History & Heritage
July 23, 2020

Michael Gordon’s Video History of the Kitsilano Indian Reserve

Retired City of Vancouver planner Michael Gordon has created the YouTube  documentary video below about the history of Sen̓áḵw  between 1869 – 1966, what was once referred to as the Kitsilano Indian Reserve.  Michael states “It’s my personal reconciliation project throughout the ‘unsettlement’ and expropriation of the reserve in the 19th and 20th centuries.” 

Michael also shares this link of the Vancouver Archives’ written transcript of conversations between early City Archivist Major Matthews and  August Jack Khatsahlano between 1932 and 1954 about early First Nations life in the Vancouver area.


Image: CBC.ca

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Local historian Aaron Chapman hosts a free “walkinar” of the west end which is available in its entirety here.  In concert with Canadian Heritage and the West End Business Improvement Association Aaron has compiled an interesting and generous walk of several blocks of the west end, replete with commentary from subject experts. Those special voices in the taped segments accompanying the walk include Squamish Elder Dennis Joseph, Journalist/Broadcaster and CBC Radio documentarian Pamela Post, writer, poet, podcast host and otter enthusiast Dina Del Bucchia, and beloved author and long-time West End resident Bill Richardson.

The complete tour takes 90 minutes at a relaxed walk, and covers 4.9 kilometers. The tour is arranged in “episodes” that can be covered at  waypoints, so that you can do the whole walk all at once or do segments in any order.

There’s some thoughtful additions too including guidance on what buses to take  to get to the tour area, and the times that the Robson Public Market are open.

Below is the first segment with Elder Dennis Joseph which is to be played at the Georgia and Denman intersection at Devonian Park. The website contains a full text of each of the segments, as well as maps and other information.


Image: GeorgiaStraight





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Another gem from Diana Sampson via Dave2onreddit:

Here’s the corner of West Georgia and Howe Streets looking east. Take a look where the traffic lights were, they are on lamp standards. There’s no crosswalk markings, no curb cuts to make it easier to step off the curb when walking. The width of the sidewalk  appears to be a generous six meters wide. You can see the Hudson’s Bay building in the left background, and just make out the Birks Clock when Birks was located on Georgia Street.

That’s Tenth Avenue Angel playing at the Strand Theatre  in the background  starring Margaret O’Brien, Angela Lansbury and George Murphy.

It’s interesting  how vast the large portion of the street  dominated by vehicles appears. Signage for people crossing the road indicates that “pedestrians start on walk light only” , and is placed  way above walkers’ heads on the signpost  facing traffic. It is oddly located above  the  “left turn only” sign for vehicles.

To get a sense of the post-war optimism of the era, here’s a YouTube video from September 21,  1948 when Hollywood actor and singer Bing Crosby brought his “radio show” to Vancouver toraise money for the  completion of the Sunset Community Centre(which was again  replaced in 2007). He raised 25,000 dollars and the City of Vancouver contributed the rest.

You can hear City Hall being called “ultra modern” (it was built in 1935) and see the City’s silver mace (which is a replica of the City of London England’s mace and one of the only pieces of civic regalia hallmarked before  Edward VIII’s abdication)  being carried out.

The acting Mayor follows wearing the Chain of Office. Bing Crosby meets First Nations Chief Mathias at the Sunset Community Centre site and be aware, there are some cringe worthy comments  in the description.

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Three years ago on the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion I wrote about the 2,000 people that died when a munitions ship blew up. That explosion left 25,000 people homeless, with 20 percent of the  population killed or seriously maimed. The Vancouver Sun published an interactive map that detailed the events leading up to and after the explosion.

But there was another story too, and that was the rebuilding of the city. The explosion meant that Halifax could  rebuild the city with better constructed houses, paved roads,  and proper water pipes and discharge sewers, an effort that took many years.  The City of Boston and organizations like the Rockefeller Foundation teamed together to bring health and sanitary services to the community. This has been documented in a book edited by David Sutherland called We Harbour No Evil Design: Rehabilitation Efforts after the Halifax Explosion of 1917.

Before the blast, Halifax still had dirt roads, unreliable electricity, open sewers and a declining tax base. Despite the  funding that came to rebuild the city in a sanitary way, it  was not distributed evenly across Halifax. While the funding brought pasteurized milk, water treatment and a health centre, certain neighborhoods received sanitary sewers while one neighbourhood received none. Author Michelle Herbert Boyd observed that wealthier areas such as Richmond were  provided for while the African Canadian neighbourhood at Halifax’s North End, Africville, received scant assistance.

Africville was established in the 1840’s and included freed slaves and refugees from the War of 1812.  When new sanitation sewer was provided for all of Halifax, it was not extended to Africville. While the Richmond neighbourhood  was “being reconstructed and improved after the Explosion, the main sewer line was brought directly through Africville to empty into Bedford Basin; Africville residents were not themselves given sewer service, and to add insult to injury, they had to endure raw sewage from their Richmond neighbours running through their backyards whenever a line broke.” 

That inequity continued in the following decades.  In the 1930’s Africville residents petitioned for running water, paved roads, sewage disposal garbage removal, police coverage and electricity. That was ignored by Halifax City Council. And in the 1950’s Council placed an open-pit garbage dump 350 meters away from the western side of Africville. That cemented the city’s perception of this neighbourhood as a slum. There’s no “reference in the council minutes to any concern for the health of Africville residents, or any consultation”.

In the 1960’s when Africville was cleared for a “renewal” scheme popular at the time, few residents had land titles and the land was expropriated by the City a lot at a time over a period of five years. Promised rehousing never materialized, and residents’ belongings were moved in dump trucks instead of moving vans.

Today the segregated school which was closed in 1953 has been rebuilt as a museum and the area renamed Africville Park. The school site was made a National Historic Site in 1996 and on February 24 2010 Halifax Regional Municipality Mayor Peter Kelly offered an official apology for the community’s destruction.

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Say “corner store in the West End” … and the romantic among us think of this:

Most aren’t really ‘corner stores’ of course – more remnants of an age prior to ‘Euclidian’ zoning when the owner of a house with a front yard could build a storefront to the sidewalk and open for business, providing, as Sandy describes below, “a place where locals can buy milk, cheese, some staples and hear the local goings on and gossip.”

When I first moved to the West End in 1978, there was such a place literally down the lane – empty now – operated by a Korean immigrant family whose daughter I watched start to turn into a teenager.  (Perhaps now writing a novel or screenplay on the west-coast version of Kim’s Convenience.)

No wonder we feel so romantic about them, though many of those that remain are really coffee shops, able to survive on the caffeine mark-up and artisanal sundries.

For places that never had such conversions in their post-war history – starting with ’50s suburbs like Oakridge – corner stores of this kind are not allowed today, and there are reasons.  A new structure would have to be built, and it would require rezoning, raising two problematic challenges: parking and the impacts, perceived or otherwise, real or mistaken, on the present neighbours.  Ask the opinion of someone who would live in their single-family home next door to a design-controlled, limited-service, locally serving commercial establishment without parking, and then wonder whether the proposal would survive the public consultation process.

In reality, of course, there are still corner stores.  They’re very viable, selling diary, staples and many flimsy packages of fat, sugar and salt in all their processed variations, and they look like this:

They may be the only places, under 20,000 square feet, that can meet the ‘popsicle test’ – where your kids can go out by themselves to a store safely to purchase a popsicle and return home before it melts.

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Via Portland’s Tim Davis, here’s Vancouver’s Phoenix Chamber Choir putting to song what everyone is feeling. So very well done. As Tim says ”

“One of my favorite performances of 2020 thus far is by a chamber choir based in Vancouver, BC. Here’s their hilarious “quarantine edition” of Billy Joel’s “Longest Time”Phoenix Chamber Choir (https://phoenixchoir.com/about) has tons of top prizes in the annual CBC National Choral Competition. I’ll have to see them perform in Vancouver sometime!”

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Another set of images from Diana Sampson discovered in the Vancouver City Archives. They are unusual in that they are photographed in the winter and in the summer from roughly the same location.

But there is something different in the photos~look at the number of women walking on the wide sidewalks. They are wearing fur collared coats in the winter,  sun hats and white gloves in the summer.

In the top photo there  appears to be some kind of festive lighting atop the old post office (now part of Sinclair Centre).  Campbell Studios in the left of the photo is advertising that they will take your portrait and produce an 8 inch by 10 inch photo for $1.00.  You can also see the James Inglis Meat Store  at 559 Granville street that started business in that location in 1915 and ran until 1986.

There is a YouTube video below that has some footage of Vancouver’s commercial areas in 1934. Look how differently pedestrians use the street with the street cars in the middle of it.

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Man with generator laying streetcar tracks for reconstruction of Hastings and Main lines

Here’s another great photo from the Vancouver Archives found by Diane Sampson. The generator on the wagon has a sign that reads “Danger 600 Volts Do not Touch Do Not Watch Flame”. In the foreground a man is welding tracks. He is wearing button up spat boot coverings and has steel wool for soldering close by.

The man at the wagon with the generator looks exactly like former Vancouver School Board groundskeeper Chris Foxon.  The wagon is set up with a two horse hitch, and there are two workhorses complete with harness tied up in the right hand upper corner of the photo.  There is another horse harnessed up and standing in front of the Timothy Hay sign in the upper left corner of the photo.

From 1886 to 1914 Hastings Street between Granville Street and Cambie was Vancouver’s downtown, with most of the city’s banks located on Hastings. The streetcar was operated by the B.C. Electric Railway Company who had been in operation since 1897. Since 1900, the company had increased their rails from 21 kilometers in 1900 to 170 kilometers by 1912, allowing access to large areas of land that could be developed for single family housing.

Take a look at this YouTube video below that shows Victoria and Vancouver from a streetcar in 1907. You can see The Empress Hotel being built and the Legislative Buildings in Victoria, and in Vancouver you can see the old Hotel Vancouver and the streetcars serving Howe, Robson, Powell Streets  and Kitsilano.


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Located on the southeast corner of the 200  block of West Tenth Avenue and nestled in salal bushes, the enameltec sign that provides a historical interpretation is missing. There were several historic plaques placed in granite sets along West Tenth Avenue. In this case, there is also a bench which has not been taken.

You can take a look a this geocache site which shows a photo of the plaque for Dad’s Cookies, which is still outside 398 West Tenth. That plaque remembers the small bakery at Broadway and Yukon that had as its base an innovative cookie recipe.

Who remembers what was on this missing plaque, and when will it be replaced?


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From the Downtown Waterfront Working Group:

In 2015, Toronto-based developer Cadillac Fairview attempted to get approval for a 26 storey office building at 555 Cordova, shoe-horned up against the east side of Waterfront Station in Vancouver. Cadillac Fairview owns Waterfront Station and the proposed building site has been the eastern access and parking lot for the Station since it opened in 1914.

The proposed site is not a separate building lot and far too small to accommodate a giant office building. The building, dubbed the Icepick, was turned down at City Hall in 2015, following wide-spread objections from neighbours and the public.

Now Cadillac Fairview is back with Icepick 2, a slightly revised version of the original. Responding to design objections, the developer rotated and pushed the building a little further west and north, slightly reduced its footprint, and made it possible to see and walk through the ground floor.

With these changes, the developer seems intent on getting approval at a Development Permit Board Meeting scheduled for May 25, 2020.

The proposed building is not consistent with the existing 2009 Council-endorsed Central Waterfront Hub Framework. In October 2017, Council approved a program to update the Framework and resolve implementation issues. This work has only just begun.

Does it make sense to put approvals before planning? Should a private developer be able to sabotage a public planning and design process?

The proposal does not conform to planning guidelines for the area. The most recent proposed building is more than twice the suggested height of 11 stories, and six times the recommended floor space. It overwhelms heritage buildings on either side and provides an uninviting gateway to Historic Gastown.

Most disturbing, Cadillac Fairview has not agreed to an extension of Granville Street to the waterfront. The developer owns the parkade at the foot of Granville. Removing part of the parkade’s top level was a central concept of the original Hub Framework. It would open the street to the waterfront, and provide an opportunity to build a public walkway connecting Stanley Park, the waterfront, Gastown, Chinatown and False Creek.

As the most important transportation hub in the region, this site is critical to the future of the city.

Surely Vancouver, which prides itself on progressive planning, can find a better solution.

Approving Cadillac Fairview’s latest proposal will preclude the current planning process and seriously undermine future options for the City’s waterfront.

Icepick 2 must to be stopped.


Community Open House & Feedback Session

Tuesday, Feb 18

3 –7 pm

Fairmont Waterfront Hotel
900 Canada Place, Mackenzie Ballroom




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