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.

The_Vancouver_Sun_Fri__Dec_29__1950_

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_Thu__Jun_22__1950_
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_Wed__Jul_12__1950_photo
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.

CVA 447-255
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.

The_Vancouver_Sun_Wed__Jan_31__1951_
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!