The building of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s opened up this previously isolated part of the Kootenay Rockies region, creating boomtowns along its route.
The first settlement was being established on the east shore of the Columbia River as the Last Spike was being driven at Craigellachie in November of 1885. Although the settlement was initially named Farwell, after the enterprising individual who surveyed the first townsite, the city was ultimately named in honour of Lord Revelstoke, whose London bank financed the completion of the transcontinental railway.
To learn more about the history of the railway, visit the Revelstoke Railway Museum.
Growth and Industry
Following its incorporation in 1899, Revelstoke quickly grew into one of the largest cities in the interior, and an important transportation hub. Sternwheelers on the Columbia River connected with the CPR, carrying mineral ores and supplies for the mines of the Silvery Slocan. Economic success led to the construction of the fine Victorian buildings in the downtown core. In the early 1900s, C.B. Hume's department store was the largest in the BC Interior.
In the 1980s, a revitalization programme helped the restoration of a number of blocks in the downtown commercial district. Explore Revelstoke's heritage buildings by picking up a self-guided walking tour brochure from the Revelstoke Visitor Centre.
An immigrant to Canada from Norway, Nels Nelsen arrived in Revelstoke in 1912, and quickly recognized the skiing potential of the local mountains. Three years later, he organized the first ever ski tournament on the slopes of Mount Revelstoke.
In those days, the emphasis was not so much on the kind of alpine skiing that we know today, but rather on ski jumping – a sport in which Nelsen excelled. In 1916, he broke the world ski jumping record with a jump of 56m/183ft. The Revelstoke ski jump was the biggest and best in Canada, and was to be the site of many world record-breaking jumps.
The Nels Nelsen Historic Area is located at the base of Mount Revelstoke. Other than the exhibit pavilion, there is not a lot to see. The judges' tower still stands – one of the last remnants of this extraordinary piece of history.
The Canadian Pacific Railway was built with the sweat and toil of many workers, including a large contingent from China. These were the early pioneers of Revelstoke. In time, the logging industry expanded, along with some mining, but the railway continued to be the primary employer.
In recent years, however, people have been choosing Revelstoke for a healthy, active lifestyle that could include skiing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, ski touring and snowshoeing. The recently expanded Revelstoke Mountain Resort offers excellent snow conditions and the longest vertical in North America.
Find out more about the history and culture of the city at the Revelstoke Museum.