Historic Downtown Shopping District
Many of the pioneer buildings from Prince Rupert’s early days as a railroad town still form the core of Prince Rupert’s Historic Downtown Shopping District. Because of this Prince Rupert retains some of the appearance of a thriving frontier community inside the modern city. In fact, a statue of the first president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway stands with totem poles beside City Hall on Third Avenue, aptly representing the twin foundations of today’s city.
This is Prince Rupert’s second City Hall, and it was originally built as a Federal Building in 1938. At first glance a typical Art Deco building, students of architecture will notice Northwest Coast motifs built into the design.
Prince Rupert’s best example of the Spanish Colonial Revival style of architecture is the Besner Block, beside City Hall. It’s builder was a colorful character from early Prince Rupert, best remembered today as a Prohibition-era rumrunner who sold to thirsty customers in Alaska.
Grand or humble, many of these buildings date right back to the beginning of our city. Some Second Avenue storefronts are virtually unchanged from when they were built in 1911. They have seen the boom days of railroad construction and the growth of a thriving fishing community in the early years of the 20th century. They have seen Canadian and American troops flood past during World War II, when Prince Rupert was an American sub-port and became the staging area for troops and munitions on their way to the Aleutians and other parts of the Pacific theatre. These old-time buildings have seen the growth of a vibrant port city that is home to cultures from all over the globe.
The Historic Downtown is today our general shopping district. Visitors will find a selection of grocery and department stores, and a very wide variety of shops and galleries, in a scenic setting with fountains, gardens and totem poles sprinkled among the historic architecture.