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Vancouver History, News

Vancouver Then and Now: Granville Street (PHOTOS)

Vancouver History, News

Vancouver Then and Now: Granville Street (PHOTOS)

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Guest Author Aug 31, 2016 11:08 am

Story by Andrew Farris, Founder and CEO of the On This Spot app. This is part of a six-part series in which he’ll share some of the photos and history you can find on the app with Daily Hive readers.

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In 1886, Vancouver’s borders were largely limited to today’s Gastown. The imminent arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) meant that would soon change.

There was a problem however: the CPR had announced it was going to make Port Moody the terminus of the railway, ensuring that city would become Canada’s Pacific Metropolis.

The leaders of tiny Vancouver desperately wanted to be the terminus, and in their panic, they offered the CPR half of the modern area of Vancouver, including most of the west side, all the land around False Creek, and—most importantly—almost all the downtown peninsula.

Of course, Vancouver’s leaders had been duped: almost certainly the CPR intended all along to make Vancouver the terminus, but pretending it would be Port Moody made the Vancouverites ready to give them everything they wanted.

With so much land, the railway effectively controlled Vancouver’s future, and they had a master plan for the new city. The CPR decided that little frontier-town Gastown would never do as the downtown of a world-class city. Instead downtown would be the highest point of land on the still-forested peninsula, which also happened to be smack dab in the middle of their land holdings: Granville and Georgia.

The CPR wasted no time in building the first Hotel Vancouver and a huge opera house at the intersection, to attract people and businesses to their new downtown. The plan was spectacularly successful: by 1913 Granville and Georgia boasted many of the city’s most impressive buildings, including the Vancouver Block with its huge clock tower, the Hudson’s Bay Company store, and the celebrated Birks Building. Ever since Granville and Georgia has remained the commercial heart of Vancouver.

 

Felling firs in 1886

1886: A giant Douglas fir felled at the intersection of Granville and Georgia. Though hard as it is to believe today, you can at least be sure the now photo was aiming in roughly the right direction, because you can see the tree line of the still-forested West End in the distance.

1886: A giant Douglas fir felled at the intersection of Granville and Georgia. (Vancouver Archives)

1886: A giant Douglas fir felled at the intersection of Granville and Georgia. (Vancouver Archives)

On this spot now…

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(On This Spot)

Vancouver Opera House in 1891

1891: At the highest point of the downtown peninsula, Granville and Georgia was selected as the spot for the new downtown core and, to attract people there, the CPR built this huge and opulent opera house here in 1891 as an anchor for the new downtown. With 1,200 seats, it was far bigger than tiny Vancouver justified, but showed the faith people had in the city’s future growth. It was demolished in 1969.

The CPR built this huge and opulent opera house here in 1891 as an anchor for the new downtown. (Vancouver Archives)

The CPR built this huge and opulent opera house here in 1891 as an anchor for the new downtown. (Vancouver Archives)

On this spot now…

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(On This Spot)

Hotel Vancouver in 1904

1904: The first Hotel Vancouver built by the CPR. The building itself was widely mocked for being ugly and was torn down to be replaced by the second Hotel Vancouver a few years later.

1904: The first Hotel Vancouver built by the CPR. (Vancouver Archives)

1904: The first Hotel Vancouver built by the CPR. (Vancouver Archives)

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(On This Spot)

Granville and Robson in 1907

1907: A boy is selling newspapers on Granville and Robson. You can see down the street the old Hudson’s Bay Company building.

1907: A boy is selling newspapers on Granville and Robson. (Vancouver Archives)

1907: A boy is selling newspapers on Granville and Robson. (Vancouver Archives)

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Taxis in the 1910s

1910s: Taxis and streetcars driving down Granville Street. You can see the expanded opera house sandwiched between the apartment building on the left and the second Hotel Vancouver on the right. One wonders how the taxi drivers were able to see with giant advertisements covering most of the windshield.

1910s: Taxis and streetcars driving down Granville Street. (Vancouver Archives)

1910s: Taxis and streetcars driving down Granville Street. (Vancouver Archives)

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(On This Spot)

German Archway in 1912

1912: A Model T can be seen if you zoom in on the right side of the arch erected by the German community to mark the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught. The Model T was especially popular in Canada, where its durability was well suited to Canada’s terrible weather, long distances, and rugged terrain.

1912: A Model T can be seen if you zoom in on the right side of the arch erected by the German community to mark the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught. (Vancouver Archives)

1912: A Model T can be seen if you zoom in on the right side of the arch erected by the German community to mark the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Connaught. (Vancouver Archives)

On this spot now…

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(On This Spot)

Birks Building in 1912

1912: This was the Birks Building under construction, perhaps the saddest example of heritage destruction in Vancouver’s history. This building, along with the Vancouver Block, the second Hotel Vancouver, and the Hudson’s Bay Company store, all anchored pre-World War I Vancouver at the corner of Granville and Georgia. It was destroyed to make way for the Scotia Tower you see today.

1912: This was the Birks Building under construction, perhaps the saddest example of heritage destruction in Vancouver's history. (Vancouver Archives)

1912: This was the Birks Building under construction, perhaps the saddest example of heritage destruction in Vancouver’s history. (Vancouver Archives)

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Vancouver Block in 1913

1913: The Vancouver Block dominates this down Granville Street, while the Birks Building from the last photo can be seen poking out behind it. The clock at the top of the building is the biggest in Canada.

1913: The Vancouver Block dominates this area of Granville Street. (Vancouver Archives)

1913: The Vancouver Block dominates this area of Granville Street. (Vancouver Archives)

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(On This Spot)

Hudson’s Bay Company in 1930

1930: Soldiers from the Seaforth Highlanders march in front of the recently expanded Hudson’s Bay Company store. Notice how the British Union Jacks are just as prominent as the Canadian Red Ensign flags on the store, a sign of the close ties Canada maintained with Britain even at this late date.

1930: Soldiers from the Seaforth Highlanders march in front of the recently expanded Hudson's Bay Company store. (Vancouver Archives)

1930: Soldiers from the Seaforth Highlanders march in front of the recently expanded Hudson’s Bay Company store. (Vancouver Archives)

On this spot now…

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(On This Spot)

Granville neon in 1959

1959: A beautiful shot of 1950s Vancouver shows it exactly as one would imagine it today, with the bright colours, cool cars, and neon lights. Some of the signs are still in place, though after a ban on neon lights in the 1960s they largely disappeared from Vancouver’s streets. That is a shame, since in the 1950s Vancouver competed with Las Vegas for the title of most neon lights in the world.

1959: A beautiful shot of 1950s Vancouver shows it exactly as one would imagine it today, with the bright colours, cool cars, and neon lights. (Vancouver Archives)

1959: A beautiful shot of 1950s Vancouver shows it exactly as one would imagine it today, with the bright colours, cool cars, and neon lights. (Vancouver Archives)

On this spot now…

(On This Spot)

(On This Spot)

The On This Spot app offers you a guided tour of Vancouver’s historic photo spots and allows you to create your own then and now photo mash-ups as you walk around.

The app launched in Vancouver this year, but will expand to other major cities in Canada and the US soon – if you have a talent for writing history tours, On This Spot wants to know.

To download the app for Android or iPhone, for more info or to contact Andrew, check here: onthisspot.ca


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