Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site

Park Site

Britannia Heritage ShipyardsThe historic buildings at Britannia Shipyards tell the story of early Steveston residential conditions and interpret the history of wooden boat building and repair on the waterfront.

PDF Document  Britannia Site Map

The Shipyard
The Britannia Shipyards building was originally constructed as a Cannery. It was built in 1889 and was purchased by the ABC Packing Company two years later to operate as a salmon cannery. It became one of the busiest canneries on the Fraser River, producing canned salmon for shipment all over the world.

However, the Hell's Gate Landslide of 1912 caused a significant decline in salmon stocks, forcing many canneries to close or convert to other uses. In 1917-18, the Britannia Cannery was converted into a shipyard and general maritime repair shop for fishing boats of the ABC Packing Company, which operated until 1969. The Shipyard was then purchased by the Canadian Fishing Company and was operational until BC Packers purchased it in 1979, closing its doors in 1979-80.

The Boardwalk
The original boardwalk served as a main street for the Steveston waterfront. Workers, cyclists, school children, and supply carts shared the narrow boardwalk built on piles above the marsh. During winter months, the boardwalk was often awash from high tides. 

Murakami HouseMurakami Complex Photo
The house was built in 1885 on piles over the marsh. The Murakami family - ten children, mom and dad, lived in the residence from early 1929 to 1942. The refurbished home and boat works opened in May 1998 to  visitors for the first time. The Murakami family has provided valuable information and artefacts enabling us to share their story.

Murakami Boatworks
It was literally only a step from home to boat works. The family built 1-2 gillnet fishing boats per winter and fished in the summer. At launching time, temporary tracks were placed over the boardwalk to roll the boat out. A hand-operated capstan moved the cradle on these tracks that are called "the ways".

Stilt Houses  Britannia Shipyard Stilt Houses
These four homes were built in the late 1800's as fisherman's dwellings. John Murchison, Steveston's first police chief and customs officer, purchased the Murchison Houses in 1895.

The Murchison Houses are the two buildings painted red, and were pushed together at one time to accommodate John Murchison's family. Today, the stilt homes are open to visitors as the Murchison Visitor Centre, the Manager's House, the Men's Bunkhouse and the Point House. Exhibits inside explore the living conditions of company employees of many different backgrounds.

Chinese Bunkhouse
Chinese BunkhouseThis is the last surviving Chinese
Bunkhouse on the west coast. The Building was originally located in Knight Inlet, and was relocated here by BC Packers. This bunk house was home to 75-100 Chinese cannery workers who were employed through Chinese contractors to work a variety of jobs on the canning line. Today, exhibits on the upper floor tell stories of the hardships and hope these workers experienced in Steveston.


Japanese Duplex

This building was once part of a complex of 16 buildings used by Japanese workers at the Phoenix Cannery. The Duplex contains two living areas with net making and storage upstairs. Constructed in the 1890's, it is the last building of its kind on the Steveston waterfront. In the 1940's, metal cladding was added over wood siding. Japanese newspapers used as wall coverings are still visible inside.

First Peoples Bunkhouse
Built in 1885 to house native cannery workers, the First Peoples Bunk House is similar to traditional 19th century Coast Salish Longhouses. The board and batten fir siding is secured with hand made nails. It is probably the last cannery dwelling of its type on the coast..

Richmond BoatbuildersSilver Ann Project
Saeji Kishi and his employees constructed the boat works on piles above the marsh in 1932. The boat works was designed to accommodate up to four 30-foot fishing boats at one time. Gillnet fishing boats, 24' and 26' in length, with drums and Easthope engines, were the main product of the shop.

In winter, boats were sidetracked on wooden beams in front of the boat works. The Kishis lost their boat works in the W.W. II internment. They later built boats at Christina Lake and shipped them to the coast by rail. This boat works remained in operation until 1968. The last boat built in this shop was the Silver Ann, which is currently being restored in the same spot in which it was created.

The EnvironmentNet Loft photo
The site was originally a treeless marsh however, the vegetation changed significantly in the 1950’s when the marsh was filled in with sand dredged from the Steveston Channel. Now, the inter-tidal zone marsh is an important fish habitat and is a protected area for migratory birds and our family of swans.

Shady Island across the channel was once a small sandbar that provided only minimal protection from storms. The wooden bulkhead (vertical planks) was built in the 1930's to protect the dyke from storm wave erosion. Park of the original dyke can be seen in front of the Britannia shipyard building and large stones can be seen in the marshes. Some of these ballast stones are from early schooners and clippers.