For July and August, the Vernon Museum will share a series of articles that explore some of the many heritage sites around the North Okanagan. To plan a visit to any of the sites featured, please visit https://vernonmuseum.ca/explore/heritage-field-trips/.
The Okanagan Landing Stationhouse Museum
One of Vernon’s hidden gems is the Okanagan Landing Stationhouse Museum, located in Paddlewheel Park.
In addition to a variety of other artifacts, the museum boasts an incredible scale model that depicts life in the Okanagan Landing in 1914.
The Era of Sternwheelers
Life was different in Vernon when sternwheelers still plied the waters of Okanagan Lake.
The Landing was a hub of activity, since it was the terminus of the Shuswap and Okanagan spur line of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and the most northerly steamboat port on the lake. It wasn’t unusual for the arrival or departure of ships to draw large crowds to the Landing, and perhaps none more so than for the launch of the S.S. Okanagan in 1907.
A New Ship
On April 16 of that year, the town was all but deserted, for the majority of its population had descended on the Okanagan Landing. Mayor W.R. Megaw had declared a half-holiday, and school, stores, and offices were closed.
The Landing, meanwhile, was festively decorated, with bunting, flags, and streamers waving cheerfully from every building.
But it was the S.S. Okanagan that was drawing the most attention from onlookers, with her gleaming white and gold trim.
Construction had begun on the CPR vessel a year earlier, in 1906. She was built to replace the aging S.S. Aberdeen in transporting passengers and freight between Vernon and Penticton. After a year of construction, she was finally ready to be put to work.
As the crowd waited impatiently, the ship’s gang plank was removed and she started to slowly slide along the greased stringers towards the water.
Meanwhile, a ceremony was taking place on the ship’s main deck; the wife of Captain Gore had been given the honour of naming the ship, and was presented with a flower bouquet and a silver water service.
As the Okanagan slipped into the lake for the first time, Mrs. Gore showered a bottle of champagne across the ship’s bow. The guests on board toasted to the new vessel’s success, before they were transferred to the S.S. Aberdeen and brought back to shore.
Celebrations continued into the evening, with performances by the Vernon Fire Brigade Band and a dance hosted by Captain and Mrs. Gore at the Landing’s Strand Hotel.
YEARS OF SERVICE
The S.S. Okanagan was in service for 27 years before being retired in 1934. While most of her pieces were dismantled and sold as scraps, the Ladies Saloon from the boat’s stern was rescued by the S.S. Sicamous Restoration Society and moved to the heritage park in Penticton.
The Okanagan Landing Stationhouse museum is housed in in the original 1892 railroad station house.
The S.S. Okanagan on her day of launch in 1907.
Okanagan Landing, showing the Strand Hotel, railroad, and SS Okanagan, sternwheeler circa 1910. GVMA #11232.