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Preserving the Past at Britannia Shipyards

Colourful picnic tables outdoors on gravel ground in front of large wooden historic boatworks building

What’s new at Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site? It’s hard to miss that two of the heritage buildings have had some major updates this past year. While the site is closed annually in January for maintenance and staff training, the scenic boardwalk and outdoor park areas remain open for passersby to see the restoration work.

Richmond Boat Builders

One of the significant changes is the appearance of the Richmond Boat Builders. The original building was constructed in 1932 by Japanese Canadian boatbuilder Saeji Kishi. It is a rare example of a pre-Second World War boatworks and an important legacy of Japanese boatbuilding traditions in Steveston. In 2023, extensive envelope repairs and mechanical upgrades were done to preserve the heritage building. This includes roofing, siding, windows, rain gutters, and doors, as many of these materials had reached their end of life. Original built-in features, such as the doors and steam box, were protected during restoration work.

Workers tried to preserve as much original building material as possible; salvageable materials were reused in the restoration. The final patchwork of the older, darker original materials appears in contrast against the new wood, which tells this new chapter of the building’s history. Linseed oil has been applied to extend the life of the new cedar siding, which is expected to take on a weathered look after a few years.

One “new” look is the roof, with its cedar shingles and twelve skylights, based on archival images of the building’s original roof design.

We are excited to re-open the Richmond Boat Builders in Summer 2024, complete with wooden boat restoration programming, providing an opportunity to care for some of the heritage boats and to share this important legacy with the public. To learn more about Steveston’s boatbuilding history, watch this Richmond Stories video:

Steveston’s Japanese Canadian Legacy

You may have also noticed some restoration with the Murakami buildings. In 2023, the buildings underwent repair and restoration of new cedar shingle roofing, rain gutters, windows, skylights and siding. This was done to preserve the Murakami House and Murakami Boatworks as a treasured landmark of Steveston’s rich Japanese Canadian history.

Wooden buildings along a wet boardwalk at Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site.
Murakami House

Look forward to more details and updates on the Richmond Boat Builders reopening dates and programs coming up in 2024!