Archive for the ‘False Creek’ Category

Granville Island from above

This 1950 image shows Granville Island crammed with industrial businesses. It had once been a sandbar, used by the Squamish natives to catch fish while they occupied their nearby winter settlement of Snauq. They had a fish weir, built of twisted vine maple, that led flounders and smelts into a fish trap. As development of the new city forced them off their traditional lands, and the forest was cut down, various attempts were made to acquire and develop on the sandbars, none successful. A lumber and planing mill was established on the muddy foreshore, next to the bridge that had been piled across the Creek in 1889. By 1903 the mill’s footprint had been extended, with the insurance map identifying ‘land made of slabs and sawdust’, but the sandbar remained undeveloped. By 1912 the mill was larger, operated as the Rat Portage Lumber Co, with a new bridge alongside the first, and the Hanbury Lumber Company’s mill to the east, on the southern shore. They leased moorings from Canadian Pacific in the creek, where miles of log booms were tethered, awaiting processing in the mill.

In 1913 everything changed with the creation of the Vancouver Harbour Commission. Given control over all tidal waters, they set about creating solid land to expand industrial operations. Hanbury’s lost the water rights in front of their mill; the Federal Government announced that CPR had never had the rights in the first place. CPR’s foreshore rights wouldn’t be settled until 1928. In the meantime the Harbour Commission started piling a bulkhead around the sandbars, and building a rail track and a road from the south shore. They raised $300,000 from the sale of bonds that paid 5% interest, and hired Pacific Dredging to deepen the channel and pile the fill inside the bulkhead. With a brief stop while wartime priorities interupted, by 1916 a million cubic yards of mud had been sucked from the creek, and ‘Industrial Island’ had been built at a cost of $342,000.

Tenants soon moved in; Wallace Shipyards followed Vulcan Ironworks, with BC Equipment Ltd first to build a corrugated tin repair and assembly shop on the island’s north-west corner. Leases were for 21 years, ranging from $500 to $1,500 per acre. There were two miles of rail tracks, and all services; water, gas and electricity. Businesses fabricated wire ropes; built band saws; assembled steel chains. Transport businesses occupied huge warehouses. By 1930 there were 1,200 workers on the island. By 1936 the National Harbours Board were running the island, and arguing that as tenants of a federal agency, the businesses stopped paying taxes to the city. Only an appeal in the House or Lords in London reinstated the revenue, several years later. Business boomed during the war, with demand for the ropes, chains and other products coming from the expanded ship-building operations up and down False Creek.

By 1950, when the photo was taken, business was still strong, but the creek had become run down and lined with semi-derelict buildings. Alderman Jack Price proposed that, rather than rebuilding the ageing Georgia Viaducts, and crumbling Cambie and Granville bridges, the entire creek should be filled in. The CPRs William Van Horne had first suggested the idea decades earlier. The 1950 campaign, supported by mayor Fred Hume, was derailed because a new Granville Bridge was already well advanced in planning. The new alignment can be seen in the picture; the piers were constructed through the existing buildings in some places. A further study shut the idea down completely; the engineering, compensation for lost riparian rights, and new infrastructure would have cost $50m, and created land worth $9m.

By the mid 1960s many of the businesses had closed, and an arsonist had destroyed several of the buildings. Demand for the remaining businesses that supported the lumber mills disappeared as those too burned down, and were not rebuilt. The plans to transform the island into a different kind of place were started in the early 1970s, as the remainder of South False Creek started redevelopment. It took until 1978 for the unique mix of new uses, retained and repurposed buildings, and shared street space to become an adopted plan. Designed by Hotson Bakker, the Island has gradually changed over time, but continues under federal ownership to offer locally owned markets, restaurants, arts enterprises and spaces for craft manufacturing seen in this 2018 image.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 216-39 and Trish Jewison, Global BC helicopter on twitter.

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Posted May 18, 2020 by ChangingCity in Altered, False Creek

False Creek North railyards

We struggled a bit to get this ‘after’ shot lined up – there’s literally nothing in the ‘before’ image that we can directly line up today. The warehouse buildings off on the right were on Beatty Street – and some are still standing today, but there’s a lot of development between Cambie Bridge (where the picture was taken from) and those buildings (many developed in the early 1900s). The bridge itself has been replaced, and isn’t exactly in the same position today as it was in the undated, but likely 1970s ‘before’ picture.

Expo Boulevard now crosses the former railyards, and Concord Pacific towers are lined up along the street, down to the edge of False Creek. One of the few remaining development sites sits on the left, underneath the bridge. It’s been reserved for decades for non-market housing. The comprehensive plan for False Creek North reserves the land, but doesn’t provide the necessary finances to build the non-market components of the project. Provincial and Federal funding for new housing dried up soon after the deal was struck, so the site (and several others) have been frozen until a funding source could be found. That may change soon, as both levels of government have now started releasing funds, and the City of Vancouver have become increasingly pro-active and innovative in getting new non-market housing built.

The railtracks were all in place in the early 1900s, and were actively used through several decades, but by the 1970s use had ceased and many of the tracks had been removed. As industrial uses gradually withdrew from the Central Area waterfront (on both sides of False Creek), the Province acquired the land from the railway company. After some initial development concepts for high density residential conversion, the opportunity was taken to locate a World Fair, which became Expo ’86. After the fair the land was sold to Li Ka Shing’s property development company, now known as Concord Pacific, who thirty years later are planning the final phases of development, having seen over 9,000 units built on their land, and other developers taking on other parts of the former Expo Lands.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 800-358

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Posted June 6, 2019 by ChangingCity in Altered, False Creek

1500 Main Street

The City has hundreds of locations that were once gas stations, although today the remaining service stations are becoming increasingly rare. Here’s one on the corner of Main Street and Terminal Avenue, seen in 1940s. It’s Al Deeming’s Union Oil gas and service station. The leasee was Albert W Deeming, and we wondered if he might be the son of Albert Deeming of North Vancouver, who ran a fruit ranch, but according to his marriage certificate Albert W was the son of Caleb James Deeming. However, the 1891 Census shows both Albert and James Deeming were brothers, and had arrived from England, living in Mountain District (Nanaimo) and working as miners for the New Vancouver Coal Co. In 1911 Albert W was aged six, and his father had become a farmer in Delta.

This gas station first appears in the street directory in 1924, as do the industrial buildings in the background which once housed Neon Products’, the BC Valve Company and Massey Harris’s agricultural implement showroom beyond the gas bar. The building further east dates from 1929. The buildings are still there today, although now they are wholesale and retail warehouse buildings for furniture and floors tiles.

In the 1950s the Terminal Service and gas station was run by L E and Mrs M S Love. There’s a 1980s image in the Archives showing that the gas station was still here when the Skytrain was under construction across the street. By then it was a Gulf gasoline station, with a new canopy. Today it’s the site of the city’s first Temporary Modular Housing, intended to help meet the current homelessness situation. Built in a matter of days, it has 40 modular apartment units that can be demounted and reassembled on another site when redevelopment plans come forward for this part of False Creek Flats, currently owned by the City of Vancouver.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1184-1734

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Posted December 10, 2018 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

City Market – Westminster Avenue

The City Market was an ambitious investment, that proved to be a bit too out of the way to succeed. Built on Westminster Avenue (today’s Main Street) it was located on the far side of the bridge that crossed the False Creek Flats, so was effectively ‘out of town’. It was fabulously ornate and state-of-the-art , with a cast iron façade and a lot of glazing; seen here in 1910.

Opened in 1908, the market operations replaced an earlier city building that was re-purposed as City Hall. This building was an unusually decorative design by W T Whiteway, who supervised the site preparations in 1907, reporting to the Council Market and Industries Committee that “the market wharf had been completed by the B. C. Contract Co. in a very satisfactory manner. He had seen no traces of toredoes when examining it. He had examined other wharves near there and found that toredoes did not seem to in that part of False creek. It was decided to charge the cost of the roadway approaching the market to the board of works.” Bayfield and Williams successfully bid to build the market at a cost of $25,233. (Toredoes – shipworms – are the marine creatures – actually a type of saltwater clam- that live on wood, and tunnel into underwater piers and pilings causing damage and destruction to submarine timber structures).

The market opened in August 1908, and the Daily World reported the first day of operations. In passing it referenced what must have been the city’s first green roof, and a rather innovative way of attracting customers. “When the door of the new building with the imitation moss – covered roof, at the southern end of Westminster avenue bridge, were thrown open this morning there were many women present, for it had gone forth that the woman wan made the first purchase at the opening of the market would have, the honor of declaring the market open and also receive, as a premium, a leg of mutton. Besides the women who wished the honor and the mutton there were several hundred spectators, mostly of the male persuasion, who cheered the fair contestants. “All ready,” shouted the clerk. “All ready,” repeated the caretaker, and the echoes had not been caught up from the back walls before the rush was on“. The newspaper carried several columns of details of the competition for the mutton, won by Mrs. Allen of Columbia Avenue “A pyramid of boxes of plums foil over to the stairway and the crushed fruit mude the ascent more perilous. One lady fell and the othes rushed unchecked over her prostrate body, knowing that the plum would make a cushion to save her from injury, even if they did stain her frock“.

Despite attracting 3,000 customers on the first day, the market was soon a failure, with few residents having any other reason to travel so far out of the city in that direction. It closed in the early 1920s, and was leased to a variety of industries, including a wire works, poultry dealer and a fish ball manufacturer. In 1925 it burned to the ground; all the firefighters could do was save the lives of some of the chickens.

The site was reused by a variety of industrial companies, including Excelsior Paper Stock and Spicer’s Asbestos Ltd in the 1930s. Today it’s a surface parking lot owned by the City of Vancouver, awaiting a future development as part of South East False Creek.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-89

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Posted November 19, 2018 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

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False Creek North waterfront

Our view along the seawall of False Creek is just over 20 years old, we think. The 1984 BC Place stadium is still looking clean, but the 1995 GM Place next door has also been completed. The remnants of Expo 86 that became the Plaza of Nations are in place, but the seawall pathway hasn’t been finished yet.

Over the 20 years the Cooper’s Place residential towers, and Cooper’s Park have been developed. Across Expo Boulevard the new casino and hotel complex known as Parq Vancouver is close to completion, and closes off the last remnant of the view of the stadium, and it’s new roof. Next to Roger’s Arena (the renamed hockey and music arena) there’s a new rental tower.

In future the sliver of mountain to the east will disappear from this spot as the Plaza of Nations finally redevelops. It’s not clear if the cluster of forest trees will survive – but we suspect not as the plans are for a much more active and energized waterfront there.

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Posted September 11, 2017 by ChangingCity in Altered, False Creek

BC Electric Railway car barns – Main Street at Prior

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These big industrial buildings were first constructed in 1899, and initially expanded in 1903. W T Dalton designed the first buildings, and Dalton and Eveleigh the expansion which was for an iron frame car barn costing $14,000. It was this building, so the building at the front is probably the 1899 structure, and the barn behind the addition. The BC Electric Railway Co ran the trams (streetcars) and suburbans that helped to shape the expansion of the City of Vancouver, and many of the suburban municipalities as well. There’s a bit of a debate about the date of this image – the City Archives think it’s from 1899, but other authors say it’s 1904 (which seems to make more sense). It had nine parallel tracks that could squeeze 45 streetcars inside the largest single-storey structure in the city at the time. There were four repair pits and an electric hoist. There was small store (behind the streetcar) run by George Aldrid where employees could buy fruit and tobacco.

streetcar-barns-main-prior-1969-walter-e-frost-cva-447-355The building was further expanded in 1912 when the BC Electric Railway Co planned a $40,000 addition built by Snider & Brethour. We’re unsure what that involved, as the 1912 insurance map shows a much larger building already completed along the entire street to Prior Street. We assume this happened sometime in the late 1900s when there’s a gap in available building permits. (In 1914 the rapidly expanding fleet saw the company build a new two-storey reinforced concrete barn at Main and 14th Avenue, replacing earlier structures at a cost of $300,000).

The expanded buildings that were built here can be seen in this 1969 W E Graham Archives image, long after streetcars had gone, and before the buildings were torn down to be replaced with the new Georgia Viaduct (at the eastern end it’s some distance from Georgia, between Union and Prior Street). The view will change again once the viaducts have been removed.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P212 and CVA 447-355

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Posted December 1, 2016 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

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Main Street and 2nd Avenue

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It’s not often that we feature our own image for both the ‘before’ and ‘after’ images, and even less often that the ‘before’ is less than a decade ago, but the dramatic transformation of South East False Creek warrants a look. We took the initial image in 2007, long before the BC Place stadium got its new roof. We calculate that there are over 1,100 new apartments in the contemporary image, including 129 in ‘First Place’ the non-market housing building across the lane from the gas station.

The picture will change a little more as Concert Properties are developing around 600 apartments beyond the sites that have already been built – one tower crane is just showing on the left. One detail that you can’t make out at the resolution we post these images: in 2007 gas was 108.9c per litre; when we took the current shot (back in April) it was 111.9c.

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Posted October 10, 2016 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

22 East 5th Avenue

22 E 5th

This is another Mount Pleasant industrial building, built in 1942 as the Cemco Electrical Manufacturing Company Factory. According to the recently published heritage statement for the building “Cemco commissioned the factory to house its expanding electronics business which supplied equipment for ships being constructed in local shipyards. Not much is known about the company, as is the case with many industries during the War which were subject to a certain amount of secrecy and security. Cemco remained at the site for a couple of years after the War ended, and then ceased to exist. Until recently, the building was occupied by N. Jefferson Ltd., a family owned textile supplier which has been operating since 1926 and continues to do so at a new location”

Cemco factory floor 1943Cemco weren’t as mysterious as this suggests, and they didn’t disappear after the war. They had been in operation since 1934, in the Mount Pleasant area, with S Darnborough as Managing Director. Before this new factory was built they were at 165 W 4th Ave. S Darnborough was Sidney, (although he was really T S Darnborough), and before Cemco he was president of Canadian Electrical Manufacturing Co (which would be CEMCO’s precursor), with a home on Osler in Shaughnessy. Before CEMCO, in the 1920s, Sid Darnborough was an electrical contractor, living on West 8th Avenue.

The company were still operating from this E 5th address in 1949, with Sid still running the company, having moved to University Boulevard. They were here in the mid 1950s but by then Sid had retired and B W Ball had taken over as President of the company. A year earlier they had expanded eastwards by adding a new factory in Granby, Ontario. At the time they were described as specializing in switchgear for industrial uses. They also made electrical instruments, street light fixtures “and many other products of a similar nature for industrial and commercial use”. The 1943 image of the factory floor shows what looks a lot like light fittings being assembled by a workforce with a high proportion of female workers.

A little more insight about the company is contained in a 1946 court case where the company’s salesman, Peter Van Snellenberg, sued for wrongful dismissal after discovery that he had added commission on the sales tax payable on a few of the orders he had obtained. He was dismissed in 1943 (the year our images were shot), so although the company has been described as ‘building radar and radio equipment for ships being built for the war’ (which they may have been doing), they were also selling their products on the open market. In 1958 the Federal Pacific Electric Company of Newark New Jersey acquired Cemco, where it was described as “engaged in manufacture and sale of electrical switchgear, air circuit breakers, air switches, load break switches, fusible breakers, cable terminal potheads and related apparatus for the distribution and control of electricity”.

The Cemco Factory was designed by Australian-born architect H.H. Simmonds, and used pour-in-place construction that retained the marks of the formwork. It supposed heritage value earned it a reprieve from redevelopment, but also permitted a larger office project (yet to commence) to be built behind the retained walls.

CVA 586-1783 and  CVA 586-1784

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Posted August 11, 2016 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Still Standing

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190 West 2nd Avenue

190 W2nd

This 1927 warehouse and office was the second location for Wilkinson Steel. The company was founded by Frank Wilkinson in 1910 on Beach Avenue as the sole distributor for U.S. Steel in British Columbia. Frank Wilkinson was born in England, and arrived in Canada in 1891. His wife Alice was also English, but had arrived a year earlier. They must have spent quite a bit of time in Quebec as all their children, (they had at least six), were born there, the youngest in 1909. In 1911 Alice’s sister, Hilda Baker was living with the family; in 1921 they had a domestic servant.

There were two houses built on this corner in 1904; they only survived a little over 20 years. In the 1920s the neighbourhood was changing from a residential area to an industrial and commercial area, although there are still a few residential pockets even today. This image was shot in 1946, and shows a couple of houses still located on Columbia Street, behind the warehouse.

In 1958 the company moved to SW Marine Drive, where they still operate today. In 1973 the existing two storey office and production space was built; which we’re pretty certain incorporated some of the original warehouse building. It’s now home to City TV’s studios.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 586-4769

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Posted August 8, 2016 by ChangingCity in Altered, False Creek

Union Station – Station Street

Union Station Station St

Here’s Vancouver new Union Station seen perhaps as early as 1917. Completed in 1916 by the Great Northern Railway, it was designed by Fred Townley. It was built for passenger trains operated to Seattle through Blaine and for the Northern Pacific Railway to Seattle by way of Mission and Sumas as well as Vancouver, Victoria & Esquimalt services into the Kootenays and Northern Washington. The Great Northern was J J Hill’s rail empire; initially he was part of the consortium behind the Canadian Pacific, but when he couldn’t get the route linked to his American network he resigned in 1883 and expanded his own system.

Hill died in 1916, the GN scaled back their Canadian expansion, but their Vancouver terminus was already under construction next door to the Canadian Northern station. (completed a couple of years later). Both stations were constructed on the newly infilled eastern end of the False Creek Flats. The Canadian Railway & Marine World reported that the company had filled the area to an average depth of 12 feet. “As the whole property is a fill, the building is supported on a pile foundation, cluster piles being driven and cut off below the line of perpetual saturation. Upon these concrete piers were poured, which support reinforced concrete beams, which in turn carry the exterior walls, columns and floors. The skeleton of the building is reinforced concrete, hollow tile, and concrete floors and roof. The exterior has a granite base, carrying up and around all exterior doors terracotta surbase, and red brick above, with terra-cotta trimmings and cornice.”

The two-storey steel and concrete building was constructed by Grant, Smith & McDonald at a cost of $390,000. The significant expense was partly explained by the finishes: “The main waiting room will be panelled in Alaska marble, 7 ft. high, and will have marble and terrazzo floors and ornamental plaster ceiling. Provision has been made in the plastering of the end walls for placing oil paintings showing the Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.” There were a series of other permits for additional buildings designed by Townley, adding up to over $200,000. One was the power house, located 150 feet east of the baggage room wing, with a brick stack at the east end 90 ft. high. The power house supplied heat to the different buildings through an underground reinforced concrete tunnel, steam to the passenger cars at the stub tracks, and to the passenger car yards. In connection with the passenger car yards there were a commissary building, an oil house, car repairers’ building, car foreman’s building; car cleaners’ building, a carpet cleaning building and a coal house.

By the mid 1930s many of the GN Rail lines had been shut down or abandoned (including the Northern Pacific operation). Passenger service to Vancouver from Seattle lasted until 1971 when it was transferred to Amtrak. The terminal in Vancouver was demolished in 1965, ostensibly to reduce property taxes.

The lot has remained vacant ever since, and is today used as a temporary parking lot and movie shoot base. It is intended to be the future home of the relocated St. Paul’s Hospital.

Photo source: thanks to Arthur Babitz at The History Museum of Hood River County who sent us this image photographed by Alva Day, a resident of Hood River, Oregon, born 1887 died 1955. He took a trip to Alaska in 1917; this may have been photographed as part of the trip. See the photoblog http://historichoodriver.com/ for more Hood River images.

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Posted June 23, 2016 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

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