Fort Langley, British Columbia

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Fort Langley, British Columbia
Fort Langley is a village with a population of 2,700 and forms part of the Township of Langley. It is the home of Fort Langley National Historic Site, a former fur trade post of the Hudson's Bay Company.

History
Fort Langley dates from a time when the boundary between British and American possession of the transmontane west had not yet been decided. Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, realized that Fort Vancouver built near present day Portland, Oregon might be lost to the Americans if the border did not follow the Columbia River. Fearing the 49th parallel north would become the demarcation line, Simpson ordered the Hudson's Bay Company to construct the original Fort Langley in 1827 at a location 3 km downstream from its present site. Fort Langley was intentionally constructed on the south bank of the Fraser River in the event that, if Fort Vancouver was lost to the Americans, that Fort Langley could secure British claims to both sides of the Fraser. By 1830, Fort Langley had become a major export port for salted salmon in cedar barrels, as well as cedar lumber and shingles to the Hawaiian Islands. In the days before the Colony of Vancouver Island and the Colony of British Columbia united, Governor Sir James Douglas chose Fort Langley to be the provisional colonial capital. By 1858, a town by the name of Derby, adjacent to the original location of the Fort, had been surveyed and subdivided into town lots and sold. Construction had begun on a barracks for the Royal Engineers, however, when Colonel Richard Moody, commanding officer of the Royal Engineers, visited Derby that year, he disapproved of Douglas' choice in location. He noted American territory lay just a few miles away across easily traversed land and that Fort Langley would be impossible to defend against attack. On the 14th of February 1859, Moody selected a new site at the mouth of the Pitt River on the north side of the Fraser and suggested the town be named Queensborough. In July of that year, Governor Douglas announced Her Majesty had decided the new capital should be named New Westminster. Prior to the Gold Rush, Fort Langley had been an important export port for cedar lumber, cedar shakes, and salted salmon packed in cedar barrels for ships heading to the Hawaiian Islands. Once the military functions of Fort Langley had been largely outsourced to the new capital of New Westminster, the town of Derby went into decline and in order to accommodate the increased number of ships visiting the Fort, a new location was selected along the Bedford Channel, protected from the river current by McMillan Island and Brae Island. The new location is where the town of Fort Langley is now located, where Glover Road meets the Fraser River. Between the 1850s and the 1920s, the town of Fort Langley witnessed the threat of Russian invasion in the early 1850s, the threat of American invasion in 1857 at the discovery of gold in the Fraser River, the unification of the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia in 1858, the boom and bust of the Gold Rush from 1858 to 1865, Canadian Confederation in 1871, and the arrival of the first train early in the 20th century. In 1921, a major saw mill opened on an 88 acre riverfront property. The mill brought jobs and prosperity to the struggling town since the railway had removed most of the shipping roles of Fort Langley. The town largely grew up around the mill becoming a blue collar working class community through the 1960s and 70s. By the end of the 1980s, redundancy and aging machinery meant the end was nearing for the mill. Interfor downsized its staff and, for a time, tried to reinvent the mill into a value-added venture but by the mid 1990s, the mill shut down for good. Seeing the end in sight early on, the Fort decided to try a pilot project at the local junior high school. In 1986, the Township of Langley, School District 35 turned a wing of Fort Langley Junior High into an elementary school that became known as the Langley Fine Arts School. Originally starting with grades 1 through 5, every calendar year that passed the school district added another grade level until the entire junior high school was taken over by a full grade 1 to grade 12 school specializing in fine arts education. This intense training in the arts in the community has spawned numerous community groups such as live theatre and music programs and the building facilities have been expanded to accommodate the need for supporting venues. In the time since this transformation was complete, Fort Langley has seen a number of art galleries and other boutique shops spring up as well as a subsequent increase in interest from destination seekers and day trippers. With the increase in education levels and a transition from blue collar to white collar commuters and professionals, demand for new housing in this quaint village has skyrocketed. The former site of the lumber mill was controversially rezoned for medium density residential in 2005 and in 2006 construction began on a massive masterplanned community that has been named Bedford Landing. This new development will eventually add approximately 1,500 new people to a community that has prized itself on having a stable population of around 2,500 to 3,000 for multiple generations.

Present day
In recent years, many of the village’s old buildings have been restored. The restorations, combined with its rural setting, access to the river and mountain vistas, and the old fort itself, make it a thriving tourist centre. Fort Langley has two museums in addition to the Fort. Outdoor recreation includes canoeing, fishing, hiking and horseback riding. Running and cycling routes and a network of trail systems are maintained by the municipality. Visitors may tour the art galleries, studios, farms and local wineries. Fort Langley has about eighty businesses and its commercial core has a mix of services, restaurants and retail stores. The "small town feel" and historic character add to Fort Langley’s appeal. The town has served as a filming location for commercials, TV shows and movies, with its striking yellow community hall usually featured prominently. The small Fort Langley Airport serves the community. Until 2009, commuters and other motorists heading to and from the Albion Ferry connecting with Maple Ridge passed through Fort Langley. After the opening of the Golden Ears Bridge, however, the ferry was decommissioned on July 31, 2009.

Education
Served by School District 35 Langley, Fort Langley has two schools; Fort Langley Elementary School, and Langley Fine Arts School.