Vancouver for History Buffs

Vancouver is a relatively new city, compared with other cities in the world, and yet events of history are evoked at every street corner. If you are a history buff, follow this guide to turn the clock back …

English Bay and the First Nations

Groups of Coast Salish peoples – the ancestors of First Nations such as the Squamish, the Tsleil-Waututh, and the Musqueam peoples – had arrived and settled in the current location of Vancouver by 11,000 bc. They seemed to appreciate the beaches around the English Bay, which they named ‘Ayyulshun’, meaning “soft under feet”. English Bay Beach is currently one of the most popular beaches for sunbathing and swimming in the downtown area.

Stanley Park: A forest that became a park

While most of Vancouver’s urban parks are the creation of landscape architects, Stanley Park was previously a rainforest where First Nations people lived for thousands of years before the area was colonized by the British. Stanley Park became the first official park of the city in 1888. Today the park remains as densely forested as it was at that time, with about half a million trees.

The Rosewood Hotel Georgia: Back to the Prohibition era

After pounding the city pavements, you probably need a relaxing break. From 7 p.m., the Prohibition Bar is open at the historic Rosewood Hotel Georgia, which first opened in the roaring twenties.

On 1 October 1917, British Columbia prohibited alcohol importation and sale – three years before Prohibition started in the United States of America (USA).

Between the contraband, the corruption, and the scandals, Prohibition created more problems than it solved. Many illegal drinking establishments were opened during that period – often nicknamed the ‘blind pigs’ – so it wasn’t difficult to find a drink in Vancouver.

The Government of British Columbia lifted the ban in 1921. The alcohol smugglers who had operated in the region then started to manufacture and export alcohol to the USA, where Prohibition remained in force until 1933. ‘Rum-running’ hence became a key component of the British Columbian economy.

The Hudson’s Bay Company or the beginning of British colonization

The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) was initially a British trading company. It was founded in London in 1670 and was once the world’s largest landowner, governing the areas newly colonized by the British in North America.

The HBC built a trading post on the Fraser River in 1827, which became the first permanent non-native settlement in the Vancouver area. The Company has continued trading in the same building since 1893. Nowadays, HBC is a Canadian retail group, so you can shop in their department store while pondering the great contributions of the company to the development of the city.

Smart Mouth Café and Greenpeace: Where it all started

Did you know that Greenpeace was born in Vancouver? If you continue along the road to Gastown, the historical centre of Vancouver, you might stop at the Smart Mouth Café. In 1971, 14 environmental activists met in the café – then named Luna Café – and decided to change the name of their environmental organization ‘Don’t Make a Wave Committee’ (founded in 1969) to the catchier ‘Greenpeace’. This meeting is considered to be the official birth of Greenpeace, even though the name of committee was only officially registered as ‘Greenpeace Foundation’ in 1972.

We hope you enjoyed your historical tour of Vancouver. For a pleasant finale to the tour, we suggest heading to Tojo’s Restaurant. This sushi bar is considered to be the birthplace of the ‘California roll’, which was purportedly created by Chef Hidekazu Tojo in the 1970s. In Vancouver, history is indeed everywhere – including on your plate!