The community of Mount Sheer – fondly known as the Townsite – was nestled in the valley above Britannia Beach. This settlement was sometimes called “the other” town because there were two towns at Britannia and it was only called Mount Sheer after the Post Office insisted it be given a name.
In 1915 a major landslide destroyed the Jane Camp, where the miners had lived. After this it was decided to base the main living and working centre lower down. This became the Mount Sheer Townsite and was the hub of the mining operations. The ore processing took place down at Britannia Beach.
The town sat at a height of 600 metres and 4.5 km inland from Britannia Beach. To get there, everyone had to walk up 347 stairs, load onto an incline skip car and then ride a train. It was quite a journey.
“The Townsite” was where underground workers and their families lived in the shadow of the mountains in isolation and in harmony. This was a fully functioning town with everything from a hospital to a high school. They also had a ball field, billiard room, ski slope, tennis courts, library, bandstand and even an outdoor heated swimming pool. Before the railway connecting the Beach and Vancouver was completed in 1956, travel to Vancouver took hours! This isolation forged an incredibly strong community spirit between the residents.
When the road was built between Britannia Beach and Mount Sheer Townsite in 1953, the high school closed and kids were bussed to Squamish each day for school. In 1958 the highway came through joining Vancouver to Britannia and Squamish. With the building of the road and a strike that year, the town was abandoned and the buildings were destroyed in the 1960s.
In the span of 100 years, the Townsite grew and fell. Today, little remains, as nature has taken back the land, however it remains vividly in the memories of those that lived and worked there – as a town they loved.The Townsite is no longer accessible for recreational usage with access strictly controlled by provincial authorities.
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© 2020 Britannia Mine Museum.
The Museum is a premier, non-profit organization dedicated to presenting mining's relevance today and towards a sustainable future. We would like to acknowledge that the land on which we gather is the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the sovereign Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) First Nation.