Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 11 – Before Kingsgate Mall

Last year I took on the challenge of the first-ever Local History Advent Calendar! For 24 days in a row, I presented random historical tidbits I’d collected over the previous year and presented them in the form of “treats” for my 2018 Local History Advent Calendar. This year, the “Heart of Mount Pleasant” was number 1 on Heritage Vancouver’s Top 10 Watch List for 2019.  So I decided to choose Mount Pleasant as the theme for the Vanalogue Local History Advent Calendar for 2019.  Each day you can “open” a new historical treat. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Mount Pleasant history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Before there was the weird and wonderful Kingsgate Mall there was the Mount Pleasant School…

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Looking southeast at the intersection of Westminster Rd. and 9th Ave. (Kingsway and Broadway) from 1908. Visible is the original wooden schoolhouse and the brick replacement. Photo: George Alfred Barrowclough, UBC Digital Collections

Mount Pleasant’s first school was a two room schoolhouse built in 1888. Known as the False Creek School it was located on the corner of Westminster Rd. (Kingsway) and 9th Avenue (Broadway). In 1892 an 8-room brick school was built near the first one; it was added to several times over the years and was called Mount Pleasant School.

In those early days the boundaries of the school district it served were very large: South through forest to the banks of the Fraser, east to Commercial Drive, west to Cambie and north to False Creek. In the 1890s many school children had to travel along trails in the forest where bears and cougars were still found. Many parents had to escort their children safely to and from school with a lantern in one hand and a gun in the other.

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Mount Pleasant School ca. 1892. Photo: COV Archives, SGN 45
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Girls sports team in the 1950s. Photo: VSB Archives
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Mount Pleasant School ca. 1960. Photo: VSB Archives

For 80 years the brick school stood at the centre of Mount Pleasant, educating the youth of Mount Pleasant. Plans to build a new school building on a different site were formed and the old school was torn down in the summer of 1972. Staff and students of Mount Pleasant School moved to its present site at 2300 Guelph Street also in 1972.

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Demolition of Mount Pleasant school in August 1972. Photo: COV Archives CVA 23-19

The Kingsgate Mall we occasionally make fun of, but love dearly for its inherent quirkiness and old-school sensibility, may not have been built at all if the Vancouver School Board (VSB) didn’t decide to “go rogue” in the early 70s.

In 1971, the VSB (who own the 3.2 acre property) called for tenders to build a shopping centre that “would serve the people, providing a convenience for the neighbourhood and provide funds for the board”. The plan for a $2.5 million, two-level shopping centre from Royal Oak Holdings was chosen. The agreement would provide the board “with a continuing and growing source of revenue over a 99-year lease”. However, the plan to build a shopping centre was made by the Vancouver School Board without first consulting the community, or (apparently) the City.

According to a Vancouver Sun article from December 1972, the plan to build a shopping centre was criticized for it’s lack of public space and community facilities. The plan was also criticized for “ignoring the site’s possible future importance as a rapid transit centre”[!] The city planning commissioner John Lecky, and other community stakeholders chastised the VSB submitting that “although the school board owns the land, it had no right to proceed on its own and plan a major change in the community”. The VSB got schooled!

At a public hearing to address these issues – lack of public consultation, lack of community facilities and, complaints that the VSB was acting outside of its mandate – newly elected city councillor and former school trustee, Fritz Bowers, admitted that the Board “goofed.. (in that) we did not a year and two months ago meet here before sending out tenders… it never crossed the minds of the trustees.”

At that meeting it was decided that community facilities would be included in a revised plan. The developer said that 5,000 to 6,000 sq feet of space “was available and that community facilities would be welcome because they generate pedestrian traffic.” However, he added “that the city would have to pay the going rate for the space.” [That’s what happens when you try to bargain after the fact.]

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Kingsgate Mall entrance to Buy-Low. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Kingsgate Mall officially opened on March 28, 1974.  In addition to the 6,000 sq.ft Mount Pleasant branch of the Vancouver Public Library (the community facility), the other tenants included: Orange Julius, Brook Brothers Clothiers (not to be confused with Brooks Brothers), Safeway, Fields, Kingsgate House of Cards (my new secret name for Kingsgate), Shoppers Drug Mart, The Royal Bank, and a BCLCB store. The latter three are still tenants today.

Check out some of the great deals that were available at Kingsgate Mall, Christmas 1974: Caftans and Dashikis at ‘ETC…’; compact tape recorder at ‘Radio Shack’; Rabbit Coats at ‘Jeans n’ Tonic’; and Flintstones inflatable furniture at ‘Shoppers Drug Mart’!

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The Province December 4, 1974.

2 thoughts on “Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 11 – Before Kingsgate Mall

  1. Thanks for this post and all the others. I didn’t know about the Fritz Bowers – Kingsgate mall connection. Where did you find the quote from the public meeting?

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