The Peace Arch stands on the international boundary between Blaine, Washington, and Douglas, British Columbia. The Arch was constructed to commemorate the centennial (1814-1914) of the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. The Treaty of Ghent ended the war of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain, a conflict that was waged in North America and involved Canadians, as well as Americans and British.
In 1914, the international fund-raising efforts for the Arch were spearheaded by Samuel Hill, famed Washington State lawyer, financier, road builder and humanitarian, who later dedicated it on September 6, 1921. The Arch's design was donated by H.W. Corbett of London, England, an internationally known architect. Automobile clubs in Washington State and British Columbia contributed time and money. Construction began under an international force of volunteers in 1920.
Standing 67 feet high, the Peace Arch is made of concrete and reinforced steel. Its foundation consists of 76 fourteen inch pilings driven 25-30 feet into the earth. The Arch was said to be one of the first structures in North America constructed to be earthquake proof.
The 3500 sacks of concrete for the Arch's foot walls were donated by R.P. Butchart, of Victoria, British Columbia's Butchart Garden's fame; and 50 tons of steel were donated by E.H. Gary of New York. Originally, 470 lights were "artistically set" up and down the massive pilasters and along the interior frieze of the Arch.
The American side of the Arch is inscribed with the words
"Children of a Common Mother;" the Canadian side, with the words "Brethren Dwelling together in Unity." Within the portal of the Arch on the west side are the words "1814 Open One Hundred Years 1914" and on the east side, "May These Gates Never Be Closed."
Two bronze plaques are placed above the exterior foot walls of the Arch. One is of the Canadian steamship the Beaver; the other of the Mayflower. Wooden relics, allegedly cut from each ship, were sealed behind each plaque when the Arch was dedicated in 1921.
The shrubbery in the gardens of the original seven acre park that surrounded the Arch was donated by Robert Moran, the famed ship builder who built Rosario Mansion (Rosario Resort) on Orcas Island, Washington.
In 1931, the expansion of the park to 40 acres was made possible with the help of school children from Washington State and British Columbia who donated their pennies, nickels and dimes to the project.
Today, the international park's picturesque gardens are the home of over 200 perennials and 55,000 annuals that are planted each year. The park hosts ethnic and family gatherings, picnics, weddings, civic events and annual events of international significance.
Over 500,000 visitors tour this international historic site annually.
The International Peace Arch is one of the few landmarks in the world listed on the National Historic Registries of two different countries.
The history of the Peace Arch reflects more than our past; its existence gives meaning to our present. As the world moves into the twenty-first century the Peace Arch is a beacon of hope for our future.
Peace Arch History & Timeline with photos and
historic film footage
July 15, 1915 - The Bellingham Herald newspaper headline read, “A Centennial of Peace Treaty Between England and United States (1814 - 1914) Observed At Boundary Near Blaine—England, Canada, Japan and United States Represented—4,000 Attend Ceremonies Americans and Canadians ask to raise a Marble Arch.”
Committee members include: U.S. & Canadian government officials, regional & local officials, members of the academic community and community members.
July 1920 - Construction begins on the Peace Arch.
July 25, 1920 - The Vancouver Sunday newspaper headline reads: "Construction Work of Peace Arch at the Border Now Proceeding Apace."
September 6th, 1921 - Peace Arch Dedication ceremony was attended
by over ten-thousand men, women and children, nobles, dignitaries and common folk.
Samuel Hill's dedication speech began, "War satisfies neither the victor nor the vanquished. Perfect peace alone Satisfies"
United States President Warren G. Harding sent an official
greeting the dedication ceremony that read:
The ancient Romans erected a temple to Janus, a dispenser of peace and war, and ordered that its gates should never be closed while the nation
was at war.
In seven centuries they are said to have been closed but three times. You have erected a temple of peace, whose gates are never to be closed save in war.
Already it stands for more than a century of unbroken peace between Britain and America and we all join in the hope that in coming times it may commemorate an era of peace much longer than the periods of wars for which the temple of Janus stood.
Photo Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-13029 DLC Warren G Harding, Twenty-Ninth President of the United States
Our century and more of peace with the British Empire, our relations of unbroken amity with Canada, the fact that a boundary line over 3,000 miles long remains unfortified – these are the testimonies that the world grows wiser and better. All mankind looks to this example, yearns to follow it, and we are justified to believe that a time is at hand when it may take a long step in that direction.
On the occasion of dedication of the Pacific Peace Portal, I wish to convey to you personally my high appreciation of your patriotic service in providing a symbolic shrine to international peace and in doing so I would also thank the Pacific Highway Association (the builder of the portal) for the fine cooperation it has rendered.
Children who participated in the
Peace Arch Dedication received
the special certificate shown here.
Miss Britannia, Dora Wrigglesworth of
Vancouver, BC and
Miss Columbia, Gretchen
Snow of Blaine, present
the flags that were raised
on the Peace Arch at its dedication ceremony.
The Peace Arch Dedication Ceremonies marked the beginning of an era of a strong tourism economy in the City of Blaine that would thrive into the early 1960’s.
1922 - U.S. Customs Officials reported that a record 81,662 cars had crossed the Blaine border. The Pacific Highway was paved in 1925.
New customs facilities were built on the U.S. side in 1929.
1930 - U.S. & Canadian park
expand with the help of school
children from Washington State
and British Columbia.
“Lasting Peace Can Only Be
Established by First Writing
it in the Hearts of Childhood
and Youth” N.D. Showater.
1940 - Originally, 470 lights were "artistically set" up and down the massive pilasters and along the interior frieze of the Arch.
Because of maintenance problems the lights were replaced with floodlights in the mid 1940’s.
The lights were removed and their holes filled with cement in the summer of 1956 (postcard).
June 15th, 1946 - United States-Canada Boundary Treaty Centennial 1846- 1946. A marker was placed in the park on the boundary to commemorate the anniversary.
June 16th, 1946 - Below you can view a
two and a half minute "News Reel"
world events as reported on June 16th, 1946.
Historic News Reel featuring footage from the
1946 Boundary Celebration
The "News Reel" below features the following international news coverage:
A) Bevin, Molotov, Jimmy Byrnes, France's George Bidaut meet for a peace conference.
B) 100 Years of Peace - Centennial Celebration at the Peace Arch honoring the treaty between U.S. Canada establishing boundary.
C) Peron Takes Office - in Argentina, reviews army and navy.
1948 - The Samuel Hill Memorial Park featured a kitchen and picnic areas. The Canadian side of the park was completed in 1948, with the addition of kitchen facilities.
May 18, 1952 - Paul Robeson stood on the back of a flat bed truck and sang songs of defiance and solidarity to 40,000 people on the US-Canadian border when the U.S. government refused him permission to cross the border.
Accompanied by Lawrence Brown on piano, Robeson sang and spoke for 45 minutes. He introduced his first song stating "I stand here today under great stress because I dare, as do you -- all of you, to fight for peace and for a decent life for all men, women and children".
He proceeded to sing spirituals, folk songs, labor songs, and a passionate version of Old Man River, written for him in the 20's, slowly enunciating "show a little grit and you land in jail", underlining the fact that his government had turned the entire country into a prison for Robeson and many others.
Video courtesy Mickey Clark & You Tube. Paul Robeson text courtesy Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility -- Chicago Chapter.