Day Trip to Harrison Mills from Vancouver, BC
To visit British Columbia’s Kilby Historic Site is to step back into a living history. As a matter of fact, a short drive from Vancouver, BC takes you back into a time not forgotten, making it a perfect day trip destination. Bring the whole family – there’s something for everyone.
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First a little history lesson on Harrison Mills and area
Gold was discovered in BC’s interior during the 1850’s and those seeking riches flooded into the area, now known as Harrison Mills, while on their way to the gold fields. It’s important to understand that the First Nations peoples lived here for over 3000 years before anyone else discovered the Fraser River’s route north into the interior. Due to the surge of traffic, it was thought that the area would thrive and maybe develop into much more. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.
However, in the early 1900’s the growing lumber industry and the newly built railroad brought about the beginnings of the community of Harrison Mills, located on the confluence of the Harrison and Fraser rivers. Harrison Mills became a flourishing mill town, attracting immigrants such as Thomas and Eliza Kilby, along with their family. To take advantage of the opportunity, the Kilby family started the Kilby General Store which quickly became the gathering place for the community. It was just a start though because they obviously saw even more opportunities to prosper.
Kilby Historic Site is a Working Farm
Today, the Kilby Historic Site situated on 5 acres, is a testament to the family and those who lived and worked at Harrison Mills. Above all, to visit the Kilby Historic Site is to view and participate in a working farm, with sheep/goats, turkeys, geese, chickens, and pigs who call this home. The costumed interpreters will take you back in time where you’ll learn about the daily lives of the people who lived and worked here.
What you can expect when visiting the Kilby Historic Site
Entrance - Enter thru the Kilby Historic Site’s Barn
The first building you’ll enter was once a horse barn that’s been converted into the entrance area, gift shop and houses a café with scrumptious food at affordable prices. Don’t worry – all signs of the horses who were housed here have been removed. Take advantage of the opportunity for enjoying lunch or at least dessert because the apple pie and ice cream was a hit with everyone we were with.
Within the large building on your left and up the ramp is the general store, post office, Manchester Hotel, and the Kilby’s living quarters – ready for visitors to explore. Additionally, the volunteer behind the store’s counter has a wealth of information and a wonderful resource for anyone having questions about Harrison Mills and area. Make sure you stop and talk. We could have spent hours right here because it was so fascinating to learn more about Harrison Mills and the Kilby Historic Site’s history.
The Kilby General Store
Entering the general store is an eye-opener! It’s filled with samples of goods and products that would have been sold or traded here when it was in operation. The shelves are loaded with old tins, cans and packages, plumbing supplies, farm equipment, clothing, and tools and everything else the locals needed to survive daily. Opened in 1906 and closing in 1977 the general store was the hub of the community.
The Post Office
Within the building that houses the general store is the post office that served the community from 1906 to 1968 starting with Thomas Kilby and ending when his son Acton retired. All the original mail slots, desk and mail equipment is still intact and ready for you to view.
When the main building was extensively renovated in 1908 Mrs. Kilby opened the Manchester Hotel. Her guests included farm hands, schoolteachers, new settlers, and residents of Chilliwack who would stop here while traveling west. However, the new BC Electric Railway was completed in 1910 and provided a more direct route to Vancouver. As a result, the hotel was not needed and closed after two years.
On the positive side, this part of the building currently features The Product Packaging Gallery, with a unique display of consumer packaging from many decades and The Sitting Room. Take a seat, rest yourself and check over the period books on the room’s bookshelves. Not to be missed in the First Nations Exhibit.
Interested in learning about the illusive Sasquatch? If so, The John Green Room is your next stop with all types of research material available.
The Kilby Family’s Living Quarters
If you had been fortunate to be a hotel guest or a family member you would have enjoyed a meal cooked over a wood stove and stayed in one of the bedrooms now on display. It appears that the people who lived here over a hundred years ago were much shorter than we were which is evident by the size of the beds.
The Kilby’s Farm Buildings
Remember, this was and is still a working farm where vegetables are grown, animals raised, and apples are still grown. Quite often the Orchard Shed is where most of the farm’s demonstrations take place. Every dairy farm needs a Milk House where the cream and milk were cooled, separated, and bottled for distribution. For the Kilby’s their dairy operation was important for earning an income and of course food for themselves and nearby residents.
The Chicken Coop
What farm would be a real farm without a chicken coop? Not only were the Kilby family dairy farmers they also kept chickens and of course pigs but for the families benefit. You may find the chickens running free in the yard, so watch your step!
The implement shed is not original but is important to storing farm equipment that was used locally in the early 20thcentury. Can you name what each piece of equipment is and what it was used for?
Kilby Park and Campground
Open year-round – RV, tent, day use and boat launch! Kilby Park is situated on the confluence of the Harrison and Fraser rivers in scenic Harrison Mills. The Park features a beautiful family-oriented 41-site campground, a day-use area, sandy beaches, nature trails and a boat launch. The Park is at the west end of Kilby Road, within walking distance of the Kilby Historic Site.
Note: NB: Winter Season – Site 34 to 41 only!
How to get there
The Kilby Historic Site is approximately two hours east of downtown Vancouver and approximately 110 kms. The address is 215 Kilby Road, Harrison Mills, BC