The Britannia Shipyard building is the flagship structure and the heart of the Britannia site. The building was originally built in 1889 as a cannery, constructed on piles over the rushing Fraser River. Before it was even completed, the first tall ship to arrive in Steveston harbour docked at Britannia and loaded the first shipment of canned salmon bound for Europe. This was the beginning of the tall ship era in Steveston, and led to Steveston being named the ‘salmon capital of the world.’
However, the Hell’s Gate Landslide of 1912 caused a significant decline in salmon stocks, forcing many canneries to close or convert to other uses. In 1917-18, the Britannia Cannery was converted into a shipyard and general maritime repair shop for fishing boats of the ABC Packing Company, and was the largest shipyard in which employees could work undercover. The Britannia Shipyard operated for over 60 years, finally closing its doors in 1980.
Inside the building today, the exhibit “Industry on the Waterfront” features the workings of the shipyard and its important role in British Columbia’s industrial heritage. The exhibit showcases the historical uses of the shipyard, carpentry shop, engine shop, and machine shop. Authentic machinery, tools, interpretive text, and interactive demonstrations help recreate the different work areas and activities that took place. Visitors will experience this fascinating past through archival photographs, immersive sounds, and stories of the people who once worked in the shipyard.
The Britannia Shipyard building stands on pilings over the water, and may be closed seasonally due to high tides.
The workshop exhibits have a soundscape which may be adjusted in volume for those visitors with sound sensitivities. Please ask our interpreters for assistance.