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The Steveston Museum and Post Office is situated in the centre of Steveston Village. The Museum is comprised of three areas, each offering a different experience that celebrates and shares the history and heritage of Steveston and its residents. 

  • The first area is the Northern Bank building. It was Steveston’s first bank when it was built in 1905. It now serves as the main entrance to the site. Today, the building has a variety of services for locals and visitors including a working Canada Post Office, Pop-Up Artist show space, and museum displays.
  • The second area is the Japanese Fishermen’s Benevolent Society (JFBS) building. It is connected to the Northern Bank building, and features exhibits telling the fascinating story of Steveston’s Japanese Canadian community.
  • The third area is Steveston Town Square Park, located next to the Northern Bank building and provides a community green space in the spirit of the town squares in early settler towns.

History of the Northern Bank Building

The first building to be called the Steveston Museum was built in 1905 as Steveston’s first bank. The Northern Bank building is an increasingly rare example of an early pre-fabricated building designed and manufactured by the BC Mills Timber and Trading Company. This building is one of a number of prefabricated banks constructed in Western Canada, demonstrating rapid population growth and the innovative ways in which businesses responded to meet demand.

Chosen from the company’s catalogue, the building is a slightly modified version of the Townhouse Series Design J-J. After purchase, 4-foot sections of the building were floated down the Fraser River from New Westminster and assembled on-site. As was common at the time, the building included living quarters for the bank manager on the upper floor and at the rear of the building.

It was a Northern Bank and then a Northern Crown Bank until 1918, when it became a Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). It was an RBC until 1963, when it moved across the road and is still there today. The original bank manager’s office and bank vault can still be seen in the building.

From 1966 to 1977, the building served as Doctor’s Campbell’s medical practice after which time he sold it to the City of Richmond.

In 1979, the building opened as the Steveston Museum and the Steveston Village Post Office. The post office is a valued community amenity whose roots date back to the early days of Steveston. Founded in 1890, the Steveston Post Office has been housed in numerous locations with the Northern Bank building being the longest serving.

Today, the Northern Bank building continues to provide important postal service to the community, as well as to offer displays and programming that illustrates the richness of the Steveston’s cultural heritage.

Black and white photo of four men in suits standing in front of an old bank building.
City of Richmond Archives, Photograph #2006 39 34

History of the Japanese Fishermen’s Benevolent Society Building

The Japanese Fishermen’s Benevolent Society Building originally served as the administration office for the Japanese Fishermen’s Hospital and Japanese School, and is a rare remnant of a once-extensive infrastructure built by Steveston’s Japanese Canadian community. It is the only surviving structure from what was once a two-acre grouping of Japanese Canadian institutions, homes, and farms located at No.1 Road and Chatham Street in Richmond.

Japanese immigrants started arriving on the west coast of Canada in the late 1880s, when word had spread about the bounty of fish to be had there. Having extensive knowledge of fishing, many Japanese coming to Canada turned to the established fishing industry for employment, settling in the busy fishing village of Steveston. The Japanese population in Steveston grew so quickly that by the 1920s, it had become the second largest Japanese settlement in Canada, after Powell Street in Vancouver.

The building is important for its historical association with the Japanese Fishermen’s Benevolent Society (JFBS) that acted as a Japanese fishermen and cannery workers’ union and provided social services for the Japanese Canadian community. The creation of these services by the community was necessary due to exclusionary laws that both prevented Asian immigrants to own land, while requiring land ownership to participate in services such as public school.

The Japanese Language School was established in 1906 to educate young children, with an increasing emphasis on English. Eventually, the full BC curriculum was adopted and Japanese language classes were taught after school. Education of Japanese Canadian children continued at this complex until 1922, when four classrooms were added to Lord Byng Elementary School with financial assistance from Steveston’s Japanese Canadian community. A year later, the Richmond School Board took responsibility for the education of all children, regardless of race, ethnic background, or country of origin.

Completed in 1900, the Japanese Hospital was the first hospital in Richmond. It is considered the birthplace of the first socialized medicare system in Canada, having provided free health care to anyone, regardless of race or affiliation. It was built in response to typhoid fever epidemics which were an annual scourge during the last years of the 19th century. The hospital was built at a cost of $1,800 and contained a large ward of 30 beds, two private rooms, and a small surgery.

The hospital and school complex officially operated from 1900 to 1942; its closing coincided with the forced removal of all Japanese Canadians to internment camps in British Columbia’s interior in 1942.

In the years following the Second World War, the JFBS administration building was converted into a family residence. To save the building from demolition as part of the development of the Maple Residences for seniors, in 2010, the City moved it from its original location to its current one. The building opened as a museum in 2015, after restoration and installation of exhibits.

Today, it tells the story of the Japanese Canadian experience in Steveston from the time of their arrival, their internment during the Second World War, and of their postwar return. Their story is told in their own words, and uses their objects and archival images.

To learn more about the Japanese Canadian stories of Steveston, visit Nikkei Stories for a series of ten short films about notable persons and moments in their history. The videos may also be viewed inside the JFBS building.

City of Richmond Archives, Photograph #1978 14 10

Operating Partner

The programs and services at Steveston Museum and Post Office are provided in partnership with the Steveston Historical Society, established in 1976 to preserve and promote Steveston’s history.


3811 Moncton Street
Richmond, BC V7E 3A7
Post Office: 604-271-6868
Museum: 604-238-8026