Opening New Caledonia - Opening New Caledonia - Timeline 1914
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1914

The Ritts-Keifer Hall opened with grand celebration on July 4. Located at the corner of Fourth Avenue and George Street, the building¿s address eventually became 434 George Street. It was the venue for the city¿s important social events over the next four decades.

The Millar Addition sub-division was created on 200 acres of land purchased from the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway Company. Bounded by the Fraser River to the east and Connaught Hill to the west, the land stretched south from Pacific Avenue. At the time, the Millar Addition represented a quarter of the total townsite area. It was named for its developer, a Toronto-based lawyer, Charles Vance Millar, who was also President of the British Columbia Express Company. The company operated a passenger and freighting service between Prince George and Ashcroft and the BX steamboat on the Fraser River.

Bad luck came to an American investor, John Harmon Johnson, who was a pioneer developer of the city¿s downtown. He bought the Fort George Hotel in 1913 and made a considerable investment to build an addition to the modest three-storey structure. Within the year, he added a 40-room annex and built a large ballroom which he named ¿Virginia Hall¿ for his daughter. The grand opening was held January 16, 1914. The investment proved initially to be a good one. The hotel was popular and it attracted so much business they had to turn guests away. Over the summer, business at the bar was so busy daily receipts frequently surpassed $1,000. Catastrophe struck on November 13 when a huge fire moved through the downtown and, once it reached the Fort George Hotel, it could not be contained. The hotel burned to its foundations.

Before the First World War broke out in August, a spurt of building activity was underway with thirty buildings under construction. George Street was firmly established as the business centre, and three new hotels, a community hall and the Princess Theatre were all being built. The Dreamland Theatre was relocated to George Street from South Fort George and the Rex Theatre opened in December. The Murdoff & Gething building housed the Arcade Café and Patterson & Nightingale men¿s clothing store.



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