Seeking Mount Pleasant Stories

Did you grow up in Mount Pleasant? Maybe you attended the old Mount Pleasant School? Perhaps you once lived here as a young adult in the 70s, 80s, or 90s? Or, maybe you have family roots in Mount Pleasant? Did you, or someone you know, operate a business or work in Mount Pleasant back in the day? If you answered yes to any of these questions I’d love to hear from you! I’m collecting historical stories of individuals and families who lived and/or worked in Mount Pleasant during the last century.  I am very interested to hear your Mount Pleasant story.

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My grandfather Pete (r) and his brothers outside their Mount Pleasant home ca. 1928.

Bordered by Cambie Street to the west, Clark Drive to the east, 16th Avenue to the south, and False Creek/2nd Avenue to the north, Mount Pleasant is one of Vancouver’s oldest neigbourhoods and earliest suburbs. Early industries like brewing, slaughter-houses, and lumber mills starting appearing along the south shores of False Creek and along creeks like Brewery Creek in the 1860s. But Mount Pleasant really started to develop by the late 1880s, when the first residences appeared, giving birth to the City’s first neighbourhood south of False Creek.

Unlike other older Vancouver neighbourhoods – The West End, Strathcona, Marpole, Gastown – there is surprisingly very little documenting the history of Mount Pleasant, especially it’s historical past beyond the 1920s.  And what little documented history that exists is often out of date, is from a male perspective (his-story, anyone?), and primarily consists of a European settler narrative. I think it is time to change that, so together, let’s update the story of Mount Pleasant!

My grandmother and mother in 1944 in front of the family home at 53 E.6th. They lived here while my grandfather was serving overseas during WW2. Photo: Personal Collection C. Hagemoen

Mount Pleasant has been my home for the last 5 years, but it isn’t the first time I lived in the neighbourhood. The first time was in 1991-92 when I was a student and I shared the main floor of an older house with two friends. Those were heady days, and in hindsight, I wished I had paid more attention to my Mount Pleasant surroundings (especially with my camera). But my Mount Pleasant family roots go even deeper and date back to the 1920s.

From about 1927 to 1946, my Italian immigrant family lived in a house at 53 East 6th Avenue. My maternal great-grandparents, my grandfather and his siblings, in total 8 people, lived in a house that was originally built in 1909. Part of the first Italian diaspora, my great-grandfather Joe (Guiseppe) initially landed in the United States in 1893 at the age of 28. He traveled several times back and forth between North America and Italy before he finally immigrated to Canada in 1908 after marrying my great grandmother, Concetta, in Italy in 1907.  With little education his job prospects were limited. He was a shepherd in Calabria and again in Montana in the 1890s, but when he came to Canada he worked as a miner, trackman, and other labour jobs. In 1927, the time of the move to Mount Pleasant, my great-grandfather worked as a labourer at J. Coughlan’s shipyards on False Creek, he retired shortly thereafter. After the war, in 1946, the family moved to a new build, bottle-dash stucco house in Hastings Sunrise. Mount Pleasant was changing (for the worse) and the appeal of a brand new house in a predominately Italian neighbourhood was too much of a draw.

[Fun fact: my other maternal great-grandparents also lived in Mount Pleasant]

Nellie, Conchetta, Julia and Vic in front of 53 E 6th ca. 1928. Photo: Personal Collection C. Hagemoen

The more genealogical research I do, the more layers of my family history I peel back. For example, a couple of years ago I discovered that my grandmother once lived in the house directly across the street from the heritage Mount Pleasant building I currently call home. She was only there for about a year, just prior to her marriage to my maternal grandfather, but I still find it a fascinating coincidence. Like the coincidence of discovering a few years ago that from 1937 to 1959 my friend Jeffery’s family lived only 3 blocks from where my own family lived in Mount Pleasant – 4 blocks from where I am currently writing this. All of this “coincidence” made me want to learn more about my new (old) neighbourhood.

My friend Jeffery’s family lived in Mount Pleasant at E. 3rd and Ontario. Photo: Courtesy of the Chong Family Archives.

Last summer (also slated to repeat this past April), I led a VHF walking tour called Lower Mount Pleasant: Industry, immigrants and institutions –

Mount Pleasant is one of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods and earliest suburbs. Lower Mount Pleasant is the light industrial, mixed-use area north of Broadway, bounded by Fraser and Cambie Streets and False Creek. More than just home to several craft breweries, creative industries, and nondescript commercial buildings, this distinctive area has long been an integral part of the city’s history and is noted for its unique mix of residential, commercial, industrial, and social heritage. Modern buildings and businesses have long since replaced most of the early houses and industry, but fascinating pockets of the original neighbourhood hang on, including turn-of-the-century houses, brick apartment buildings, and factories. Join Christine on this walk where you will learn about the families, workers, legacy businesses, and social groups who once called this unique part of Mount Pleasant home.

On the tour, I was really excited to be able to highlight the stories of some of the families (like my own) and businesses that made their home in this area of Mount Pleasant. Here are a couple of examples:

At 2121 Columbia there was a home, formerly part of a grouping of 4 houses, I now refer to as the ‘Tailors’ House’. The home’s first occupant was a tailor named Herbert McLean. Later, tailor Isreal Baumgart and family lived at this address. Baumgart operated a tailor shop nearby, at 305 Cambie Street, for 38 years.  Born in Russia,  Baumgart fought in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-05. He was taken prisoner in Japan and the Red Cross sent him to BC in 1905. Baumgart died in 1956, as did his wife, Bertha. They had two children Joanne and Morey, who died in 1941, at the age of 28. The Baumgart’s are buried in the Schara Tzedeck cemetery in New Westminster.

Inspired by the information I learned in the booklet  Fey-A-Byu: Japanese Canadian History in Fairview and Mount Pleasant published by the Nikkei National Museum, tour participants learned that Mount Pleasant/Fairview was the second-largest Japanese Canadian community outside of Powell Street’s Japantown. In Mount Pleasant, the community was centered around W 6th at Columbia where the Japanese Canadian United Church (aka Columbia United Church or Fairview United Church) was located. Some of the famous Asahi baseball team players, like Naggie Nishihara and Mike Maruno, lived and worked in this part of Mount Pleasant.

Pete and Tony in their baseball uniforms circa 1940. Does anyone recognize these team uniforms? Photo: Personal Collection C. Hagemoen

Which segues nicely into an aspect of my own family history in Mount Pleasant. My grandfather, Pete, and two of his brothers were also part of the Vancouver/Mount Pleasant baseball scene. Pete played on several Commercial League and Terminal League teams, often playing against the Asahi team. Apparently, he was a bit of a hothead, and he was called “pugnacious Pete Mauro” once or twice in the press. He also played softball and, after he was injured in the war, he was also an umpire.

My Grandfather, 6th from the right, on the Grant Gunn Fuel Oils Baseball team in 1934. Photo: COV Archives, 2014-045.1

I have many more stories that I could tell about my family and the other families featured on my walking tours but that isn’t the point of this post – I want to hear your stories. There are so many untold stories and further details known stories to discover.

My goal is to collect personal stories from a wide variety of people so that we can begin to tell the story of Mount Pleasant together. The ultimate goal is to take those stories write a book (or other publication), an updated history (emphasis on story, less on his) of this fascinating, but unrecognized as such, neighbourhood I (once again) call home.

If you are interested in participating, please use the contact form on my About Page here, or leave a comment on this post below. I’d love to hear from you!

Joe drinking wine on the front steps of 53 E. 6th. Maybe this is where I get my love of wine from? Photo: Personal Collection C. Hagemoen


Family and friends on East 6th Ave. ca. 1943/44. Photo: Personal Collection C. Hagemoen

The interesting thing that happens when we start sharing our stories is that we often realize how connected we all actually are.

Check out some of the “Mount Pleasant Stories” that I have already begun to tell:

William H.H. Johnson, Mount Pleasant’s first published author.

Rena Whitney and the Mount Pleasant Advocate.

Sarah Coulter and The Woman’s Bakery.

Laura’s Coffee Shop.

The Last Hidden Vestige of Old Mount Pleasant.

The Story of the Building at the Heart of Mount Pleasant.

You Should Know More About the Fascinating History of Lower Mount Pleasant.

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…

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
Girls sports team in the 1950s. Photo: VSB Archives
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.]

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’!

The Province December 4, 1974.

Local History Advent Calendar 2019 – Day 9 – Mount Pleasant Police Station

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.


In the early 1950s, the City had plans to build a new $1,000,000 police station to replace “the city’s obsolete, 40-year-old structure, on Cordova”; and they had their eyes on Mount Pleasant. The first proposed site for the new station was the 300-block West Broadway where the No-Frills (or as I like to refer to it, the ‘Cheap Thrills’) is today.

The Vancouver Sun, Thursday, June 22, 1950.

The proposed site was close to civic affairs at City Hall and fronted onto a commercial street, yes. But, it was also two blocks from the planned site of a new city park (Jonathon Rogers Park) and in the middle of, what was then a predominately residential neighbourhood. The majority of Mount Pleasant residents were not pleased and took up the fight against the plans of Mayor Charles Thompson, City Council, and Police Chief Constable Mulligan. The Mount Pleasant Ratepayers Association was in full protest force in the summer of 1950 making their collective voice heard at the special police headquarters committee meetings on the “troublesome topic”.

The Province July 12, 1950

They won the battle against the Police Station being built in the 300-block of W. Broadway only to be presented with another proposed site, which turned out to be even more appalling – the Mount Pleasant School site at Kingsway and E. Broadway. Currently, this site is home to Kingsgate Mall, but from 1893 to 1972 it was the location of the Mount Pleasant School. So, you can imagine that if Mount Pleasant residents were against a Police Station and jail near a public park, the outrage when the City proposed putting the new station next to an elementary school at the end of 1950! In January 1951, the City, now under the helm of Mayor Hume, had other sites under consideration but the MP school site was now their new number 1. The building project was delayed yet again.

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Mount Pleasant School shortly before demolition in 1972. Photo: COV Archives CVA 447-255

One Alderman fed up with the public protest process was, understandably, getting frustrated by the delay, declaring in January of 1951: “It’s getting so that we are turning down every possible site in the city… we may have to put this station on wheels yet. It seems we’re letting public opinion overcome our good sense”. ( Yes, it’s no fun when the pesky public process gets in the way of your plans!)

Well, thankfully for all the little innocent school children and future Kingsgate shoppers the new cop shop was not built at Kingsway and Broadaway. Other alternative sites for the new police station also up for review were: “the west side of Hemlock between 6th and 7th (second choice of the committee), east side of Main at Second, and the northwest corner of Cambie and Broadway”.  [At one point, a site at Richards and Smithe was also considered, but quickly deemed too expensive to aquire]. All of these proposals would have radically changed the face of the neighbourhood (and city) as we know it.

Site of new Police Station at Main and Cordova. Vancouver Sun, Jan 31, 1951

By the spring of 1951, a site for the new Police Station was finally settled on. In the end, the city chose the location that they first investigated when this process all began in 1947 – Main and Cordova.

So, remember kids: You can fight City Hall! & The squeaky wheel gets the grease!