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3-2229-Blue-Mountain-biking
Blue Mountain Vineyards, Okanagan Falls
(Patrice Halley photo)

Greenwood

Culture & History

The history of Greenwood is inextricably linked with the mineral wealth of the region's mountains and creeks.

Aboriginal people likely used the area for seasonal hunting and fishing thousands of years ago, but they appear not to have set up permanent settlements. Mining and smelting were the engines that drove economic booms in the late 1890s and early 1900s.

Copper Wealth

Placer gold, discovered at Rock Creek (32km/20mi west) in 1859, brought the first prospectors to the region while the first hard rock claim was staked, and copper was discovered at Phoenix (13km/8mi east), in the mid-1880s. All this activity convinced Robert Wood to lay out the Greenwood town site in 1896 and he used his own money to build roads in from the mining camps.

Canada's Smallest City

Having attained the minimum population requirement for city status, Greenwood was incorporated in 1897. When the Columbia & Western Railway was pushed through in 1899 mining really took off. The British Columbia Copper Company built a smelter in Greenwood to process ore from its Mother Lode mine. Production began in 1901 and this became one of the biggest copper-producing areas in the world.

Today all that remains is the immense slag heap and the smelter's 36m/118ft brick smokestack. Greenwood's population has dwindled to about 600 people, making it Canada's smallest city.

Economic Downturn

World-wide copper markets collapsed at the end of the First World War and the smelter closed in 1919, devastating the local economy. By the Second World War, Greenwood's population had plummeted to 200 people from a high of around 3,000.

Japanese-Canadian Internment Camp

In 1941, the mayor saw an opportunity in the Canadian government's wartime policy of interning Japanese-Canadians and requested that Greenwood be set up as a camp. The population was suddenly bolstered by the influx of 1,000 internees.

Greenwood welcomed these displaced people and the two communities got on well together. After the war, many returned and made Greenwood their home, permanently transforming the character of the tiny city.

Explore this interesting history through the excellent displays at the Greenwood Museum.

Movie Set

In 1998, Greenwood was selected to represent the fictitious town of Amity Harbor in the Oscar-nominated film, Snow Falling on Cedars, which dealt with the experience of Japanese-American WWII internees. The Japanese-looking features of many of the town's resident's clinched the deal as they made perfect extras for the movie. The whole town became involved in the production and signs from "Amity Harbor" stores are still evident on some of Greenwood's historic buildings.

Staff at the Greenwood Visitor Centre can provide more information and brochures.