YOU SHOULD KNOW: The History Of The City’s Grandview-Woodland Neighbourhood

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by Stevie Wilson | When we hear the term “Grandview” we typically think of The Drive, cheap pizza joints, and the transit circus known as the Commercial-Broadway Station. With a geographical reach stretching all the way down to Burrard Inlet, however, the Grandview-Woodland area has plenty more to offer those who want to look a little further. One fun way to explore the neighbourhood is to try the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s 11th Annual Heritage House Tour on June 2nd. They’re kicking off the sunny season with a fantastic walking tour featuring some of the city’s most stunning historic homes, five of which are conveniently located within walking distance of each other in Grandview. Before you head out to examine the sites, here’s a little more info about this expansive and culturally diverse region…

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Prior to the 1890s, the Squamish communities in the area referred to the stretch of Inlet shore bordering Clark Drive to Nanaimo as Khupkhahpay’ay, which translates to “cedar tree”. As evidenced by the number of dedicated centers and cultural representations, this area still features a strong First Nations presence (one in ten Grandview-Woodland area residents identifies as Aboriginal or Métis).

This area first saw significant development during the mid to late 1800s, when the original Hastings Mill was operating at the foot of Dunlevy. During the 1890s, this section of the Inlet was booming with industry, and with the completion of the interurban rail line from Vancouver to New Westminster in 1891 the region experienced a wave of residential and commercial settlements. By 1982, the Cedar Cove area – near the intersection of present-day Powell and Wall Street – featured the Columbia Brewery, several mills, a slaughterhouse, and other important resource facilities that attracted labourers. Naturally, this development boosted the demand for local residences and businesses, and soon thereafter several wealthy families began purchasing lots in the area of present-day Broadway. In 1891, Park Drive was completed as a skid road for logging and served as a thoroughfare accompanying the busy streetcar line. It was named after its terminus at Buffalo Park on 15th Avenue, which was situated on land donated to the city by E.J. Clark. By 1911, however, the City had renamed Buffalo Park as Clark Park. Park Drive at 14th also featured a Buffalo Grocery (circa 1908), so there were clearly some bovine fans in the neighbourhood!

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As for Park Drive, area merchants rallied in 1911 to change its name to Commercial Drive in an attempt to drive business interests to the area (go figure). It’s said that the name “Grand View” originated from a hand-painted sign located at the interurban stop on First Avenue in 1892, though city officials didn’t officially designate the modern scope of the area until 1969. Noted city archivist Major J.S. Matthews and other contemporary accounts suggest that it was indeed Edward Odlum who coined the term after noting how “grand” the westward views were. Early in the twentieth-century, local investors took advantage of the scenic landscape of the area and built large Queen Anne, Georgian Revival, and other grandiose-style homes.

Today, it’s one of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods, featuring some remarkable architectural statistics: 57 percent of the homes in Grandview were built before 1946, with 44 percent of these built between 1911 and 1921. Landmark sites include the Brookhouse Residence on Parker (built in 1909), the famed Odlum Residence on Grant, the McTaggart’s home on Victoria Drive, and many more. As an area that has own grown enormously in density and popularity over the last decade, the story of Grandview’s rise as a residential and industrial center is weaved through the story of these estate homes as well as their more compact counterparts.

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This year’s Heritage House Tour offers attendees the experience to learn about local history, observe the distinct character of this unique neighbourhood, and a special opportunity to hear from the Grandview Heritage Group. In an area boasting 52% of the city’s renter population, it’s an interesting place to see what home owners have done to celebrate their houses’ distinct legacies. The tour is likely to sell out quickly, so don’t miss your chance to sneak a peek at some of the finest homes that East Van has to offer. For more information on the VHF Heritage House Tour and other events, visit http://www.vancouverheritagefoundation.org.

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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 Scout column that aims to reveal to readers the many historial things that they already see but might not undertstand.

  • DC

    Very cool…I love the history of the area and love driving down Victoria and looking at all the historic houses. Good post!! :)