Sidewalk prisms of Vancouver

[This post has been updated since it was first published in 2016]

I was a shy child. Consequently, I spent a lot of time avoiding eye contact by looking down at the ground. All this time looking down at my feet allowed me to regard the ground upon which I was walking. Thus it was as a Vancouver kid of the 1970s that I first noticed the glassy purple squares embedded in sidewalks.

Have you ever been walking in an older part of the city and noticed a checkerboard grid of purple squares under your feet?

Sidewalk prism light mosaic. Photos: C. Hagemoen
Sidewalk prism lights mosaic. Photos: C. Hagemoen

No, they are not simply sidewalk decoration [wouldn’t that be nice?] but rather a system to illuminate spaces under sidewalks called areaways. Sidewalk prisms, also known as vault lights (or pavement lights in the UK), are glass prisms set into sidewalks in order to reflect the natural light from above, safely illuminating these subterranean spaces. [Why are they purple? The answer to that is at the end of the post].

Continue reading “Sidewalk prisms of Vancouver”

Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 24 – Mount Pleasant Heritage Group

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.

This past May my three colleagues in the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group and I were collectively awarded a City of Vancouver Heritage Award of Merit for our “efforts in raising and promoting public appreciation of both the neighbourhood’s history and the resources within the community, as it contributes to education and awareness”.

The Mount Pleasant Heritage Group (MPHG) is a grassroots collection of Mount Pleasant residents, local historians and other interested people working to identify, preserve and celebrate the built, natural, cultural & industrial heritage of Mount Pleasant. The MPHG grew out of community connections formed during the City’s community planning workshops (resulting in the 2010 Mount Pleasant Community Plan) and the subsequent Implementation Committee (resulting in the 2013 Implementation Package). Since MPHG’s formation in 2013, we have compiled an information base and embarked on projects aimed at presenting Mount Pleasant’s rich heritage to the public.

Mount Pleasant has been known in the past and is currently known for its vibrant mix of locally owned small businesses, some of which have been in the neighbourhood for decades. Many of these businesses reside in heritage buildings like The Federal Store, Laura’s Coffee Shop, The Whip Restaurant & Gallery, and Pulp Fiction Books.

Mount Pleasant is a vibrant urban community. It has always evolved with the changing world…. it adapted and yet was able to maintain its “village” feel. But that is threatened with development. Recent zoning changes in Lower Mount Pleasant and the new Broadway Plan which includes a subway transit station at E. Broadway and Main are threatening to destroy what makes Mount Pleasant so pleasant and appealing in the first place. Imagine getting  off of the subway in Mount Pleasant and exiting the station, and not knowing where you are because all you see are the same ubiquitous chain stores and homogenous architecture. You should be able to exit the station and know that you are in  Mount Pleasant… not Anywhere, North America.

Kerry Gold wrote a great piece in the Globe and Mail August 2018 titled ‘Mount Pleasant Transforms as SkyTrain Grows’ … in it she outlines how increasing development is threatening the neighbourhood’s “village atmosphere…affordable rental apartments, historic architecture and independent businesses.”

Other good reads on the subject of the threat to Mount Pleasant’s heritage are:

With SkyTrain on track, Mount Pleasant businesses worry about train lines and bottom lines– Liam Britten, CBC Vancouver – November 23, 2018. Mount Pleasant is getting better transit. But will ‘character’ be a casualty?

“We really want to see the vibrancy and street life and all those wonderful little small businesses continue to exist.” “It’s going to take some real out-of-the-box thinking … and, quite honestly, guts at city hall to find ways that things can be maintained.” – Alyssa Myshok

Mount Pleasant’s on the rise, but for whom? – Sean MacPherson, Megaphone – July 20, 2015. As Vancouver’s oldest suburb changes, let’s consider what we’ve lost.

As urban “improvement” strategies begin to transform the neighborhood, it seems a fit time to think about the cycle of change throughout the history of this place. It is important to consider these changes and their ramifications for the people who live here. – Sean MacPherson

Vancouver’s industrial heritage faces uncertain future – Mike Kissinger, Vancouver Courier – December 23, 2019. In this article, Javier Campos, president of Heritage Vancouver Society, discusses the difficulty in preserving the city’s industrial past. Something that is very relevant to Mount Pleasant’s own industrial heritage.

“Heritage is about that. For me personally, it’s to understand a shared history that we have. But it also needs to allow things to evolve and develop. Industrial heritage is part of our history. It’s part of why Vancouver is here. It’s about how it developed. It’s about how we became Vancouver. So it’s very important to preserve some of that and to help people remember and understand where we came from.” – Javier Campos

We don’t want to hold our communities in aspic, (think suspended fruit in jello) but we also don’t want to obliterate them in the name of progress, or in the name of density. So no matter what happens… there will be changes, the plan is to work together to mitigate those changes so that we can preserve what we already have, while still getting what we need.

It is the desire of the MPHG to open up a conversation with the City about ways to protect the neighbourhood’s treasured heritage assets – both tangible and intangible – which contribute so deeply to its liveability. We want to find ways to manage change so that the neighbourhood is able to hold onto its valued characteristics. We would also like the City to recognize all the work that has already been done with the creation of the Mount Pleasant Community Plan and 2013 Implementation Plan.

The MPHG believe an important first step would be to set up a neighbourhood advisory committee and follow the suggestion of the Mount Pleasant Community Plan to make Mount Pleasant (and in particular its ‘Heritage Heart’) a heritage area with a management plan. Such a plan would follow best practices in heritage and city planning. One of the goals would be the creation of a Main Street Heritage Precinct in the Old Mount Pleasant Village or Heritage Heart of Mount Pleasant. This unique area, with some of the most historically cohesive blocks left, has continuously been the hub of the neighbourhood. It is a vibrant and well-loved shopping and gathering space with an active streetscape that draws people from all over the city, and it is worthy and in desperate need of protection and preservation.

MPHG is going to need your help. The new year will bring a call to action for those interested in preserving and protecting Mount Pleasant’s heritage. So please follow the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and on our MPHG website  – for updates on how you can help and for news on what’s happening.

This post was written with files from the Mount Pleasant Heritage Group. All photography – Christine Hagemoen

Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 23 – Japanese community in Lower Mount Pleasant

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.

PAN N161Bcrop
Predominately residential Lower Mount Pleasant ca. 1913. Source: CoV Archives, PAN N161B

If you study the few remaining houses in Lower Mount Pleasant (the area north of Broadway) you will notice that they were all built prior to 1914. The pre-WW1 period was one of great growth in Mount Pleasant – its “Golden Age”. After the war, things began to shift. In the 20s and 30s, industrial uses crept southward from False Creek and original settler families (predominately British) moved out and were replaced by immigrant families (like my own Italian immigrant family). Over time, the area declined – buildings aged and were not maintained, and in the 1950s, property-owners successfully petitioned City Council to re-zone the neighbourhood for light industrial development.

Since then, most of the early houses have been replaced by commercial/industrial buildings, but fascinating pockets of the old neighbourhood hang on. This semi-industrial area is often ignored when people discuss the history and historic merit of Mount Pleasant. Few buildings in this area have made it onto the Heritage Register, and even fewer are designated. So, this area is still not on the radar for heritage retention and/or planning.

With the pressure of development of False Creek South, new density zoning, along with plans for a new Broadway subway, there is a lot of pressure for redevelopment and it is increasing at breakneck speed. It is just a matter of time until we see further erosion of heritage resources in the area. But it’s not just about built heritage, the area’s social and cultural history is also surprisingly very rich.

1663 copy
Fire Insurance Plan, 1940. The arrows point to Japanese residences, cultural buildings, and businesses.

This area (see above) was at the centre of the Japanese-Canadian community in Mount Pleasant. The 1941 census revealed that the largest non-British ethnic group in Mount Pleasant and Fairview was Japanese at 1,400 people. In fact, Mount Pleasant/Fairview on the south shore of False Creek was the second-largest Japanese Canadian community outside of Japantown centered on Powell St.

Many Issei and Nisei came to work in the industries along the south shore of False Creek. During the housing shortage after WW1 cheap tenements and cabins were set up there to house the Japanese workers. (There were also many Indo-Canadians who lived and worked in this industrial part of lower Mount Pleasant.)

CVA 1135-32
The old Japanese Church at W6th & Columbia ca. 1970s. Source: CoV Archives, CVA 1135-32

Just down the street on 6th at Columbia (PHOTO) was the Japanese Canadian United Church aka Columbia United Church or Fairview United Church. The Japanese Kindergarten (starting in 1912) was also there. On the same block between Alberta and Columbia on 5th was the Japanese Language School and The Mikado Club was at 154 W 5th.

DSC_0806
233 West 6th in 2017. Photo: C. Hagemoen

This hold-out house at 233 West 6th Avenue was built ca. 1907 according to the water service records.  In 1910, a building application was placed for the house to be raised, at a cost of $500. Architecturally, it is unique in that it is constructed with hollow-cast concrete blocks; the blocks would be made on the site by the builder with a special block moulding machine.

From around 1937 to 1941, the Asano family lived there: Masao Asano who worked at Peace Cleaners on Fraser St. , his wife Umeko, mother Sugi (widow), and daughter Jean. Jean was a talented young artist as evidenced by the drawings she submitted to the Sun Newspaper’s “Sun Ray Club”(children’s section).

The_Vancouver_Sun_Thu__Oct_13__1938_
Vancouver Sun, October 13, 1938. Drawing by Jean Asano age 13.

As a member of the Sun Ray club, you get your name mentioned in the newspaper for your birthday along with all the other Sun Rays who share the same birthday. This must have been an automatic yearly event because, curiously, Jean Asano’s name under her birthdate is included on this celebratory list until 1945. (I suppose the Sun Ray’s Uncle Ben didn’t realize he had an enemy alien on his list!)

In 1942 the Asano’s were either interned along with all the other Japanese Canadians living on the west coast or were forced to leave British Columbia. More research is needed to find out exactly what happened to the Asano family of Mount Pleasant.

2010-26-19
The last Asahi baseball team in 1941. Back (L-R): Yuki Uno, Eddie Nakamura, Naggie Nishihara, Koei Mitsui, Kaz Suga. Front (L-R): Mike Maruno, Ken Kutsukake, George Shishido, Roy Yamamura, Tom Sawayama, Frank Shiraishi. Centre: Kiyoshi Suga Nikkei National Museum, 2010-26-19

Many of the famous Asahi baseball team players also lived in Fairview/Mount Pleasant.

Asahi baseball player, Naggie Nishihara (see above) lived at 2109 Alberta St. and in 1938 he is listed as a helper at BC Fir. Another Asahi player, Mike Maruno (see above) also worked at BC Fir and he lived at 161 W 6th. Many other Asahi players lived in Fairview west of Cambie.

My Grandfather, Pete Mauro (53 E. 6th) was also a baseball player; he played on several Commercial League and Terminal League teams that took on the Asahi team. Apparently, he was a bit of a hothead, and he was called “pugnacious Pete Mauro” once or twice in the press. There is one newspaper report of him getting into fisticuffs once with Asahi star player, Kaz Suga.

TheNikkei Museum has produced a great booklet on the subject: FE-A-BYU: Japanese Canadian History in Fairview and Mount Pleasant. It’s a great resource to check out.

Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 22 – Mount Pleasant Bowladrome

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.

The_Province_Thu__May_5__1955_
The Province, May 5, 1955

Not only did Mount Pleasant once have its own movie theatre, but it also had its own bowling alley! The Mount Pleasant Bowladrome opened 71 years ago during the peak of popularity for league bowling in Vancouver. The grand opening was held on Wednesday, December 15, 1948…

The_Vancouver_Sun_Wed__Dec_15__1948_-1
Vancouver Sun – December 15, 1948

“Its glittering facade fronting on Broadway between Main and Quebec Streets, at 116 East Broadway, the Mount Pleasant Bowladrome represents a large financial investment in the district’s business section and adds to the solidity of that centre.”

President Frank Welters boasted that the Bowladrome had 12 lanes on a “double deck of six smooth alleys on each of the two floors, in addition to the latest equipment for five and tenpin bowling”.

The_Vancouver_Sun_Wed__Jan_14__1953_
The Vancouver Sun, January 14, 1953.

The Mount Pleasant Bowladrome was host to top tournaments and regular league play. It was also one of 30(!) bowling centres in the lower mainland that participated in a British Empire Games (Commonwealth Games) mass bowling tourney in September 1953.  The bowling spree was the single biggest bowling event in BC history – a fundraiser for the British Empire Games’ Special Events Committee. In addition to the top prize of a 17″ Admiral TV, prizes for this event included: 10-pin bowling ball and bag donated by National Manufacturing, a Gadabout ladies bowling dress donated by Bernard Casuals, and 12 North Star hams awarded by Jack Diamond.

Sadly, bowling “on the hill” lasted less than 10 years. In the early morning hours of March 22, 1957, a carelessly tossed cigarette started a two-alarm fire that was the final gutter-ball for the Mount Pleasant Bowladrome. Causing between $50,000 to $75,000 damage, the fire left the second floor a charred ruin and water damage was extensive on the main floor.

Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 21 – George A. Barrowclough

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.

cdm.langmann.1-0361461.0000full-1-1
Mt. Pleasant, 1907 – Barrowclough Cards. Photo: G. A. Barrowclough, Source: Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs Barrowclough, George Alfred

Two of my favourite photos of historic Mount Pleasant (because they clearly show Abray House) were taken by a photographer named George Alfred Barrowclough (1872-1950). English-born Barrowclough came to Burnaby, B.C. via Winnipeg in 1906. By the end of that year, Barrowclough had settled in Mount Pleasant and opened a restaurant at 2440 Westminster Avenue (Main Street).  On January 17th, 1907, Barrowclough was involved in an accident at his restaurant. Frozen water pipes caused his boiler to explode when he lit his stove, resulting in the rear wall of his restaurant being blasted out.  So, I suppose it is not surprising then that by 1908, Barrowclough is no longer running a restaurant and decides to work full-time as a photographer (again).

cdm.langmann.1-0361255.0000full-2
Barrowclough’s photograph of the newly constructed Frontenac Block, ca. 1910. Source: Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs Barrowclough, George Alfred 

But, what about his photographs? In their book, Breaking News: The postcard images of George Alfred Barrowclough, Fred Thirkell and Bob Scullion chronicle Barrowclough’s career as a picture-postcard photographer in Vancouver from 1906 to 1920. In it, they describe how he headed to San Francisco immediately after the great earthquake that shook that city on April 18, 1906, to take photos of the destruction. Documenting disasters or accidents would become a signature of Barrowclough’s photographic work. Barrowclough would photograph a subject, and if it was a timely news event, he’d process and print the photographs so that they would be available to go on sale by the following day.

cdm.langmann.1-0361268.0000full(1)
All cars stop at Ferguson Drug Store, Corner of Granville and Davie, Vancouver, B.C. Source: Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs Barrowclough, George Alfred  — 1920

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Barrowclough, some of his work reveals that he had a sense of humour:

cdm.langmann.1-0361485.0000full-1
On Strike for a Wider Road in Stanley Park, B.C. Photo: Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs Barrowclough, George Alfred  — 1910

In 1910 he married twice-widowed Elizabeth Davie and moved back to Mount Pleasant settling into the newly constructed Algonquin Apartments at 10th Ave and Ontario. Shortly thereafter, Barrowclough starts working as a caretaker at Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church at 10th and Quebec. He is still taking photographs and producing postcards, just not full time. Interestingly, there is no evidence to suggest that Barrowclough ever did portrait photography – which was quite common for most professional photographers at that time.  Another interesting thing about Barrowclough is that every couple of years he seems to switch from photography full time to another job and then back again – at least that is what a survey of the City Directories of the time suggests.  For example, in the city directory for 1915 he is listed as a photographer,  in the 1916 directory, he is listed as a helper at BC Sugar Refining Co., and in 1917 he’s listed as a photographer in active service. During WW1 he served with the 231st Battalion.

cdm.langmann.1-0361193.0000full-1
Hindu [Im]migrants, B.C. Source: Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs Barrowclough, George Alfred  — 1920
After the war, George and his family ( in addition to two step-daughters, he and his wife have a daughter named Grace) move to 168 West 22nd, but he still has ties to Mount Pleasant through his work at the church. And in a surprise move in 1928, he takes over the proprietorship of Coville Bakery (later Federal Store) for about a year.

CVA 1376-303
George Barrowclough with Grace in front of 168 West 22nd Avenue, 1924. Photo: CoV Archives, CVA 1376-303

Sadly, his young daughter Grace died at age 13 on Sept. 15, 1925. The circumstances surrounding her death are unknown. In 1926, Barrowclough and his wife leave the family home and move into a suite in the Lee Building at 175 E Broadway. They live the remainder of their lives in Mount Pleasant within a couple of blocks of their church at 10th and Quebec Streets

Barrowclough seems to have stopped taking photos by 1930; the last time he is listed in the city directory as a photographer is in 1928. In fact, when authors Thurkell and Scullion contacted the step-granddaughter of Barrowclough in an attempt to find out more about the subject of their book, she was surprised to find out that he was a photographer at all! Her family had never seen any of his photographs before.

cdm.langmann.1-0361195.0000full-1-1
A giant of Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC. Photo: Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs Barrowclough, George Alfred 

Through a donation by Uno Langman, UBC has a collection of about 125 Barrowclough picture postcards, you can check them out here.

Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 20 – Junction Inn

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.

MAP 2
Map of New Westminster District, B.C 1876 –  showing District Lots in Vancouver, and township/range designations in other areas. The map also shows False Creek Trail (Westminster Rd), North Arm Road. Source: COV Archives, Map 2

The intersection of Kingsway and Fraser (at 16th Avenue) has been one of the most important junction points in the history of the city.  This area was known as “Junction” or “Pioneer Junction” after the aptly named Junction Inn – a stagecoach roadhouse.

In 1872 the first bridge over False Creek was built, completing land access between Granville (Vancouver) to New Westminster. Soon after, in 1876, at the crossing of today’s Kingsway and Fraser Street was the location of the first “intersection” or junction in the future city outside of Gastown. At that time Kingsway was known as the False Creek Road (later Westminster Road) and Fraser Street was called North Arm Road; developed as a wagon road to connect the farmlands of the Fraser River to the False Creek Trail.

The Junction Inn started serving refreshments to early commuters in around 1876, making it the first commercial building in Mount Pleasant.

Screen Shot 2019-12-20 at 1.16.11 AM
1912 Goads Fire Insurance plan showing the location of the old Junction Inn (Block 91, Lot 1).

There were four public houses along this route from New Westminster to Vancouver where travelers could “wet their whistle” – The Gladstone Inn, The Royal Oak, The Pig & Whistle (later Collingwood Inn), and the Junction Inn – where, according to the city’s first archivist, J.S. Matthews, you could get a “schooner” of beer for a nickel and whiskey was 2 drinks for a quarter.

A residential neighbourhood and small commercial centre developed around the Junction Inn (also called Junction Hotel). Starting in the 1910s, several of the businesses begin to adopt the name “Junction” ( like Junction Barber Shop, Junction Pharmacy, Junction Meat Market) as a nod to the history of this area. Today, this neighbourhood is popularly known by the moniker – Fraserhood.

The Junction Inn was located in District Lot 301 on the south side of 16th, making it technically on the border for the neighbourhoods of Mount Pleasant, Kensington – Cedar Cottage, and Riley Park-Little Mountain. Lot 301 has an interesting history because in the late 1800s and early 1900s it was not a part of any of the municipalities that surrounded it. It stood independently and therefore was under the jurisdiction of the Province and not a municipality. This served the various proprietors and customers of the Junction Inn well over the years allowing them, on occasion, to go under the radar of propriety.

The_Province_Wed__Jul_6__1898_
The Province July 6 1898

Once a place to have a drink outside the city limits in relative obscurity, by the turn of the century the Junction Inn was now well within sight of the growing temperance and morality movement.

The last mention of the Junction Inn as an operating venture is found in a newspaper article from November 1920. The article suggested that the Junction Inn was attempting to circumvent their lack of a ‘near-beer’ license (prohibition had just been rejected voters) by operating as a private club called “The Union Jack Club” (private clubs were allowed to serve alcohol). It is unclear how long this scheme worked.

Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 19 – Yes, Virginia, there is a Brewery Creek

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.

MAP 690.jpg
Contour plan of District Lot 200A (part of Mount Pleasant) showing Brewery Cree, ca. 190?. Source: CoV Archives Map 690

Though it may be hard to believe, Brewery Creek still exists. Yes, it is but a shadow of its former self, however, it is very much still there – flowing deep under layers of asphalt and concrete. The community of Mount Pleasant (Vancouver’s first suburb) developed around the waterway we now know as Brewery Creek.

First Nations people used the creek for thousands of years as a source of fresh water and sustained themselves with the animals and plants that thrived in and around it.  In a video on the Remembering Brewery Creek website, Coll Thrush, professor of History at UBC, says the story of Brewery Creek is a story of “settler colonialism” and “industrial capitalism”.

Brewery Creek facts:

  • It’s one of the many freshwater streams that once flowed downhill to False Creek (including Mount Pleasant’s China Creek).
  • It carved a swath through Mount Pleasant towards False Creek following an indirect route, crossing Main St. 2x – between 14th and 13th and again at about 10th Ave.
  • It’s thought to begin in a boggy area known as Tea Swamp (near 15th and Sophia today) where the park is today, but most likely beginning around/under Mountain View Cemetery – according to the old streams map created by the Vancouver Public Aquarium Association.
  • Named tea swamp because of the Labrador Tea plant that grew in the Bog. First nations people made a tea from it and early settlers took on the habit, as they made the long trek from New Westminster to False Creek and Vancouver beyond.
  • Mount Pleasant was bisected by an ancient animal and indigenous peoples trail, the future Kingsway. When the European settlers came they took advantage of this path that ran all the way from New Westminster to False Creek.
  • At the time European settlement began the flow strength of the stream was high. So much so that in the late 1860s, its waters were being transported more than two miles by flume to supply Edward Stamp’s Sawmill on Burrard Inlet (foot of Dunlevy) – Vancouver’s first (and only) industry.
  • Evidence of its former flow strength can be seen on old maps (see below) in the size of the ravine it flowed within.
  • By the 1880s, the banks of Brewery Creek and the south shores of False Creek were teeming with all manner of businesses – breweries, slaughter-houses, tanneries, and lumber mills.
  • Charles Doering’s Vancouver Brewery opened its doors in 1888, at the corner of 7th and Scotia (making it the second brewery in the city). Soon other breweries began operations along the creek, and it was dubbed “Brewery Creek” by locals.
  • The first time the name “Brewery Creek” appears in print is in the March 7, 1889 edition of the Vancouver Daily World.
  • Doering was among the first to build a dam on Brewery Creek, harnessing its power to drive a 40-foot water wheel to mill his grain. As demands and dams on the creek increased its flow slowed to a trickle.
  • As Mount Pleasant became more populated and commercial in the early 1900s the creek was culverted and built over. Now more a hindrance to “progress” than a help, the creek was disappearing from view.
  • In the early 20thC, the portion of False Creek east of Main Street was filled in, effectively damming (damning) Brewery Creek for eternity.

So, “settler colonialism” and “industrial capitalism” destroyed in only 50 years what had been thriving for millennia.

Screen Shot 2019-12-17 at 11.46.58 PM
1912 Goads Fire Insurance Plan showing the end of the line for Brewery Creek. Source: CoV Archives, Map 342b

But all is not lost. Despite our best efforts, Brewery Creek is still very much alive. You can see it in the landscape of the city. Heaving sidewalks and roadways; wonky, tilted fences; and flooding basements and underground parking garages all indicate the power of the creek’s still flowing water (especially after heavy rain). You can hear it as well. Standing near storm drains or manholes along its path (and along the paths of the other buried streams of Mount Pleasant) you can hear the water flowing.

WO-WO-

WO-
The length of Brewery Creek in Mount Pleasant 1897-1901 from 15th Ave to False Creek. Goads Fire Insurance Plans. Source: Library & Archives Canada