Archive for the ‘False Creek’ Category

East from Burrard Bridge (2)

Here’s a view eastwards down False Creek from Burrard Bridge taken in 1941. (We saw a closer view taken in the 1950s that was posted last month). In the foreground is the Kitsilano Trestle, originally built by Canadian Pacific in 1886 (although by 1941 the structure was more elaborate than the original, and considerably strengthened). It was torn down in 1982, deemed a navigational hazard for shipping. From 1902 CP had run two passenger trains a day from Vancouver to Steveston, an established river port with up to 10,000 seasonal residents working in the 29 canneries. In 1905 BC Electric leased the line, and electrified it, running the ‘interurban’ that departed from Downtown, crossed the Kitsilano Trestle and in Vancouver stopped at Millside (4th Avenue), 9th Avenue (Broadway), Kerrisdale (41st), Magee, and Eburne, on the Fraser River, before crossing to Richmond.

In 1958 the trains were abandoned as BC Electric’s “Rails to Rubber” program converted most of the streetcar lines to trolley bus lines. To the west of the trestle, on the waterfront, there were the abandoned pilings of the wooden wharf used for Macdonald and Marpole’s coal shed and stables. Next door were the huge stone blocks of the Vancouver Granite Co, which had expanded into the area occupied by the Vancouver Marble and Tile Co. A S Allen’s stone contracting business shared the area as well as a paving contractor. On the other side of the trestle was a boat building yard, the Beach Avenue shipyards. Their first boats built here were the tugs ‘Edith’ and ‘Navvy Jack’ in 1907, but by the 1940s production was limited to scows, (large flat-bottomed barges with broad square ends used chiefly for transporting bulk materials). George Cates, originally from Nova Scotia, ran the Cates Shipyard here initially from around 1900. In 1902 he built the steamer, “Britannia” powered with a steam engine built in Glasgow by McKie and Baxter and equipped with reversible, plush covered pullman seats for the comfort of the day passengers. His brother, Captain John Cates owned land at Bowen Island where he built a picnic ground, and later a hotel. It was a family business – Miss Lillian Cates was co-owner of the Terminal Steamship Limited (and the sponsor of the launching of the “Britannia”). Captain W. Cates was the captain and Willard Cates was the engineer.

The Granville Bridge, seen in 1941 beyond the trestle, was the second to be built here. The first was constructed in 1889 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, running over the sandbar on the southern shore. Two years later it was widened for streetcar tracks, which narrowed to a single track where they crossed the opening swing span that was tied with wire ropes to a central wooden tower. It was replaced in 1909 with the bridge in the picture, mostly built of steel, with a through truss swing span which could be open for shipping on a central pivot. In 1915 four Germans were arrested after a fire broke out on the bridge that was thought to be an arson attack.

The present 8-lane bridge opened in 1954, designed to have the traffic capacity for a freeway system that was never built. It followed the alignment of the first bridge, but crossed Granville Island created in place of the sandbar (and just visible on the right of the picture). The bridge has recently had extensive seismic upgrades (that are costing a lot more than the original construction of $16.5m). Once complete a new bicycle crossing and wider sidewalk will be created on the west side of the bridge, while retaining six traffic lanes.

On the skyline the only building visible in 1941 is City Hall, completed in 1937 and located outside Downtown. Today there are offices along West Broadway and hospital buildings to the south, with more taller buildings likely in future as the SkyTrain is extended along Broadway and a new plan for the area increases permitted development density and encourages new higher density rental buildings.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 586-682

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Posted 5 September 2022 by ChangingCity in Altered, False Creek

East from Burrard Bridge – south shore

In 1950 a sensational murder trial drew attention to the squatters along the shores of False Creek. Blanche Fisher was 45, living on East 12th, an unmarried seamstress working for a departmental store. Her partially clothed body was found in November 1949 washed up against the pier of the Kitsilano Trestle, and a police investigation began. Initially it was thought she might have committed suicide, but the state of the body suggested it might be murder. All that was known was she had been to see a movie at the Rio on East Broadway the night before.

In 2020 John Mackie unearthed the story from the paper’s archives and retold it in the Vancouver Sun. Press reports said that initially Frank Ducharme was arrested for vagrancy, but when the police searched his float house, they found dozens of items of women’s underclothing. During his appeal case, the basis of Ducharme’s arrest was outlined, over a month after the body had been found found. “About 1.30 on the morning of December 5th the police were attracted by his appearance and as they approached him he ran, but was caught and taken into custody. He was wearing a handkerchief about his head, a silk shirt, an overcoat and scarf, and a pair of rubber boots rolled down in a manner that his legs were bare  around the knees. There was no indecent exposure but the condition observed as to his person at the police station might suggest that he was abnormal.”

When they searched his untidy shack on the south bank under Burrard Bridge, the police found “a pair of black gabardine shoes and a shattered wristwatch” that matched what Fisher had been wearing the night of her death. The watch crystal and her umbrella were found behind the back seat of his Hupmobile. He was then charged with her murder, and after an extensive examination of his mental fitness to stand trial, it was held in March 1950.

The court case revealed that it was raining on the night of the murder, and Frank Ducharme had offered Miss Fisher a ride home. He admitted to driving around Marpole and Kitsilano before his unwanted attentions caused her to struggle, at which point he “grabbed her by the throat to keep her from yelling”. In interviews he sometimes admitted to having had a sexual encounter, but that it was consensual. At other times he changed his story and claimed she ran away from him onto the Kitsilano Trestle, slipped, fell into the Creek and drowned, and sometimes he denied any knowledge of the woman.

“Ducharme initially said he had been born in Toronto, had grown up an orphan in Winnipeg and was in the RCAF during the Second World War. He also said he was unmarried. He was actually born in Elkhorn, Man., had a mother and six sisters, and had been discharged from the RCAF to the mental ward of a hospital in Weyburn, Sask. The 34-year-old had been married twice, had a couple of convictions for indecent exposure and went by the pseudonym Farnsworth after he moved to B.C. in 1947.” A neighbour said he saw Ducharme in a rowboat with a woman’s body on the night of the murder. He was convicted of murder, and an appeal judge, in concluding he was ‘definitely a psychopath of some description’ rejected the appeal, and he was hanged at Oakalla Prison in July 1950.

This 1949 image shows there were industrial buildings further back in the Burrard slopes area, but closer to False Creek the land had never been developed, and the shacks clustered along the edge of the water, with the ones in the water on pontoons. After the case the City took the initiative to finally clear the squatters off the foreshore.

Soon after the Kitsilano Trestle was removed in the early 1980s development of the final phase of False Creek South started. The BC Credit Union office building had been completed in 1978, and the residential buildings here were built between 1983 and 1989 with 700 dwellings, the majority in strata buildings.

The wharf and moorings here have more commercial fishing boats than other marinas, and are operated by the False Creek Harbour Authority. The water quality in the Creek has been steadily improving, and weighted nets have been installed trying to mimic natural habitat like eel grass or a kelp bed to encourage herring spawning. (Because the piles of the wharves are chemically treated, and there are sometimes hydrocarbons on the surface of the water, the intention is to keep the hatchlings in the water and away from the pilings or the surface). This has been hugely successful, with millions of fish maturing and returning to spawn in recent years.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Dist P135.1

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Posted 23 May 2022 by ChangingCity in Altered, False Creek

5 West 2nd Avenue

The Vancouver Archives identify this 1943 image as showing 29 West 3rd Avenue. We were surprised to find it was actually on West 2nd, and still standing today (although probably not for much longer).

In 1944 the company advertised as manufacturing A 1 MAJOR SAWDUST BURNERS, AIRCRAFT AND INDUSTRIAL ALUMINUM CASTINGS. The business had been located on West 3rd, and we assume this image shows new premises.

From the street directories it appears that there was a house here from 1900, when James Sparks, a carpenter lived here, until the early 1940s.

The former premises on West 3rd were still in use, but as A1 Pattern Shop, and A1 Steel and Iron Foundry.

Major sawdust burners were used with domestic range appliances, using a waste product widely available in Vancouver. (Many mills burned the sawdust in beehive burners, just to get rid of it). In 1940 Forst’s departmental store had the “Major Sawdust Burner” on sale for $23.50.

The building was in use in 1955 by Major Aluminum Products, and Western Magnesium Ltd. That all ennded in 1961, when an announcement by Maynards, in the Vancouver Sun said “We have received instructions from Mr. Robt. D. Young, C.A., of Young, Peers, Milner & Company, 1292 W. Georgia St., Trustee in Bankruptcy, To Sell; WITHOUT RESERVE BY PUBLIC AUCTION THURS., 10 A.M. 1:30 7:30 The Entire Plant Equipment, Machine Shop and Office Equipment.” As well as a lot of equipment, the sale included “12,000 lbs. Alum. Ingots”.

Today there’s a car repair garage, but its days are numbered as the site is now part of the South-East False Creek residential area and an application has been submitted to develop an 18-storey rental building, with retail on the main floor.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Indust P8.

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Posted 9 August 2021 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Still Standing

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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 18 May 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 6 June 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, who was, according to his marriage certificate, the son of Caleb James Deeming. Caleb was born in 1867 in Polesworth, in Warwickshire, England, and married Sarah Rose Hoggan from Cape Breton in Nanaimo in 1895. Their son James was born in 1897 (and died in 1938, aged 41), Myrtle was born in 1903 and Albert in 1905. Al Deeming was married aged 26 in 1931 to Elsie Waite, from Winnipeg. Caleb died in 1953 and his wife two years later. Albert was only 52 when he died in 1957, and his death certificate shows he was born in Ladysmith.

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 10 December 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 19 November 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 11 September 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 1 December 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 10 October 2016 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone