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A Brief History of Vancouver

City Council meeting in 1886 in Vancouver, Canada
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A Brief History of Vancouver

Vancouver was kind of inevitable. You’re at the mouth of the river here, looking at the ocean. Where else are you going to build a city?

Cook came through here, but didn’t linger. Same with Vancouver himself. He charted the region, but didn’t stay. Nootka Sound was more interesting, and there was still the problem of a Northwest Passage to work out.

The Hudson’s Bay Company arrived in the 1820s and jumped for joy. Everything it wanted was here: ample hunting, a trade nexus, water access, a landscape that was easy to secure. The first HBC site was at Fort Langley, east of what’s now Vancouver. It was not the best place. It took them 30 years and several major fires to realize that all they had to do was move downriver a bit to find a better spot. In the 1850s, New Westminster was founded, and by the 1860s, sawmills lined the river’s edge.

The railways came in 1886 and solidified the city’s importance. It was the terminus, the place that, sooner or later, all West Coast shipping had to move through. There was a slow, steady growth, but it wasn’t until the 1960s when Vancouver started to come into its own. With the growth of Whistler to the north, the town started to gain a reputation as an outdoor sports mecca. Add on a healthy job market in the financial center of BC, and the place boomed. Amillion people were in town by the early 1970s.

In addition to all its other attractions, Vancouver is now one of the biggest film production centers in the world, trailing only Hollywood, New York and Mumbai (Bollywood), India. Odds are a whole lot of the TV shows you watch – X-Files, Stargate – and a good half the movies you see were filmed around Vancouver. There’s always filming going on somewhere in town. On one recent trip, we saw a guy in a long black coat standing at the edge of the roof on a 30-story building. People glanced, then walked on. Just another day of filming.

In July, 2003, Vancouver succeeded in its bid for the 2010 Olympics. and when the official announcement was made, it was really interesting and quintessential Canada: 15,000 people cheered for about five minutes, then they all nicely filed out and went on about their business. No overturned cars, no riots, nobody selling t-shirts.

Last updated June 11, 2011
Posted in   Canada  |  Vancouver
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