Doukhobor Discovery Centre
Castlegar is one of only a few cities in the world where the unique Doukhobor culture has been meticulously documented and where it still thrives today. A religious group of Russian origin, the Doukhobors fled the Czarist government in the late 1800s and, with the help of the Canadian government, settled in Western Canada. Many found themselves in the West Kootenay region in the early 20th Century and since then they have farmed and flourished. The Doukhobor Discovery Museum, located a five-minute drive from Castlegar and across the highway from the airport, is a wonderful place to learn more about the culture that has so profoundly shaped what the city is today. Home to ten historical buildings on ten acres of land, the Doukhobor Discovery Museum has successfully recreated the sights and sounds of Doukhobor life in south-central British Columbia from 1908 to 1938. There are over 1,600 donated artifacts on hand as well as interactive audio and visual displays that help demonstrate and celebrate the culture. Enjoy a guided tour with friendly, knowledgeable staff and experience the sights and sounds of Doukhobor life as it existed a century ago.
Want to know more about the Doukhobor history of Castlegar? Read about it here!
Train Station Museum
The railroad has a rich history in the West Kootenay region of British Columbia and given it’s proximity to the mighty Columbia River, Castlegar was at one of its most important crossroads. The CPR Station Museum, or Railway Museum as it’s come to be called, is housed in a century-old station, one of the best preserved in the province. Visitors can easily envision what the hustle and bustle must’ve been like when passengers boarded the trains during the 1900s. There is a station agent’s residence on the upper floor and one of the most popular onsite attractions is the perfectly-preserved caboose – a relic of a time when crew members lounged in the last car of the train awaiting their next duties. There are also plenty of newspaper archives housed within the Museum, which provide history buffs hours-worth of enjoyment and the beautifully landscaped area around the front of the station is a wonderful spot to rest before making your way to the downtown shops only a short walk away.
Zuckerberg Island Heritage Park
Zuckerberg Island Heritage Park is named for Alexander Zuckerberg, a teacher and civil engineer who settled on the island in the Columbia River in the 1930s. He was greatly admired by those he taught and to this day he’s celebrated, particularly by the Doukhobors. During his time on the island, the Russian-born artist built a Chapel House in the style of Russian Orthodox country architecture and it’s perfectly preserved today. There are also examples of his art in the house and on the grounds including “Stump Woman,” an unusual sculpture of a seated woman carved from a stump. Visitors are encouraged to walk around the island park and discover a heritage of human and natural history unique within the Columbia River Valley. You’ll be taken back several thousands of years when the Lakes Salish people first fished and built their winter pit houses here. You’ll learn about when explorer David Thompson canoed down the Columbia River past this island in 1811. And, of course, you’ll have the chance to get to know more about Alexander Zuckerberg. There are eight hectares of woods and a variety of paths to explore on the island as well as picnic tables, benches, and a suspension bridge.
The Kootenay Gallery of Art History and Science is located on the grounds of the Doukhobor Discovery Museum just outside of downtown Castlegar. It is a public art gallery that offers a variety of public programming and displays for all ages, from rotating art exhibitions and movie nights to the only Butterfly Gardens in the region. The Kootenay Gallery is one of 28 original exhibition centres built so rural residents could enjoy great works of art from around the region and the world. It’s also the site of workshops, kid’s art camps and the “Monday Night Movies” at the Old Theatre where you can enjoy contemporary and classic films. A relatively new addition to the Gallery is the Butterfly garden, a joint project with Castlegar’s Communities in Bloom Committee. It is popular stop for tourists and locals alike and is used as a conservation education tool for students, gardening and naturalist groups. Designed by local wildlife landscape artist, Mary Kate Woodward, the garden features many species of butterfly; in particular, the Western Tiger Swallowtail, Pale Swallowtail and Grey Hairstreak.
Communities In Bloom
Given Castlegar’s excellent climate and agricultural heritage in which the Doukhobors spent over a century perfecting the art and science of growing plants here, it’s no surprise then that the city has been the recipient of Canada’s Communities in Bloom national award. Run by community organizers and volunteers, the Community in Bloom project in Castlegar has been ongoing for about a decade and the city has won numerous accolades both provincially and nationally. National judges typically descend on Castlegar in July and take in all the gardens and floral displays around the city including stops at Zuckerberg Island, Millennium Park, City Hall, Spirit Square, Sculpture Walk, the Doukhobor Discovery Centre and the Garden of Hope. Of course, this is a boon for residents and visitors alike because the city becomes one of the most colourful ones in the entire country after the snow melts each Spring. The most recent addition to Castlegar’s annual Community in Bloom project is “Petal Power,” which features three bicycles sprouting colourful flowers from the baskets on their handlebars. To enjoy all the various gardens and displays around Castlegar, one must simply go for a stroll, a bike ride or a drive around the city.