Sidewalk prisms of Vancouver

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 child that I first noticed the purple squares embedded in sidewalks.

Have you ever been walking in an older part of the city and noticed a checker board 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].

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Historical Walking Tours

Historical walking tours are a great way to learn more about local history in a fun, immersive and engaging way – and the lazy, hazy days of summer are the perfect time to partake.

Shipyard Sal and Sam
Shipyard Sal and Sam from the NVMA historical walking tour of the Burrard Dry Dock Shipyard in North Vancouver. Photo: C. Hagemoen

Last Friday, I did exactly that. I joined 7 others for an engaging historical walking tour of the Burrard Dry Dock Shipyard site beside the Lonsdale Quay Market. Led by our tour guides, Shipyard Sal and Sam, we were transported back in time to the 1940s when North Vancouver’s Burrard Dry Dock and Shipyards was hopping with war-time shipbuilding action.

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