A lot has changed in 100 years in Blaine, from I-5 being built to entire neighborhoods erected, but the arch straddling the U.S./Canada border has remained the same. The Peace Arch will celebrate 100 years after being dedicated September 6, 1921.
Although the full centennial celebration is delayed because of Covid-19, there will be individual activities for people to celebrate on the U.S. side of Peace Arch Park.
Christina Alexander, International Peace Arch Association (IPAA) founder, says there’s no better time to celebrate than now.
“It gives people a chance to be together and look to the future,” Alexander said. “I hope we can all come together and acknowledge the special date and our special circumstances.”
In 1914, the Peace Arch founders decided to build the monument to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the 1814 Treaty of Ghent that ended the War of 1812 between the U.S. and Great Britain. But in 1915, as the founders were planning for construction, WWI started in Europe and Canada immediately went to war as a member of the British Commonwealth. When the war ended in 1918, soldiers brought home the Spanish Influenza.
“If our Peace Arch founders could start on their quest to create Peace Arch in 1914, be delayed by a war and a global pandemic, come back home with some of them having been fallen, and then get back to work and build their arch of peace and leave it for us,” Alexander said, “I think we can do great things to honor and remember them.”
September 6 was chosen as the dedication date in 1921 because it was the day the Mayflower left for Plymouth Rock, according to the IPAA website. Washington state lawyer Samuel Hill fundraised for the monument designed by international architect H.W. Corbett.
Lynda Mazerolle, a 58-year-old Victoria, B.C. resident, has waited her entire life for the Peace Arch centennial. Mazerolle grew up in her tight-knit family hearing stories of her maternal grandfather attending the 1921 dedication that drew crowds of Canadians and Americans. Students at her grandfather’s school, Hjorth Road Elementary in Surrey, were bused to the dedication, with each child bringing a dime to build gardens on the Canadian side.
While at the dedication, the grandfather placed a 1921 dime in a time capsule and received a certificate he was told to give to his future generations so they could retrieve the coin in 2021.
“This is something he had wanted,” Mazerolle said of her grandfather. “We need to be there to get the coin to remember him.”
While the time capsule won’t open September 6, Mazerolle said when the time comes, she plans to gather as many family members as she can to retrieve the coin.
People can still pay their respects to the historic landmark Saturday, September 4 through Monday, September 6. Visitors will be able to pick up a flyer at the snack shack located in the U.S. parking lot. The flyers will provide information about historic Peace Arch photos set up around the park.
Visitors can leave comments and flowers at the Peace Arch. Alexander also welcomes visitors to dress in 1920s attire.
“It’s an opportunity to reflect, to be grateful, to acknowledge so we’re actually acknowledging this was to be an important weekend and it is an important weekend,” she said. “We’re just acknowledging it differently.”
Hands Across the Border, an annual celebration of the Peace Arch, will return virtually 1-3 p.m. Monday, September 6. To register for the free event, visit handsacrosstheborder.info.
Since the U.S/Canada border closed to non-essential travel, people have found new meaning to connect with the park. Alexander said she’s witnessed thousands of cross-border families of different ethnic and religious backgrounds reunite in the park. Alexander said this is the first time she’s seen the park so busy in decades and hopes it impacts the way people connect with the park in the future.
“We have a whole new awareness and appreciation of the arch by generations,” Alexander said. “People who may have been in the traveling public and had a good appreciation from Canada and America now have a really great appreciation for this peace park that our forefathers built and left to us as a gift.”
For more information, call Alexander at 360/332-7165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.