How a quirky Dutch castle went from Expo 86 to Richmond’s Fantasy Garden World theme park

Matthew Hoekstra - Richmond News

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Expo 86 was the biggest event B.C. had ever seen in 1986. The World’s Fair drew 22 million visitors to the north side of False Creek over six months.

The infrastructure contributions from Expo 86 include the SkyTrain Expo Line, Science World, BC Place Stadium, Canada Place and the Plaza of Nations, among others, noted then-Vancouver City Councillor George Affleck in marking the event’s 30th anniversary in 2016.

The Dutch castle, a familiar sight in South Richmond, was first located in the heart of Downtown Vancouver during Expo 86. Photograph By AL HARVEY PHOTO (SLIDEFARM.COM)

Richmond, however, wasn’t directly involved with the big show. Expo 86, as longtime local Coun. Harold Steves noted, was Vancouver’s party — unlike the 2010 Olympics, which had a dramatic effect here in Richmond.

Yet, thanks to former B.C. premier Bill Vander Zalm, a piece of Expo 86 culture did come to Richmond after the fair ended. Remarkably, it’s still in Richmond today.

In 1987, a crew from Nickel Bros. house movers spent several weeks uprooting and moving of a Dutch castle — an Expo 86 attraction — to Richmond from its foundation in Downtown Vancouver.

The castle is a replica of the Coeverden Castle in the Netherlands — the ancestral home of explorer Captain George Vancouver. Vander Zalm bought the structure and had it barged from False Creek to No. 5 Road and Steveston Highway, where it became part of his theme park Fantasy Garden World.

“It was a phenomenal event,” said Vander Zalm about the move. “Hundreds of people followed the castle down the streets of Vancouver, particularly Howe Street. It was two o’clock in the morning and they took all the wiring down. The castle moved down the street with police cars up front and behind, as I recall it.”

Launched near the Burrard Street Bridge, the castle-laden barge was piloted to the south end of No. 5 Road. Once on land, a truck moved it into place at Fantasy Garden World.

“We used it for a Christmas store. Initially for a time we were thinking it could be a meeting hall or the likes of that. But we found shortly after that, as a Christmas gift-shop it was more of an attraction.”

Although the castle is perhaps best known for showboating during Expo 86, it was actually built—next to Pacific Centre Mall, at the corner of Georgia and Howe streets — for Vancouver centennial celebrations that same year, according to the City of Vancouver Archives.

The castle occupied prime downtown real estate in front of the Four Seasons Hotel, and once both parties ended, the brick building had to move.

Fantasy Garden World is long gone, but the castle can still be seen off No. 5 Road, awaiting its next chapter.

Demolition of many structures at Fantasy Garden World in Richmond in 2010. The castle, however, remains standing (Stephen Rees/Flickr)

It’s now destined to become a child care centre at the entrance to a new No. 5 Road park as part of The Gardens development from Townline Homes.

This article originally appeared in the Richmond News on July 8, 2016, and has been condensed and edited.