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Trail Blazers: Wintertime at the Smelter Flats

Trail Blazers is a weekly feature in partnership with the Trail Museum and Archives
Photo: Trail Historical Society

by Sarah Benson-Lord

Trail Museum and Archives

For this week’s Trail Blazers, we head all the way back to 1908 and quite a Victorian-looking scene of Tadanac and the smelter.

Tadanac, or Smelter Flats, was originally the residential community for top brass of the smelter operations.

First built along the riverbank, what we now know as Ritchie Avenue, the houses were beautifully constructed for the likes of Walter Aldridge, James Buchanan, Jules LaBarthe, and other notable smelter executives.

In the background here is the Aldridge home, built in 1899 and known as Hollyfern Place.

Walter Hull Aldridge arrived in Trail in 1898 following the CPR purchase of the smelter from Fritz Augustus Heinze.

He was hired to manage the operation that would become the Canadian Smelting Works.

He married Nancy Tuttle of Rossland in January 1899 and she delivered their first child, Katherine, in October that year.

Duncan and Walter Jr. quickly followed.

Nancy would leave Trail and her family in the mid-1900s, leaving Walter on his own with his children and a nanny with a penchant for photography.

The archives is lucky to house a photo album of images from that decade showcasing this regal home, their many neighbours, and the Aldridge children at play, all candidly captured by nanny Hanna Gelderd.

Walter was responsible for the early diversification of the smelter’s resources and the focus on ownership over sources of ore, in an effort to rely less on independent mines.

In 1906, the Consolidated Mining & Smelting Company of Canada Ltd. (CM&S) was formed, which included the smelter at Trail, several mines at Rossland, the St. Eugene mine at Moyie, and the Rossland Power Company.

Aldridge also hired Anson Betts, who invented and installed a new electrolytic lead process in Trail and began negotiations for the purchase of the Sullivan Mine at Kimberley.

All these strategic moves ensured the CM&S was well-equipped to outlast the many struggling smelters in the region.

Walter and his family departed Trail in 1911 and was succeeded by R.H. Stewart.

Mr. Stewart promoted a young mining engineer, Selwyn Blaylock, to assistant manager.

And the rest is history!

This neighbourhood would eventually incorporate as the Municipality of Tadanac in 1922, boasting a police force, its own reeve, a community hall, a school, many tennis courts and beautiful, company-built homes.

A 1968 referendum saw Tadanac brought into Trail city limits, meaning the city had access to the many industrial tax dollars the smelter and its abundant property provided.

Pictured here may very well be the Aldridge children or their Smelter Flats friends, enjoying a horse-drawn sleigh ride along the snowy riverbank heading towards a warm hearth in Hollyfern Place.

We wish everyone a happy, fun-filled, and prosperous new year ahead!

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Sheri Regnier

About the Author: Sheri Regnier

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