighbourhood as well as the trends, forces, events and history which shaped development.
City of New Westminster Historic Context Statements
Heritage InventoryThe Heritage Resource Inventory is an informal listing of historic New Westminster properties. The Heritage Inventory was the City’s first step to identify local heritage assets.
The initial four-part Inventory was created in the 1980s and updated in the 1990s:
- Volume 1: Downtown
- Volume 2: Queens Park, Uptown, Brow of the Hill
- Volume 2 (Supplement): Albert Crescent
- Volume 3: Sapperton, Victory Heights, Queensborough, Connaught Heights, West End, Kelvin and Glenbrooke
In 2003, the Twelfth Street Heritage Inventory was created (note: partial document available).
In 2009 and 2010, properties in Queensborough were added:
- Queensborough Residential Heritage Inventory
- Queensborough Industrial Heritage Inventory
- Star Shipyard Heritage Assessment
The Inventory is also searchable through the Heritage Inventory Interactive Map.The City expects a high level of consideration and evaluation be given to buildings listed on the Heritage Inventory prior to applying for a demolition permit. Similarly, all efforts should be made to retain Heritage Inventory buildings on properties subject to a rezoning application. All such buildings are eligible for Heritage Revitalization Agreements.If you are considering redeveloping a property with a Heritage Inventory building on it, a Heritage Assessment written by a member of the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP) will be required in order to determine the heritage value of the building and how the proposed changes would affect it. A Heritage Inventory building with heritage value may be asked to consider a Heritage Revitalization Agreement instead of a rezoning.A demolition or redevelopment application for a Heritage Inventory building will be reviewed by the Planning Division. It may also be reviewed by the Community Heritage Commission and Council. Council may temporarily withhold a demolition permit or Building Permit.
A property listed on the Inventory is not legally protected. If a property is legally protected, the protection will be listed on Title, which is available through the BC Land Title and Survey Authority. The City’s online map, where you can download a public site report, will also note heritage protection. Legal protection of a property from demolition or unsympathetic alterations can be achieved through a variety of heritage planning tools. Click here to learn more.
Historic information is available on the second floor of the New Westminster Public Library. The following sources may be helpful in locating information on historical figures, residents of New Westminster, and locating the previous owners, the architect, construction date, or photos of your home.
City Directory (1860 to present)
The City Directory documents each house and lists many of the former occupants. These directories list New Westminster residents' names and sometimes addresses and occupations. The directories are a great resource to track the movement of people around the city. Listings will often include names or initials of all members of a household. The Library also carries telephone directories for New Westminster from 1952 to the present (some of which include most of Metro Vancouver). Start by looking up your name and address in the most recent directory and work your way backward to trace the owners or occupants of the house to 1925. Prior to 1924, the directories covered all of B.C. Locate New Westminster and then continue using the listed names rather than the address. As the Sapperton, West End, and Queensborough neighbourhoods were not originally part of New Westminster, many houses were omitted from the pre-1890 directories. It may be easier to check the Fire Insurance Plans first.
Fire Insurance Plans
The Library has fire insurance maps of New Westminster for the years 1897 (revised in 1905), 1907 (revised 1914 and 1919), and 1957. These maps show the outline of all buildings and their exact locations. Each map was continually revised over time with updates pasted in over the original map.
Heritage Home Tours
Illustrations and descriptions of homes featured annually in the local homes tours from 1980 to the present can be searched online using the NWMA online archives. Tip: use NWPL heritage collection – Heritage Home Tours in the Fonds / Collection Name field to retrieve all the records available. See our guide on searching the entire database for discovering even more historical content!
The historical photograph collection is a dynamic resource of black and white photographs. Aspects of life in the Royal City are chronicled back to 1858 under a wide variety of topics including: buildings, houses, streets, portraits, social life and customs, views from the Fraser River, and the waterfront.
The NWPL collection of historical photographs can be searched online using the NWMA online archives. Tip: use NWPL heritage collection – Photos in the Fonds / Collection Name field to retrieve all the records available. See our guide on searching the entire database for discovering even more historical content!
Photo reproductions can be requested here.
The information file contains information on New Westminster collected from newspapers, magazines and other sources. It includes information on houses, architects and individuals.
Canadian Inventory of Historic Buildings (compiled 1973)
This inventory contains photos of over 350 houses and buildings located primarily in the Queens’ Park, Brow of the Hill, Downtown, West End and Sapperton Neighbourhoods. This information is available at the Library and the Museum.
Newspaper indexing may uncover biographical information on previous owners of your house.
Bowell & Sons Funeral Home index
The Bowell & Sons Records can be searched online using the NWMA online archives. Tip: use NWPL heritage collection – Bowell Funeral Home in the Fonds / Collection Name field to retrieve all the records available. See our guide on searching the entire database for discovering even more historical content!
The Library subscribes to the Ancestry.com online genealogical service. Ancestry contains over 4 billion names in various historical records from around the world. This service is free of charge with a valid library card, but can only be accessed from within the Library.
External genealogical resources
In addition to the local resources available at the New Westminster Public Library, there’s more local content to be discovered from other institutions: New Westminster Museum and Archives, BC Archives and Library and Archives Canada are all useful tools for exploring historical figures both locally, provincially, and country-wide.
Staff at the New Westminster Museum and Archives are available to assist you with your search. Be prepared with a chronological list of homeowner names or a list of your property's various street numbers if changes have occurred since construction. The archives may reveal information through the following sources:
- Building File
- Cemetery Records and Obituaries
- City Directories
- Community Records and Personal Papers
- Fire Insurance Plans
- People Files
- Property Tax Assessment Rolls
- Subject Files
- Water Connection Records
A portion of the archives are available online through the Archives Online service.
- The Building Division (some records and site plans available on Microfiche)
- Community Heritage Commission
- Heritage Management Plan
- The Village at Historic Sapperton Design Guidelines
- New Westminster Preservation Society
- New Westminster Historical Society
- Vancouver Heritage Foundation
- Heritage Vancouver
- City of Vancouver Archives