Cranbrooks Gyro Swimming Pool
Cranbrook began as a Ktunaxa summer camping place on Joseph's Prairie, then expanded to a stopping place for miners on the Dewdney Trail as they travelled to Wild Horse Creek. John Galbraith already had control of the ferry on the Kootenay River and supply centre at Galbraith's Ferry on the east side of the river. He saw the advantages of the Joseph's Prairie site, with its limitless grazing and good water, and built a small store and sawmill there. It was only when Colonel James Baker acquired the site in 1885 that the possibilities of the place began to rapidly change.
Baker named his new acquisition on Joseph's Prairie "Cranbrook," after the town in Devon, England, where he grew up. Then began a change that acquired more and more momentum as time passed. Baker formed several companies, using English capital, and secured the rights to much of the Crow's Nest coal fields and the initiative to build, in partnership with the Canadian Pacific Railway, the B.C. Southern line which established its divisional headquarters in Cranbrook.
So first Cranbrook was a railway centre, then a lumbering centre, mining centre and, finally, the centre of government operations in the region. As with most enterprises, growth was incremental. As the newspaper of the day stated on April 12, 1898:
"...when The Herald states that Cranbrook is to be the largest and best town in East Kootenay, it is simply setting forth a fact that is based upon the soundest foundation. The railroad employees will make it a great town for business, but this will be only one of the many features that will give to Cranbrook the largest pay-roll in East Kootenay. And pay-rolls make towns. This has always been the case, and always will be the case. That is why the inducements for the business men to settle in Cranbrook far outweigh any that can be offered by any other town in the district."
And the railway made it possible for Cranbrook to become the supply town for all of the many sawmills of the region, the junction point for the North Star Railway and supplies to the North Star and Sullivan mines, and much of the ranching and agricultural commerce which developed around the region.
Perhaps most influential in the size and speed of Cranbrook's growth was the system of roads that developed tying together first East Kootenay, then linking to West Kootenay and then to the trans-provincial highway. Cranbrook became the place to feed and nurture the incredible growth and stimulus centred on the "lizzie" or automobile. There is much discussion as to who had the "first" auto, but the following reminiscence of Fred J. Smyth's in The Cranbrook Courier of May 21, 1936 certainly captured the essence of the huge change that was about to occur:
"Thirty years ago last week the late 'Gov.' N. Hanson, then in his prime, struck out for Fort Steele, a distance of twelve miles, in his newly acquired automobile. The day was fine, the birds were singing, and nature was grand. The 'Governor' was justly proud of his car. It was the first brought to Cranbrook, and was the envy of all eyes. All cars were open in those days, so the 'Governor' was attired in a long linen duster, the regulation automobile cap of the time, gauntlet gloves and goggles. He bore a marked resemblance to early day pictures of Bismarck. The car passed several horses and buggies on the way and a few Indians on horseback. Horses shied off the road and all stared at the new contraption. Then out on the Six-Mile hill the engine coughed and gave up the ghost. She refused to budge. Hanson talked to it in Scandinavian, English and Chinook, but to no avail. Then he got out and hiked the remaining six miles to Fort Steele, hired a man and team to go back and haul in the machine to a blacksmith shop to be fixed up."
That was in 1906. In 1909 the Colonel's son, V. Hyde Baker, was travelling in his White Steamer car from Cranbrook to Golden in a day. Then he put flanges on it and tried it out on the railway. By 1911 things gad accelerated to where A.B. Mackenzie, a real estate and insurance agent of Rossland, B.C., left Wilmer by motor car, cruised through the Windermere valley to Cranbrook in time to catch the westbound train, arriving home in Rossland the same evening.
Cranbrook became the hub for automotive dealerships, garages, the East Kootenay chapter of the B.C. Automobile Club, and a major stop on the north-south tourist flow from the United States into the Canadian Rockies. That is the building flurry of economic excitement and commercial interest that allowed for the incredible achievement of constructing, in 1930, "The Largest Pool."