Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Bavarianization of Kimberley, BC

  1973 marks the opening of Kimberley's Bavarian-style downtown pedestrian mall. 2013 is its 40 year anniversary!

1972 Deer Park Avenue, Kimberley BC, before "Bavarianization" - the lines down the centre of the street mark the planned water feature. Photo scanned from the original Kimberley Daily Bulletin

"Bavarianization" - to make, become, engage in, or use, or to treat or combine with the styles and activities of Bavaria particularly in regard to architectural facades, style of dress, festivals, music and culinary offerings.

The Bavarianization of Kimberley has not been without controversy from the start. The story goes that some business owners visited Leavenworth, Washington in the early 70s and, being impressed by the theme's economic benefits to that city, actively promoted the idea as a means of economic insurance and renewal for Kimberley. In the mid to late 60s, Kimberley's businesses were experiencing severely declining revenues. The downtown core was looking rather ragged and new businesses in Cranbrook were attracting more and more Kimberley shoppers. Also, the end of life was in sight of the City's main employer, the Sullivan Mine. People wondered what could be done to keep our little town vibrant and liveable so they could stay in the city they loved.

But, in fact, the discussions about revitalizing the buildings and businesses of Kimberley didn't start in the early 70s, it started earlier than 1968! AND actually, the first proposals did not suggest a Bavarian theme, but called for an ALPINE theme!

That debate is STILL going on, especially now that many of the facades are 40 years old, one of our turnkey festivals is no more (The International Old-time Accordion Championships), the mine has been closed for a dozen years, and, well, there have been a lot of changes in those 40 years both in our economy and the make-up of our population.

Back in February, 1968, the City hired urban planners from the Regional District of the East Kootenays to start the process of a new plan for the City. Planner Alfred Miller described the City Center businesses as "a deteriorating conglomeration of substandard buildings". The first committees formed called themselves the "Alpine" committee and were made up of local business owners.

Some did not wait for any official declaration of a theme and remodeled their storefronts in 1971. It was not until the fall of 1972 that the City of Kimberley jumped on the bandwagon and came up with money to landscape the platzl. Bud Buckle was the Mayor of Kimberley at the time. Once started, the transformation to a pedestrian-only platzl was finished within the very next year. Bavarianization was a fait acompli and many businesses, homeowners, and attractions soon followed suit, even dressing themselves and employees in mostly home-made interpretaions of Bavarian dress.

Allocating funds to the project was also very controversial at the time. Students at the local high school said they would rather have an indoor heated pool - something Kimberley did not get until many years later.

Celebrate Kimberley's newest festival, "First Saturdays Kimberley", by learning more about our Bavarianization through the myriad newspaper clippings and photos featured in the Museum's seasonal display on the back wall of our main gallery.

Also showing are some of the artifacts created especially for Kimberley in keeping with the Bavarian theme, such as beer mugs and thalers, as well as examples of traditional authentic German Bavarian clothing worn by local merchants.

Dianne Cooper, volunteer

1 comment:

  1. Does the subhead to this article need amending?
    2013 marks the opening of Kimberley's Bavarian-style downtown pedestrian mall.
    Is that meant to read 1973?


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