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Learn About the History of Swedes in BC

History of the Swedish Canadian Rest Home Association

Thora Johnson was a Lady with a vision. She recognized the plight of elderly Swedes, many of whom lived in deplorable conditions. In February 1945, she invited members of the Swedish community to a meeting in her home to discuss building a Rest Home for elderly people of Swedish descent. In the latter part of August 1947, the cornerstone was laid by District Commissioner M.E. Sowden for the $86.000. The 50 bed Rest Home was officially opened on May 15, 1949.

At the time of the construction of the Iron Workers’ Memorial Second Narrows Bridge, the Rest Home was virtually cut off by highway cloverleafs. Harold Swanson located a 5-acres garden nursery that was for sale in Burnaby on Duthie Avenue. This was purchased in 1956. The New Swedish Rest Home could receive 80 occupants, when it stood ready in 1957.

May 15, 1967 saw the Official Opening of an extension to the Swedish Canadian Rest Home. The Rest Home could now accept 114 residents. 20 single rooms and 8 two-room apartments had been built. An auditorium had been added to the lower floor.

The official opening of Gustav Vasa Place took place on April 5, 1992 with many dignitaries honoring the occasion with commendations and appreciation. It was also proclaimed that the site would be called the Swedish Canadian Village. The sod was going to be turned as well for the Valhalla Court construction. The Valhalla Court was the next project for the Swedish Canadian Village site with 27 condos planned with the intention that it would help financially cover the cost of the Swedish Canadian Village. The first condo owners moved in during the summer of 1993.

Rising costs and changes in provincial health programs brought about closing of the Swedish Canadian Rest Home in 1995. After much work and many difficulties, the Board of Directors started the construction of Swedish Assisted Living Residence — 64 one-bedroom units, 46 of which are subsidized by Fraser Health and BC Housing, and 18 private units. This building opened in March 2012.

Started by the Swedish Canadian community in the 1940’s and continuing to present time by the many volunteers and sacrifices of this community and others. Swedish Canadian Village continues to this day to provide Assisted Living and Subsidized Housing to many residents of Greater Vancouver of all nationalities.

Click here to read more about the history of the Swedish Canadian Rest Home Association.


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The Anderson Cabin

This simple log building was all that was needed for 20year old Swede Eric Anderson to secure farmland in the brand new province of British Columbia.

Pioneer Eric Anderson's nationality shows in the details of his home. Round logs have been hewn at the corners to fit together tightly in a distinctive style called Swedish keying. The cabin, measuring 6 metres by 4 metres, was built of cedar logs and the walls were chinked with moss and twigs to keep the heat in.

Eric Anderson had been working on whaling ships since the age of 11 and at 20 found himself in Vancouver harbour. He jumped ship here to search for a new life and never looked back.

He trekked through unmapped wilderness for several days, crossing the Fraser River and arrived in what is now Surrey. Along the way he received help from the local First Nations people.

He found a clearing near the Nicomekl River and began to build a cabin. He bought hand tools at the general store in Murray's Corners and over many months completed his shelter in 1873. Eric needed money to develop and improve his claim. So he walked to Chilliwack to find work as a farmhand and returned each spring to work on his Surrey claim.

While in Chilliwack he met Sarah Morrison and they were married in New Westminster in 1879. They then loaded their wagon and moved to their Surrey homestead. They built a larger farmhouse for their family and used the cabin for livestock.

Eric Anderson died at age 59 in 1911. The cabin was donated to the city of Surreyin 1970 by Mr and Mrs Sweet who owned the farm where it was located. It was then moved to the Surrey Museum.

It is preserved as a historic monument to all pioneers and its crude structure shows just how primitive the living conditions were for those pioneers!

K.F-K GP


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Matthew Lindfors

The Swedish Press was recently sold to Kajsa Norman of Ottawa, who is now the new publisher. We thought it would be fitting to remember Matthew Lindfors, who for so many years was editor and publisher of the Swedish Press.

Matthew Lindfors was born Mattias Mattiasson in 1899 in Offerdal, Jämtland. In 1922 he immigrated to Canada. He learnt English on the job and went to UBC for a year. In 1927 he started the ”Scandinavian school of English” teaching new immigrants English. Some of his students wrote testimonials that has been preserved in the Lindfors archives at UBC. One of them, Edvin Lidholm born in 1908 in Tomelilla, Skåne writes the following: ” Came to Canada 1927 and went to school winter 1927-28 with Lindfors. There I learnt to speak and write English well.I was very satisfied with this course.” Later Matt taught Swedish at the Vancouver school board evening classes for many years.

Matt became editor of the Swedish Press in 1933 and was connected to the paper on and off as contributor, editor,publisher and owner until his death in 1971. Gunnel Gavin, who immigrated to Vancouver in 1967, remember visiting Matt Lindfors at the Swedish Press office on Cardero Street, where she says: “Matt Lindfors was the first Swede I met in Vancouver. I remember visiting the Swedish Press office when they were printing the Press. It was chaos, the typesetter, Sture Wermee, was putting in the letters by hand on the old printing machine and when it printed some of the letters kept falling on the floor with a lot of noise!”

Matt Lindfors was a tireless promoter of everything Swedish and organized the first public Lucia in Vancouver in 1936. He was also correspondent for the CBC radio 1947-1959. He had a Swedish radio program on CJOR for many years broadcasting in the Swedish language. In the 1930's he wrote a children's column in the Swedish Press as “Farbror Olle” and he also founded a young people's club called Diamanten (the Diamond), which had 600 members in 1938. Farbror Olle organized many summer camps for children at the Swedish Park in North Vancouver.

In 1956 The Swedish Canadian club in Vancouver together with a Swedish Toronto club sponsored a gymnastic troup from Sweden called “Sofiaflickorna” (the Sofia girls).Lindfors became their tour manager. He organized one night performances from Victoria right across Canada to Massey Hall in Toronto! We can also thank Matthew Lindfors for founding the Swedish Cultural Society in Vancouver in 1951.

If anyone reading this has memories of Matthew Lindfors, we would like to hear from you. Write to us at swedishheritagebc@gmail.com.


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Winter at Hollyburn

Hollyburn ski camp 1927 to the left Rudolph Verne, Andrew Irving, Oscar Pearson, Ole Anderson and Axel Sneis built Hollyburn Lodge.

During the winter you might cross country ski at Hollyburn. Afterwards, you might enjoy a coffee at Hollyburn Lodge. In the early 1990s all ski facilities on Black, Strachan and Hollyburn were referred to as Cypress Mountain. Many Swedes were involved with the ski area at Hollyburn.

In 1922 Rudolph Verne and friends took the ferry destination to Grouse Mountain. They boarded the wrong ferry and landed in West Vancouver. They hiked up to Nasmyth’s old Mill Site. It was not in use any more. A Norwegian, Eilif Haxthon, worked with Hjalmar Fahlander, a Swede, to convert the old cookhouse at the old Nasmyth’s mill into a ski camp. In 1925 “the Restaurant” opened. They rented skis and served Swedish coffee and sandwiches.

In 1925 and 1926 there was very little snowfall. Rudolph Verne decided to move to First Lake. In 1926 with the help of Oscar Pearson, Ole Anderson and Andrew Irving all from Dalarna dismantled the cookhouse and moved to First Lake with the help of horses.

Rudolph Verne was more visionary and entrepreneurial than hands-on as a builder. The official opening was January 16th, 1927. The lodge with a restaurant and dancehall, complete with a gramophone player, was called Hollyburn ski camp. There was a lot of snow in 1926-1927 and Rudolph Verne wrote in an article in a 1928 Alpine Club newsletter that Vancouver should be able to host the Winter Olympics. In 1927, Rudolph Verne was president of the Hollyburn Pacific Ski Club. By 1931, the Swedes from Dalarna took over the operation. In 1946, it was bought up by the Burfield family and renamed the Hollyburn Ski Lodge. In 1947 Rudolph Verne returned to Stockholm, Sweden. The Hollyburn Ski Lodge was supposed to be temporary until a a permanent log building could be built. Much later — because of money and permits — the new Hollyburn Lodge was finished in January 2016.


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