WOOLWORTH’s – A LONGTIME PIECE OF DOWNTOWN CHILLIWACK’S HISTORICAL SHOPPING MOSAIC

For over six decades, a popular shopping presence in downtown Chilliwack, in three different high-profile locations, was the F. W. Woolworth Co. store, generally referred to as “Woolworth’s”.


On September 28, 1928, Chilliwack’s first Woolworth’s store opened near Five Corners, at 40 Yale Road East, across from the brick post office, in what was initially known as the Macken Block.


This 1939 image was captured from the roof of Chilliwack’s brick post office, facing southwest along Yale Road East and West, with Five Corners in the middle-right of the shot. Evident to the left of the photo is the Woolworth’s store, at 40 Yale Road East, where it operated for the 24-year period 1928-1952. Also identified in the image are the Imperial Theatre Building, the Stacey Block, the Empress Hotel, and Chilliwack City Hall. (Image Credit: Chilliwack Museum and Archives Collection, Photo Number: 1989.060.001)



By 1952, Chilliwack’s population had more than doubled since Woolworth’s opened a quarter of a century earlier and space in its cramped Yale Road East store was no longer sufficient. Thus, the company moved to larger premises, opening on September 11, 1952, at 30-32 Wellington Avenue, directly beside Eaton’s.


During the following 15 years, the community’s population continued to increase significantly, leaving Woolworth’s once again experiencing space and operational limitations. In response, the company announced plans in 1967 to build a large department store structure (in excess of 40,000 square feet).





This busy 1965 street scene was captured at Five Corners, facing southwest towards Woolworth’s, Eaton’s, and other establishments along Wellington Avenue. This image illustrates the proximity to Eaton’s and Five Corners that Woolworth’s enjoyed for the 17-year period ended in 1969. (Image Credit: BC Archives Collections)



F. W. Woolworth Co. had earlier acquired eight properties comprising much of the real estate bounded by Main Street, Princess Avenue, Wellington Avenue, and Mary Street, and in September 1968, demolition commenced on the buildings within this block prior to the new Woolworth’s store being built.

Construction on the large downtown Chilliwack project started in late December 1968, and on October 9, 1969, with Mayor A. B. Holder cutting the ribbon, the community’s new me ga Woolworth’s opened at 21 Main Street, the largest single-floor Woolworth’s in BC.

However, 31 years later, effective February 1, 1990, Woolworth’s suddenly ceased to be in Chilliwack. On that date, the store was converted to a Woolco department store.




This circa 1972 northwest-facing image captures Chilliwack’s Woolworth’s store situated at the corner of Princess Avenue West and Main Street, its third location in the city. The sizable structure, constructed in 1969,still stands today, occupied since 2011 by the Main Street Church. (Image Credit: Chilliwack Progress Archives)



Woolco operated for the next four years in the spacious premises of its parent, Woolworth’s, before closing in 1994. Later that year, the building became Liquidation World, which would occupy the building in question for most of the next two decades.

In early 2011, in what was viewed as a “potential spiritual and financial revival for downtown Chilliwack”,Promontory Community Church moved into the old Woolworth’s building on Main Street, sharing space withLiquidation World.

In 2014, with Liquidation World having ceased operations, Promontory Community Church and another downtown Chilliwack church came together under one roof at the ex-Woolworth’s location to form Main Street Church.


Today the location of the original Woolworth’s in Chilliwack, on Yale Road, has been reborn as an integral component of Chilliwack’s new District 18881, serving as home to Field House Brewing Company on the ground floor, while the upper floor accommodates the Woolworth Flats residences.




This 2022 southwest-facing image captures, in its current context, the original location of Woolworth’s in Chilliwack, from 1928 to 1952, in what was the Macken Block at 40 Yale Road East. Today the site of the first Woolworth’s in Chilliwack has been reborn as an integral component of Chilliwack’s new District 1881, serving as home to Field House Brewing Company on the ground floor, while the upper floor accommodates the Woolworth Flats residences. The naming of the apartments is an appropriate nod to the 24 years that Woolworth’s was the main tenant in the building. (Image Credit: Chilliwack History Perspectives Collection)



The location of the second Woolworth’s store in Chilliwack is now home to longtime Chilliwack retail business, Payton & Buckle Fine Footwear. And the third location of Woolworth’s in Chilliwack continues today as the Main Street Church. The F. W. Woolworth Co. itself no longer exists, having ceased all operations in 1997. For 62 years, covering multiple generations of loyal shoppers, Woolworth’s was part of everyday Chilliwack life - a popular destination in the downtown core. Despite the historic name being gone from the local retail scene.

53 views