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Founded in 1858 as the capital of the Colony of British Columbia, New Westminster is a historically rich and diverse city, and is the oldest city in western Canada. Richard Moody, who was responsible for New Westminster's appointment as the capital, stated that it was a beneficial area due to its surrounding water body of the Fraser River, which provided efficient transportation channels. Queen Victoria named the city after Westminster, the city that houses the Parliament Buildings in London. Because of the Queen's involvement in naming the city, it has gained the nickname "The Royal City." Aboriginals occupied the land of New Westminster, and soon Canadians and Maritime settlers began moving into the area. When the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in 1885, the industry in New Westminster quickly developed and many businesses were opened shortly after.
New Westminster is known for its heritage homes that are reflective of its rich history. The 1865 Irving House, which stands as one of the oldest community heritage sites in all of British Columbia, is set in the heart of New Westminster and is open on the weekends for tours. The Samson V is the only surviving wooden steam-powered sternwheeler ship, which was first launched in 1937. Remaining as the only floating and intact ship of its kind in North America, The Samson V has been preserved as another museum in New Westminster. Popular arts and performance theatres in New Westminster include the Massey Theatre, the Burr Theatre, and Bernie Legge Theatre which is located at the city's popular Queens Park. Queens Park offers many walking trails, dog-walking areas, the Queens Park Arena for sports, and tennis courts. Families can also enjoy Rainbow Playland at Queens Park, which offers two playgrounds, a water park, and a petting farm. New Westminster's Waterfront Esplanade is great for jogging, dog walking, shopping, and dining with a view of the Fraser River. New Westminster is served by Royal Columbian Hospital.
New Westminster is a city that offers many different access points, including direct access from Surrey via the Pattullo Bridge, which takes commuters directly onto McBride Blvd, one of the city's major through-routes. The Trans-Canada Highway connects with Brunette Avenue, which provides access to Columbia Street, and Kingsway provides an easy access route from Burnaby. New Westminster also offers two other access points: Marine Way to Burnaby and Vancouver, or the Queensborough Bridge, which connects with Highway 91 to Richmond, Delta, or Surrey. Commuting is also made easy for residents in New Westminster as it is served by the SkyTrain line, with two stops at Columbia Street, one at 22nd Street, and two more stops further east on Brunette. These stations provide access to Burnaby, Surrey, and Vancouver.
The school district in New Westminster offers nine elementary schools (two of which offer French immersion), two middle schools, and one secondary school. French immersion is offered at both middle schools as well as New Westminster Secondary School. The Royal City also offers four post-secondary institutions: Douglas College, Justice Institute of British Columbia, The Boucher Institute, and CG Masters School of 3D Animation and Visual Effects.
As of 2011, New Westminster had a population of 65,976, with a population density of 4,222.2 people per square kilometre. The population of New Westminster experienced a 12.7% increase from the recorded population in 2006 of 58,549. The median annual income in 2005 for New Westminster residents was $27,817, which is slightly higher than the median annual income for the rest of British Columbia, which was recorded at $24,867.
The annual Hyack Festival takes place in New Westminster each spring, and celebrates the rich history of the city with local community partnerships. The event includes fireworks, a parade, and sporting events. Hyack also hosts a Santa Claus Parade of Lights. Family-friendly Canada Day events are held each year in Queens Park, as well as the May Day Celebration when hundreds of elementary school children gather for a performance and the traditional crowning of the May Queen. New Westminster is also the host to the Royal City Show n' Shine car show, which is one of the largest in British Columbia. New Westminster has recently undergone development and continues to grow as a metropolitan city but holds fast to its rich history and culture, which ensures it as an ideal residential neighbourhood for decades to come.