Though the nomenclature of the neighbourhood is divisive, one thing that proponents of either Hastings Sunrise or the East Village may agree on is that it’s a great area with an abundance of local flair and flavours. The Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s recent walking tour of the area, led by Historian Maurice Guibord, offered a fun and informative look at some of the businesses and buildings that have shaped the character of the area, as well as the history of the neighbourhood’s multi-generational and multi-ethnic identity.
Our tour began at the corner of Lakewood Drive and East Hastings, where Maurice explained the origins of the New Brighton Park area, the first non-indigenous settlement in Vancouver. Historically known as the Hastings Townsite, featured the area’s first road, hotel, wharf, ferry, post office, and museum—though it didn’t officially join the City of Vancouver until 1910. Maurice explained the growth and subsequent decline of the area and its tourist-focused businesses, and how the community of Brighton never quite took off. It wasn’t until the 1940s that the Sunrise Ridge and Sunrise Park developments gave the area its well-known title.
The housing and building styles Maurice pointed out as we continued down Hastings towards the PNE (where we reflected on, among other things, the history of the WWII internment of Japanese-Canadians there) reflected a variety of styles and decades, from large Craftsman-style homes to the 1960s Star Tile building and even a Mission Revival-style commercial/residential hybrid.
The most unexpected and totally awesome part of the walk was our tour of the Dayton Boots factory store. President and CEO Stephen Encarnacao expertly detailed the company’s history and origins back to 1946, and the evolution of the brand and their products (a story too interesting to begin to describe in a short post). Those who have purchased Dayton boots will know the store itself is a museum of various Dayton artifacts and ephemerae. The factory in the back is similarly a testament to the local company’s commitment to fine craftsmanship. Maurice even talked Stephen into showing us the old sewing room upstairs, which features an incredible array of retired machines—one of them a century old— once used by their staff.
Maurice was sure to point out the influence and contributions of Italian-Canadians, Polish-Canadians, and other European, Asian, and South-Asian communities along our walk. Likewise, the various old and new businesses that dot the Hastings corridor all have their own stories to tell. So don’t let the shiny East Village moniker fool you: the area is still fundamentally tied to both Hastings Street and its diverse working-class identity—and that’s part of what makes it great.
Vancouver Heritage Foundation, a registered charity, encourages Vancouverites to reuse, restore and rehabilitate heritage buildings and sites. Walking tours is one way VHF invites Vancouverites to know more about the rich history of the city and aims to inspire action on heritage conservation.