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Fort Langley, the birthplace of British Columbia

 

Fields of fragrant lavender in front of an old stone house
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It might come as a surprise to many people that the province of British Columbia originated in Fort Langley, originally a small trading post, for which the surrounding Fort Langley town was named. But 150 years ago, in 1858, James Douglas proclaimed British Columbia a Crown Colony.

 

The fort itself — Fort Langley — is one of Canada’s national historic sites, located about an hour's drive from Vancouver. Here, the Hudson's Bay Company, a fur-trading company that later grew into a colossal department store chain, set up shop to trade its products with the Aboriginal people who inhabited the region. Furs, salmon, and cranberries, which thrive in this region, were traded to faraway lands including Hawaii and Alaska. This wealth, along with word that gold was prevalent in the region, caught the interest of the Americans. Soon after, fear of a takeover by the United States set a chain of events into motion, and British Columbia became a distinct province in Canada.

 

You won’t find skyscrapers or office buildings in bucolic Fort Langley. There are old-fashioned sweet shops and charming boutiques to browse, especially if you’re looking for an antique treasure or collectible (there are 50 dealers in the Village Antiques Mall). The Langley Centennial Museum, and the BC Farm Machinery & Agriculture Museum gives visitors a taste of the area’s heritage. And The Fort Wine Company shows a modern approach to agriculture. Its 11 types of wine aren’t made with grapes, just local fruits, such as the cranberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries that are abundant in this region.

 

From early June to October, farmers’ markets make their home base at the Fort Langley National Historic Site. The annual Cranberry Festival takes place during the fall harvest season, transforming the quiet community with an estimated 15,000 visitors who converge on the village to sample items made from sweet-tart cranberries.