A LOOK BACK: The ‘Golden Stairs’ of Port Alberni

Take a step back in time with the Alberni Valley Museum

In 1916, a set of wooden stairs and a footbridge connected the north and south sides of the Dry Creek gully around where Ninth Avenue is now. There were 78 steps on the north side and 58 steps on the south side, and they were called the Golden Stairs. A 1992 newspaper column by historian Jan Peterson notes the origin of the name was ‘undecided.’ This photo is one of 24,000 in the Alberni Valley Museum’s online digital archives. See more about the Golden Stairs at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN01401 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)

In 1916, a set of wooden stairs and a footbridge connected the north and south sides of the Dry Creek gully around where Ninth Avenue is now. There were 78 steps on the north side and 58 steps on the south side, and they were called the Golden Stairs. A 1992 newspaper column by historian Jan Peterson notes the origin of the name was ‘undecided.’ This photo is one of 24,000 in the Alberni Valley Museum’s online digital archives. See more about the Golden Stairs at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN01401 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)

Did you know that two sets of stairs used to connect the north and south sides of the Dry Creek Park gully?

I didn’t.

I learned about it from a discussion in the You Know You Grew Up in Port Alberni if… Facebook group, and searched for some photos in the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives. Anyone can look up photos in the archive at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. Museum staff have scanned and uploaded approximately 24,000 images covering more than 100 years of Alberni Valley history.

The steep stairs connected from Sixth Avenue on one side of the gully to Sixth Avenue on the other side, with a wooden footbridge in between. There were 58 steps on the south side and 78 on the north side, according to AV Museum information.

Very little information exists now about the stairs. Historian Jan Peterson wrote a column in another newspaper in 1992 about the stairs—known to residents as the “Golden Stairs.” Peterson wrote that there were two camps on why the stairs were given that moniker: either because of the omnipresent golden-coloured moss that thrived in the damp environment of the park, or because of some popular song lyrics at the time, “Climbing up the Golden Stairs.”

Peterson’s column noted that the stairs were replaced around the mid-1920s by a wooden trestle bridge spanning the ravine at Ninth Avenue. When it was time to replace that bridge, in 1950, the decision was made to fill in the ravine and build a road—known locally as the 10th Avenue dip.

If you walk through Dry Creek Park now, there is a metal bridge that crosses the creek at approximately Ninth Avenue—three blocks up from where the Golden Stairs had been located. There is still a path up to North Park Drive, but it is rocky and steep. Another path winds through the gully in the opposite direction.

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A metal bridge connects the north and south sides of Dry Creek Park over the creekbed in this October 2020 photo. Decades ago there used to be two sets of stairs that Port Alberni residents dubbed ‘the Golden Stairs.’ (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

A metal bridge connects the north and south sides of Dry Creek Park over the creekbed in this October 2020 photo. Decades ago there used to be two sets of stairs that Port Alberni residents dubbed ‘the Golden Stairs.’ (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)