Residents mourn cultural loss as heritage building burns

Photo by: Roshini Sakhrani

Firefighters at work since 3 a.m. Photo by Roshini Sakhrani.

New Westminster residents are expressing their sorrow at the loss of a landmark building that was part of New West’s heritage.

According to nearby resident Carol-Anne Shroeder, the E.L. Lewis building at 634 Columbia St. had stood for over 100 years. Thursday, the building, which is on the city’s Heritage Register, was destroyed by fire.

The E.L. Lewis building housed the iconic Copps’ family shoe store, whose closure was announced last year but is fondly remembered. Cody Helmer said he loved the antiquity of the building. “You would go in there and they had floor to ceiling hardwood and they also had the old ladder that would slide across.”

Debris clean up

Workers clean up the area where the building used to stand. Photo by Roshini Sakhrani.

According to Copp’s New West Shoes website, the store was built in 1925. The shoe store prided itself on keeping its antiquity alive. They did this through the use of the ladders to reach racks of shoes that covered one wall, and the presence of “100-year-old National cash registers”.

Daren Morley, who lives nearby and had heard about the fire on Facebook, said that the shoe store had closed its doors six months ago. In its place was the bridal shop Golden Brides.

Among others that suffered from the disaster was the non-profit organization ACORN Canada. The organization, according to its website, “allows community based chapters to identify local concerns and run campaigns on neighbourhood issues.”

Selena Gingrich, a friend of the manager of the ACORN Canada location, said that the organization had insurance, but her friend was merely renting a shop in the building. When asked about what her friend plans on doing about the location, she replied saying that someone had graciously “offered up some space to use in the meantime.”

The destruction of the heritage building affected many residents. Anna Renfrew, a resident in an apartment building on Front Street across from the incident, said she reported the fire. Renfrew said she phoned the department at 3 a.m., and the fire was finally extinguished by approximately 1 p.m.

Her neighbour Carol-Anne Shroeder says the disaster was so traumatizing that she couldn’t go back to sleep. The flames grew so high and strong that Renfrew’s husband said their apartment windows felt “like a campfire from the intense heat.”


Roshini Sakhrani & Cindy St-Laurent 

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