YOU SHOULD KNOW: The Awesome History Of The Long Forgotten North Shore Ferries

February 19, 2013.

Back in the mid 1860s, if you were looking to cross the Burrard Inlet from North Vancouver to Vancouver proper, you’d likely find yourself stuck in a private rowboat “captained” by “Navvy” Jack Thomas, a deserter from the Royal Navy. Fortunately in 1893, two years after the incorporation of the City of North Vancouver, a deal was inked with the Union Steamship Company to provide six scheduled (and far more accommodating) crossings a day. Until then, Navvy Jack and other small passenger boats – including the Sea Foam, the Chinaman, the Lily, the Elonora, and the Senator – bore the weight of intensifying residential and commercial activity in the area. Following a brief period in 1899 wherein the city reclaimed ownership of the service, the North Vancouver Ferry and Power Company took over. When the steam-powered North Vancouver Ferry No. 1 (aka the Norvan) proved too small to accommodate the growing Lonsdale population, sister ship North Vancouver Ferry No. 2 (aka the St. George) was launched with No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 eventually joining the ranks as well.

Naturally, West Vancouver had a ferry company all its own. In 1905, John Lawson purchased 160 acres of auctioned North Shore land from the provincial government, and along with his brother-in-law William C. Thompson commissioned two boats to transport would-be residents and prospective lot buyers under the name of “West Vancouver Launch Service”. These freight and passenger ferries were an instrumental force in the development of the relatively isolated area, as travel to and from “over town” had previously been a process dependent on the kindness of passing boats (and some well-placed flags) due to its limited number of private properties and settlements. Only a handful of tugboats and pilot ships were available to carry passengers back and forth.

In 1909, West Vancouver authorized the formation of the West Vancouver Ferry Company (a new firm formed by Lawson and Thompson with Robert Macpherson and John Sinclair) to own and operate the service. Three years later, however, Lawson was eager to sell out. By 1912 he had spent over $11,500 on the service and boats, and wasn’t seeing much profit. In 1912, the newly minted municipality bought the company for just $6,000. With the purchase came two boats: the 34 passenger West Vancouver No. 1 (formerly a fishing boat named Eileen), and the 40-passenger Sea Foam (not be confused with the North Van vessel that blew up in 1867), built in 1906. The West Vancouver No. 1 operated from 1909 to 1915, when it was sold to a new operator. In 1928, she sank in Thunder Bay, BC.

In 1913, a proper terminal – housing a ticket office and a tea room – was constructed at the foot of 14th street. From the West Vancouver archives:

The West Vancouver terminus at the foot of 14th Street was the headquarters of the ferry fleet. The standard run was to the foot of Columbia Street on the Vancouver waterfront . The trip took 25 minutes and ran on the hour. It cost 10 cents, and later 15, and one could buy a fare card for 10 or 20 rides. The ferries ran seven-days-a-week and 18-hours-a-day, later increasing in frequency to every half hour and every 20 minutes during rush hour. The crew consisted of a skipper, engineer, and sometimes a mate, who would circulate and punch the tickets and sometimes there was a lookout man too. The larger ferries had divided cabins – the fore-cabin was for smokers and was known as the “glory hole” – non-smokers reeled out of it, choking.

Of course, riding the ferry wasn’t without its hazards.

At 8:47 am on Monday, February 4, 1935, in thick fog, the West Vancouver No. 5 was westbound for the 14th Street terminus, reportedly on course, at a slow speed and approaching Prospect Point, when the sharp steel bow of the much bigger CPR ship “Princess Alice” loomed out of the fog. The “Alice” was inbound from Seattle, 47 minutes late. There was no time to try to dodge and the “Alice’s” bow cut into the ferry at an acute angle on the port side of the after cabin. It was obvious that the ferry would sink immediately. Luckily she carried few passengers on that trip, and only one (the elderly Mrs. William E. Burritt) was trapped, below decks. The bow of the “Alice” pinned her against the side of the cabin. Captain Darius Smith , aided by mate Hayes and lookout Arnold Garthorne, made valiant efforts to free her but the ferry went down so fast that the others had to drag Capt. Smith out before he went down with her.

But the end of the ferries was an eventual consequence of the opening of the Second Narrows Bridge in 1925 and then the Lions Gate Bridge in 1938. The two bridges rendered them impractical. Due to the security restrictions on bridge use, increased gas rationing, and the expense of bus fare, the ferries delayed their closure until after WWII. A referendum held in 1945 revealed that 80% of the population favoured the discontinuation of the service. In 1947, West Vancouver’s boats had their last sailing, followed by North Vancouver’s ferry farewell in 1958.

The Ferry Building in Ambleside, originally used as a ticket office and waiting room, still operates today as an art gallery. In Tofino, the North Vancouver #1 ferry is still intact, albeit tremendously weatherworn, as an above-water installment and accommodations on Strawberry Island. The North Vancouver Ferry No. 5 was repurposed into the Seven Seas Restaurant in Lonsdale until it was decommissioned in 2001, and the last remaining West Vancouver ferry, the Hollyburn, was run under Harbour Ferries as a tour boat before being scrapped in February, 2010.

And then came the Seabus, but…well…that’s another story.

 

#ScoutThis

There are 9 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You Should Know Local histories and mysteries...

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About ‘Squamish Days’ – A Loggers Sports Festival, 60 Years Running

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About ‘Squamish Days’ – A Loggers Sports Festival, 60 Years Running

Loggers felling a tree, 1940s. (Jack Lindsay, COV Archives - CVA 1184-2182) Contrary to the popular belief, lumberjacks (and lumberjills) don’t like to… more 

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The Many Weird Visions Of Vancouver That Never Came To Be

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The Many Weird Visions Of Vancouver That Never Came To Be

Vancouver, like all cities, is constantly evolving. Buildings come down, buildings go up. Neighbourhoods change. Over the years architects, planners and… more 

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The Old Building That’s Now Home To Andina Brewing Company

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The Old Building That’s Now Home To Andina Brewing Company

One of my favourite things to do on a weekend afternoon combines my love of craft beer with my love of local history. This often takes the form of a historical… more 

YOU SHOULD KNOW | All About The Sidewalk Stamps Still Spelling Out Vancouver’s History

YOU SHOULD KNOW | All About The Sidewalk Stamps Still Spelling Out Vancouver’s History

1906 date stamp on an early sidewalk at Hastings & Richards (City of Vancouver Archives - CVA 677-584) As someone who commutes mainly by walking and public… more 

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The ‘Easter Be-In’ That Occurred In Vancouver 50 Years Ago

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The ‘Easter Be-In’ That Occurred In Vancouver 50 Years Ago

Yesterday - Sunday, March 26th, 2017 - marked the 50th anniversary of the first “Be-In” held in Vancouver. The event marked a huge cultural (or… more 

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The Piece Of Vancouver History That Just Sold For A Song

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The Piece Of Vancouver History That Just Sold For A Song

Vancouver’s oldest wood-frame commercial structure - the subject of a famous Fred Herzog photograph (below, then and now) - is located in the heart of the… more 

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About Groundbreaking Eleanor Collins, The City’s ‘First Lady Of Jazz’

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About Groundbreaking Eleanor Collins, The City’s ‘First Lady Of Jazz’

I think everyone in Vancouver should know about Eleanor Collins. Some of you may already know and admire the glorious singer, but I suspect it's likely that… more 

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The ‘Bottle Dash’ Houses That Still Glitter In The Vancouver Sun

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The ‘Bottle Dash’ Houses That Still Glitter In The Vancouver Sun

You have passed them a thousand times and not even noticed. Then one sunny winter day a glint of light catches your eye. Why is that older stucco dwelling… more 

The scout Community

49th Parallel Coffee Roasters & Lucky’s Doughnuts Acorn Agrius Ai & Om Alibi Room Ancora Waterfront Dining & Patio Anh and Chi AnnaLena Araxi Arbor Ask For Luigi Au Comptoir Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie Bar Oso Bauhaus Beach Bay Café & Patio Beaucoup Bakery & Cafe Bel Café Bestie Bishop’s Bistro Wagon Rouge Bittered Sling Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar Botanist Bottleneck Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar Bufala Burdock & Co. Cabrito Cacao Cadeaux Bakery Café Medina Caffè Artigiano Camp Lifestyle + Coffee Co. Campagnolo Campagnolo ROMA Cartems Donuterie Chambar Chefs’ Table Society of BC Chez Christophe Chocolaterie Patisserie  Chicha Chill Winston ChocolaTas Chocolate Arts Cibo Trattoria Cinara CinCin Ristorante + Bar Cioffi’s Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill Cocktails & Canapes Catering + Events Cook Culture Crowbar Culinary Capers Catering & Special Events Dirty Apron Cooking School & Delicatessen District Brasserie Dixie’s Authentic Texas BBQ Earnest Ice Cream East Van Roasters Cafe Edible Canada El Santo Elementa Espana Fable Fanny Bay Farmer’s Apprentice Fat Mao Fayuca Fernwood Coffee Company Field & Social Forage Giovane Cafe + Eatery Gotham Steakhouse & Bar Grain Granville Island Grapes & Soda Greenhorn Espresso Bar Gyoza Bar Hart House Restaurant Harvest Community Foods Hawksworth Restaurant Heirloom Heritage Asian Eatery Homer Street Cafe & Bar Hy’s Steakhouse Irish Heather Jamjar JJ Bean Joe Pizza Joy Road Catering Juice Truck Juke Fried Chicken Juniper Kafka’s Coffee & Tea Keefer Bar Kin Kao Kissa Tanto Knifewear Kuma Tofino L’Abattoir La Buca La Mezcaleria La Pentola La Quercia La Taqueria Pinche Taco Shop Les Amis du Fromage Lions Pub, The Liquidity Bistro Lobby Lounge + RawBar Longtail Kitchen Lucha Verde Made By Pacific Maenam Mak N Ming Mamie Taylor’s MARKET by Jean-Georges Matchstick Coffee Roasters Meinhardt Fine Foods Miku Restaurant Milano Coffee Minami Miradoro Mission Mister Mogiana Coffee Mosquito Nero Belgian Waffle Bar Nicli Antica Pizzeria Nightingale Nomad Nook Nuba Oakwood Canadian Bistro OLO OPUS Bar Osteria Savio Volpe Oyama Sausage Co. Pallet Coffee Roasters Pat’s Pub & BrewHouse Pidgin Pizzeria Farina Pointe Restaurant at the Wickaninnish Inn, The Pourhouse Railtown Cafe Railtown Catering Rain Or Shine Ice Cream Red Wagon, The Revolver Coffee Rocky Mountain Flatbread Co. Royal Dinette Salt Tasting Room Savoury Chef Shaughnessy Restaurant Shebeen Whisk(e)y House Shelter Six Acres Sophie’s Cosmic Cafe Sorella Stable House, The Tableau Bar Bistro Tacofino Tavola Tempranillo Terra Breads Thierry Thomas Haas Chocolates & Patisserie Timber Timbertrain Coffee Roasters Torafuku Tractor Foods Truffles Fine Foods Two Rivers Specialty Meats UBC Farm Uncommon Cafe, The Urban Digs Farm Uva Wine & Cocktail Bar Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise™ Program Via Tevere Pizzeria Napoletana Vij’s Restaurant Virtuous Pie West Restaurant Wildebeest Wolf In The Fog YEW seafood

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was .

Lorem Ipsum is simply dummy text of the printing and typesetting industry. Lorem Ipsum has been the industry's standard dummy text ever since the 1500s, when an unknown printer took a galley of type and scrambled it to make a type specimen book. It has survived not only five centuries, but also the leap into electronic typesetting, remaining essentially unchanged. It was .