Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 9 – Athletic Park

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 9: Athletic Park was Vancouver’s first purpose-built baseball stadium…

Athletic Park was sited atop an escarpment overlooking industrial False Creek at the south end of the Granville Street Bridge. Bob Brown, the owner of the Vancouver Beavers Baseball Team, known locally as Mr. Baseball, built it on land leased from the CPR on the southeast corner of West 5th and Hemlock. Brown purportedly cleared the land for the park himself using dynamite and a pickaxe! Over 6,000 baseball fans were in attendance for the park’s opening day on April 17, 1913.

Exterior of Athletic Park ca. 1920. Photo: COV Archives, CVA 99-870.

Mainly used for baseball, Athletic Park also hosted other sports like football and lacrosse, as well as labour and political rallies. Athletic Park was also notable for the first time a night game was played illuminated by floodlights in Canada.

Bob Brown bought the Capilanos baseball team with the help of Capilano Breweries Ltd in 1939. This team would eventually evolve into the Vancouver Mounties and later the Vancouver Canadians. Brown sold Athletic Park to Capilano Breweries Ltd. owner Emil Sick in 1945, but stayed on as manager until 1954. Athletic Park’s Capilano Stadium was home to the team until 1951 when a new Capilano Stadium (now Nat Bailey Stadium) opened on Little Mountain. It’s said that some of Athletic Park’s turf made it to the new stadium, ensuring that at least a piece of Vancouver baseball history would live on.

Athletic Park was demolished in the early 1950s to make way for the elevated Hemlock street on-ramp for the new Granville Street Bridge, which opened in 1954.

Baseball opening day, 1915. Photo: COV Archives, PAN N14B


Sidewalk date stamps

I live at the corner of 1912 and 1925. I discovered this fact shortly after I moved into my neighbourhood.  As someone who commutes mainly by walking (and public transportation), I have the pleasure of seeing the world at a slower pace. This allows me to notice small things, like sidewalk date and name stamps, that most people are incognizant of. These inconspicuous markings in the urban landscape were originally used to date the construction of the sidewalk but consequently, mark the provenance of a neighbourhood.

Composite of date stamped sidewalks in Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen
Composite of date stamped sidewalks in Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

I live in an established part of the city, but since my building dates to ca.1960, I was quite surprised to find sidewalks dating from 1925 and 1912 intersecting on the corner of my block. The impact of this may be lost to those of you who live in older cities with plenty of heritage buildings, but here in Vancouver a building from 1960 can be considered old – a construction from 1912, is positively ancient!

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