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Vancouver History

Vancouver is a young city, both in population and history. The charming late-Victorian architecture of Gastown (named for the loquacious “Gassy Jack” Deighton, owner of the city’s first bar) is ancient by Vancouver standards.

American explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set up camp near the Vancouver waterfront in

1806, and Clark even wrote that it was the only area west of the Rockies worth settling. At Fort Vancouver the British both regulated the booming fur trade and kept watch over the Oregon Territory, and though most of that land was turned over to United States in 1846, William Clark’s favored spot was unfortunately not included. Strangely enough, British fears of an American invasion allowed for the preservation of what is now the city’s most treasured natural space, Stanley Park.

While European loggers, trappers, and other enterprising explorers were establishing themselves on the Pacific coast, the Chinese were arriving to capitalize on the gold rush; and had they not built the Canadian Pacific Railway to link the new settlement with the eastern Commonwealth, British Columbia might have joined it much later than 1871. It comes as no surprise, then, that Chinatown and adjacent Gastown are the oldest sections of the city, and Burrard Inlet is as busy a port today as it ever was. The railway (along with its shipping fleet) was up and running several years before America’s transcontinental line, meaning that British Columbian merchants could deliver Oriental goods to the New York markets faster than the Californians could.

Granville Townsite, adopted home of loggers, railway men, retired sailors, and saloon-keepers, was renamed in 1886 after George Vancouver, a British explorer who had passed through the area nearly a century before. The city had to be rebuilt from scratch after a widespread fire just a few months after its rechristening, which is why Gastown’s architecture dates only from the 1890s. The city has been expanding steadily ever since, fueled by exploitation of the natural resources of the Pacific Northwest; Vancouver had the world’s largest spruce lumber mill for airplane production during World War I, and the city was an important shipbuilding center during World War II.

Today it’s easy to see why Vancouver was honored with the “All-America City” award from the National Civic League in 1957 and 1987. But you have to wonder: why only twice?

More Information:


Vancouver Travel Guides
 Frommer's Vancouver
 Lonely Planet Vancouver
 Let's Go Vancouver
 Fodors Vancouver