Hammond is traditionally sub-divided into two areas: “Upper Hammond” (north of the railway tracks) and “Lower Hammond” (south of the railway tracks). Lower Hammond is an enclave, with only two roads that enable access: Ditton Street and Lorne Avenue.
Residents of Lower Hammond are justly fond of their quiet neighbourhood, with Tolmie Park as a centerpiece, bounded by the river, the greenway (and giant sand pile) around the Golden Ears Bridge and the undeveloped Katzie lands. Some of the buildings on Wharf Street seem like reminders from the past, with small ship-yards and docks. (The ‘Port’ in Port Hammond was the landing at the river’s edge of Hazelwood Street.) However, in days gone by, Lower Hammond was considered “the wrong side of the tracks.”
When I use the phrase “wrong side of the tracks”, I immediately envision 50s-style greasers with slicked-back hair and black leather jackets and their gum-snapping cigarette-smoking girlfriends. Lower Hammond’s reputation goes back much farther than that, though, and it actually has more to do with geography than hooliganism.
Lower Hammond slopes down to the Fraser River. Wharf Street, which runs along the river bank, is built on top of a dyke. When you walk along Wharf Street, if the river is on your left the houses on your right are almost completely below the top of the dyke. This low-lying land was subject to flooding and generally unsuitable for building, and was therefore much less expensive than the land in Upper Hammond (which has a higher elevation). Up until the 70s, when sanitary sewers were installed, buildings in Lower Hammond relied on septic tanks.
Chinese immigrants came to Hammond in the 1880s to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Some built shacks along Wharf Street in Lower Hammond. The Louie family is remembered as a “pioneer” family; Nellie Louie ran a store in the front area of her home which was on Wharf Street immediately east of Princess Street. (If any descendants of the Louie family happen to read this article, please get in touch – we’d be very interested in learning about your family’s history and experiences in Hammond.)
Times may have changed, but people in Lower Hammond still bristle when people call it “the wrong side of the tracks.”
- Sandy Macdougall and Lara Cooley (via Facebook)
- The Heritage Resources of Maple Ridge
- The Maple Ridge Museum and Community Archives