Walk this way: Heritage buildings anchor tourism initiative

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
April 20th, 2011

The fact that Rossland is loaded with history, culture and heritage is nothing new. How to use that heritage to the city’s benefit in terms of tourism development, however, is a project that Tourism Rossland, the Rossland Heritage Commission and the Columbia Basin Trust have been working on over the last several years. The next step in that process will be the deployment of 19 plaques demarcating some of Rossland’s many heritage buildings.

The plaques have started hitting the streets over the past couple of weeks as you may have noticed while walking around the downtown core. If the project works as expected, there could soon be a few more tourists walking around downtown and learning about The Mountain Kingdom’s storied past.

The overall goal is to continue to develop products and offerings that will encourage tourists to extend their stays in Rossland. One of our assets is, of course, our wealth of culture, heritage and historical buildings. The challenge has been how to take all this and turn it into a marketable product.

“They’re buildings right? How does a building become a product? So we make it into a walk that can be promoted,” explained Deanne Steven of Tourism Rossland.

One of Steven’s first initiatives when she started with Tourism Rossland some four plus years ago was to develop a heritage walking tour. Utilizing local designer David Livingstone of Empire New Media and working with the Heritage Commission and museum, Steven’s first brochure was a hit and soon needed a second printing.

“It’s a great little brochure,” added Steven. “It highlights all of the heritage buildings we have here. It’s something people can pick up, follow around Rossland and learn about the various old buildings we have here.”

Last year, the idea for the plaques took hold and a $2,000 grant through the CBT’s Community Initiatives program was received and the program was off and running.

“What you’ll see is a year’s worth of work getting them all together and getting historical photos together. We worked with the museum , the Heritage Commission and the City to get as much information as we could to put up on the plaques,” added Steven.

Of the 29 registered heritage buildings in Rossland, the ones that made the cut for the first round of plaques came down to which building had the best historical photos available. In total 19 were selected. The first four have already been installed with the remaining fifteen now awaiting installation by building owners.

For a preview of what’s to come the first six can be found at

  • The old West Kootenay Power and Light building which now houses Tails and Lulu’s lost Sheep
  • The Lalonde and Rottier block  just west of the Rossland Library
  • Hoffman House on Washington which now contains Medical Aesthetics day Spa
  • The Miners’ Hall


One of the next signs to go up will be the physical home of Tourism Rossland itself. The Velvet hotel building on the corner of the Schofield Highway to Trail and Columbia Avenue.

When built, the Velvet Hotel was valued at $3,000–a very handsome figure for a wooden building in the late 1890s. In 1899 Jordon and Lockhart set up a furniture store and undertaking business inside. W.K. Esling, Rossland’s “Gentleman Journalist”, bought the building in 1920 and used it as his headquarters while he served as the Conservative MLS in Victoria and later MP in Ottawa. When later obtained by the Gospel Hall, the top story was removed. In 1930, it temporary housed Rossland’s only recorded miniature golf course.

Feature a historic photo of the buildings, their addresses and a short blurb about their history, the plaques aren’t just for tourists and provide the casual stroller with some interesting tidbits in digestible sizes. Simply having shop owners or residents alike knowing the little tidbits of history provides a less measurable tourism impact as well as folks are able to point to buildings and inform residents of some of the history they are walking around.

The signs will be just one part of new efforts to package and sell Rossland’s heritage. Tourism Rossland is also developing a single-priced product that will include admission to the museum, a ticket to the Gold Fever Follies as well as a deal with the Flying Steamshovel for lunch.

“We want to extend the time people spend here,” explained Steven. “People can go for a heritage walk while they are here, take in the museum, see the follies and do more than just hiking and biking, which is also great.  It’s about getting tourists to stay here longer to enjoy more of the heritage type products. Packaging some of our different offerings together just adds that much more punch to the sales pitch.”

Moving forward Tourism Rossland hopes to eventually complete all 29 heritage buildings as they find funding to do so.

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