YOU SHOULD KNOW: Mount Pleasant Has Always Been A Lot More Hip Than You…
by Stevie Wilson | One of the highlights of my time as an undergraduate History student was learning that ’Mount Pleasant’ was the ironic nickname given to a massive garbage and waste depository site in early-industrialized London, the stench of which being the subject of much press and public uproar. While this anecdote provided more than a few chuckles with my fellow Main Street-dwelling pals, it got me wondering about the historical nomenclature of my neighbourhood. As it turns out, the hipster-laden streets of our Mount Pleasant weren’t born of such contempt. You may recall the empty lot at the fork of Main and Kingsway, where the new Mount Pleasant Community Center now stands. Running across the fenced-off parameter were paintings (one of which a certain columnist attempted to steal) by local artists and students. Many of them highlighted the name “Brewery Creek” – the affectionate term for the local waterway linking several area breweries in the late 19th century, like the Vancouver Brewing Company, San Francisco Brewery, and Thorpe & Co. Soda Works. With the commercial and industrial benefit of Brewery Creek, the introduction of streetcars, and a growing settlement of working-class families in proximity to the expanding business sectors of the city, the area developed into a prestigious residential location. On the corner of Kingsway and 8th Avenue, check out the 5-foot tall phallic monument which outlines some of the history of the Main and Kingsway intersection. It’s on your way home from Budgies, so why not?
Mount Pleasant did indeed take its name from a European influence: The Irish birthplace of the wife of H.V. Edmonds, a New Westminster municipal clerk with extensive property titles in the area. The area south of False Creek is situated up a hill, and it does have some pleasant views, so it’s easy to see why they considered the name appropriate. Home to the city’s first “skyscraper” (the Lee Building), an abundance of WWI-era railway systems, and City Hall, Mount Pleasant evolved into a popular place for discerning, turn-of-the-century Vancouverites.
Despite the influx of warehouses, commercial buildings, and high-rises in later decades, the residential character of Mount Pleasant remains (see Kingsgate Mall? It used to be an elementary school), and as any real estate agent will tell you, it’s a very “desirable” place to live. A self-led walking tour (with requisite coffee beverage) through the area will likely take you past several homes dating back anywhere from the 1940’s to the 1890’s. Maybe stroll up to Brewery Creek Liquor Store to indulge in some, you know, “heritage”. Whether you’re a struggling student, a mid-century furniture enthusiast, or raising an organic vegan family, you’ll probably agree that the area is pretty swell. I just hope whoever ended up with that Brewery Creek painting is sincerely enjoying it.
Stevie Wilson is an historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she’s decided to branch out with a cryptic agenda: encouraging the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with You Should Know, a new column that aims to show you the things that you already see. Just nod your head and pretend you’re paying attention.