The Lions Gate Bridge spans the first narrows in Burrard Inlet, connects Vancouver to the North Shore, and is one of the most iconic structures in the city. Built by the Guinness family to encourage development after they bought the side of a West Vancouver mountain, the suspension bridge was tolled from the time it opened in 1938 until 1963.
I’m obsessed with a photographer named Stewart Joseph Thompson. I became aware of him a few weeks back when Pamela Post sent me a photo he’d taken of Georgia and Burrard Streets in the 1890s. Then, last week I found a photo he took the day after the fire destroyed New Westminster in 1898, including Thompson’s own Columbia Street studio.
The Vancouver Courthouse, bordered by Georgia, Hornby, Howe and Robson, was designed by celebrity architect Francis Rattenbury in 1907 and completed in 1911. Since 1983, it has been home to the Vancouver Art Gallery. Pamela Post wanted to know what sat on the site before. What she found was nothing and everything.
One of the best parts about messing around with history, especially criminal history, is digging up connections. Angelo Branca appears as a Canadian middleweight boxing
champion in the 1930s, and as the scrappy East End (Strathcona) lawyer and defender of madams and bookies in At Home with History.
One of the many fascinating things that Inspector John Vance packed away when he retired from the Vancouver Police Department in 1949 were several true crime magazines. He appeared in all of them. Reporters were intrigued by this scientist who was able to convict criminals through the tiniest piece of trace evidence, or determine death by poison, or through his forensic skills in serology and firearms examination.
My friend Angus McIntyre was a Vancouver bus driver for 40 years and often took photos of heritage buildings, neon signs, street lamps and everyday life on his various routes. His photos are always so vivid and interesting (see his posts on Birks and elevator operators) and when he sends me one, I stop whatever I’m doing and nag him for the back story.
On September 3, 1906 the first North Vancouver streetcar began its journey at the ferry dock, travelled up Lonsdale and stopped at 12th Street. Jack Kelly was the conductor aboard that inaugural run. Everything went smoothly on the way up, but on the way back down, the brakes failed and Car 25 came crashing into another streetcar waiting at the bottom.
Last week I wrote about the oldest house in Vancouver—well at least that’s what they called it when it burned to the ground in 1946. It was built in 1875, and until 1915, its address was Seaton Street.
Unlike most of Vancouver’s streets that are named after old white men, Lauchlan Hamilton, the CPR surveyor, named this one in 1886 after pulling it at random from a map (the town of Seaton is long gone, but used to be near Hazelton in northern BC).