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Nelson... built on the mountain slopes rising from Kootenay Lake, is an intriguing and picturesque blend of old and new. It’s a town where time has seemingly stood still. But don’t let the quiet fool you. The appeal of this charming city is undeniable. Home to over 9700, Nelson offers both the splendour of past eras and the vibrancy of the present.
Nelson began in the late 1880s as a rough camp which catered to the needs of miners drawn to the area by a silver rush. Located at the foot of Toad Mountain, the town grew rapidly, and by the early 1900s boasted several fine hotels, a number of churches, substantial residences and elegant public buildings.
Incorporated as a city in 1897, with a population of 1000, Nelson owes many of its beautiful buildings to the civic pride of its citizens at the turn of the last century. That ambiance lingers in every corner from the preserved heritage buildings to the fully restored streetcar.
At the end of the 19th century mining began to take a reduced role in the city’s prosperity due to the decline in silver prices. In the early 1900s, fruit ranching became important in the Kootenay Lake valley to the north of Nelson. During that time, Nelson businesses provided the ranchers with supplies.
Today, Nelson’s economy is very diverse. The ingenuity of the people who continue to migrate to Nelson (joining others whose families have already made that choice), coupled with the self-sufficiency that is a requirement for a town four hours away from major centres like Kelowna or Spokane, forge an altogether unique combination of enterprises. Nelson’s modern face is the energy of its people – an energy that comes across when you see the art hanging in the shops and restaurants, or when you notice the variety of the unique businesses that thrive in this well-supported local economy.
Sunset Magazine’s authors were so impressed with the sense of community they found and the activities and beauty Nelsonites have at hand that they included Nelson in their list of the Top Twenty Ultimate Fantasy Towns. Before you know it, you will be imagining yourself living here – or definitely planning to come back again!
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