Frederick Elwell Biography

August 27th, 2020 1 Minutes
Construction site of West Kootenay Power at Upper Bonnington Falls, 1906. Collection #2025.0043

Rumours surrounding photographs of the construction of the Upper Bonnington Falls powerhouse on the Kootenay River between Castlegar and Nelson resulted in the procurement of 208 photographic prints and negatives dating back to 1906.

Frederick Elwell was the man responsible for the photographs. He was born in England on Feb. 14, 1874, and came to Canada in 1898 at the age of 23. He served his electrical apprenticeship in London and worked there as an electrical engineer before emigrating.

Elwell found his way to a mining property near Fort Steele, which folded soon after his arrival. Continuing in mining for a short while, Fred was hired by West Kootenay Power and Light, remaining with them for 13 years.

The Kootenay River near Bonnington 1906. Collection #2205.0057

It was an exciting time, and he was placed in charge of the construction of the Bonnington Power House, followed by the running of the electrical plants at Upper Bonnington Falls.

Construction began on the dam in 1905 to meet the rising need for power at the mines and smelters in Greenwood and Grand Forks. After its completion in 1907, it was the single largest piece of concrete construction in B.C.

Nicole Tremblay

Fred was recruited in 1911 by the B.C. Electric Corporation to take charge of their Lake Buntzen plant. Eventually, he became superintendent of all of B.C. Electrics and hydro-electric plants. He stayed in his position until 1938. Mr. Elwell passed away in Coquitlam, B.C. Mar. 23, 1952.

Fredrick Elwell (centre). Collection #2025.0050


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