The Peace Arch
By Richard Clark
Peace Arch Proposals
Governmental restrictions smothered a 1915 British Columbia Municipal Union proposal. Otherwise, Peace Highway, as it was called, might have been built between Blaine and Sumas, its centerline tracing the 49th parallel. Hill’s “invisible highway of peace reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific” would have materialized for 22 miles. The United States would have been responsible for constructing and maintaining the southern half of the highway, Canada for the northern half. Roadside markers commemorating peace between both nations would have been erected.
Imagine a powerful radio station broadcasting short-wave messages of peace to every corner of the world. Its theme, “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Mankind,” would be continuously broadcast in 31 languages. Such was the proposal of Scottish author and playwright, L.A. Macpherson, sister of Hugh Macpherson, a British army lieutenant killed during World War I. “Remember, if I fall, I fall for peace,” he had told her. The Peace Arch radio station would become her tribute to his noble sentiment. Her dream, published in the April 20, 1924 edition of Radio, a New York Tribune and Times magazine, became a front-page story in the Blaine Journal-Press. “She believes that the constant broadcasting of that message would have a profound effect on millions,” stated the Blaine newspaper. Her dream dissolved.
The Blaine Chamber of Commerce enthusiastically published a “mass meeting” to be held at the Blaine Legion Hall November 20, 1925. The chamber, proposing the Peace Arch as its city theme, was asking the community to participate in a brainstorming session. “The chamber of commerce has started this movement,” reported the Blaine Journal-Press, “but does not hope to carry it out without the hearty support of every citizen.” A poem, “The Peace Arch Festival,” accompanied the invitation. R. Rowe Holland, Vancouver attorney and friend of Samuel Hill, was the selected keynote speaker. Alas, hardly anyone, including Holland, amassed for the meeting. The dream decayed. A decade passed before the chamber again tried to promote the Peace Arch.
Early 1944, while World War II was raging, Bellingham radioman Rogan Jones and New Westminster mayor W.M. Mott proposed creation of an international peace university on Peace Arch parkland. The plan called for enrollment of students “from all over the world” as Mott saw it. Jones envisioned the university developing by stages, beginning with a fireproof library containing “every known book, pamphlet or other publication pertaining to the subject of peace.” Imagine what would have become of Blaine, had 5,000 or so students from all parts of the world been attending a university specializing in peace studies. Can you see them lounging on the boardwalk, energetically discussing the wherewithal of world peace? I think the customs and immigration buildings could have been revamped to become fine halls of learning. The proposal was widely discussed, but by 1947 a concept so radical died for lack of interest.
State senator A.E. Edwards supported Rogan Jones’ 1945 proposal for a swimming pool at Peace Arch State Park. George Ekvall, state architect, drew a blueprint and placed the plan on exhibit the following summer. It would have locker rooms, bleachers, and a lighting system replete with floodlights. A kiddies’ wading pool would abut it. Located opposite United States Customs and Immigration, the pool’s housing would reflect the government buildings’ architecture. Of course it would have looked nice on the proposed university campus, but the swimming pool proposal also evaporated by 1947.
No proposal seems more unbelievable than that of National Highway Association founder-president Charles Davis of Bass River, Cape Cod. Davis, an incredible dreamer, planned to construct a giant world peace monument beside the comparatively tiny Peace Arch. Additional land would have been needed. His steel and glass obelisk was designed to rise 10,000 feet. Yes, that’s four zeros. Each of the eight buildings sprouting from its base would have measured 100 feet from ground level to roof, 500 feet wide, and 1,500 feet long. Although the yawning discontinuity between everything that idealism could imagine was eliminated by anything reality could afford, Davis nevertheless won the support of world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, a member of his board of trustees. He revealed his plan to the Automobile Club of Washington in 1931. He would invite the Prince of Wales to lay the cornerstone by 1932. The proposal never got off the ground.
Space allowances preclude coverage of every Peace Arch proposal. There’s more in my manuscript, Sam Hill’s Peace Arch: Remembrance of Dreams Past, at Blaine’s library or www.thecshop.com. For details, locate the peace highway (p. 13), Macpherson radio plan (p. 192), chamber proposal (p. 181), “The Peace Arch Festival” (p. 299), international university (p. 197), swimming pool (p. 207), Davis monument (p. 173).