DIG IT | Exploring The Artistic Institution That Is Mt. Pleasant’s Iconic Western Front

April 18, 2014 


by Stevie Wilson | With the ink of my recent Ghost Hoods feature on Brewery Creek not yet dry, I took a look inside Mount Pleasant’s Western Front building at 303 East 8th Avenue to learn a little more about the history (as well as the current goings-on) of this neighbourhood landmark. After over 40 years as an artist-run centre and exhibition space, the building is full of distinct history and remains the oldest existing centre of its kind in the country. What’s more, it was once home to the Vancouver chapter of the Knights of Pythias, and they even have a few old ceremonial capes and spears to prove it.

One of the (many) unique features of Western Front is how the building’s original design has been preserved to accommodate and complement the needs of the staff and various exhibitions. Their Development Officer, Kristin Lim, explained how the address has transitioned quite seamlessly from a Pythian headquarters to an internationally renowned artist centre by simply utilizing the space’s existing structure. The various small rooms and cozy layout emphasize the centre’s differences from typical gallery sites.

The building was originally constructed in 1922 as a lodge for the Pythians to conduct, well, whatever it was that they did – secret meetings and such. When they sold the property in the early 1970s, they left behind various paraphernalia including their signature capes, a trophy, club signage, and a portrait of their fraternal leader. During my tour we ran into celebrated Canadian artist and co-founder of Western Front, Eric Metcalfe (formerly known as Dr. Brute, who regaled me with more amazing history and anecdotes than I could possibly fit into a short article. He mentioned that when the space was founded by himself and eight other artists in 1973, the place wasn’t in the most pristine condition, which happened to be ideal for this group of young people engaged in the contemporary Fluxus movement. Of the creativity and freedom of the early years, he observed simply, “It was a party time.”

Over the last several decades the space evolved into the professional, prestigious centre it is today, yet the building has undergone only a handful of minor repairs and changes, the most significant of which was the 2013 renovation of the Luxe Hall to uncover previously sealed windows. The original architecture remains, including the large windows, wooden wainscoting, traditional doorways (complete with Pythian peep-holes), a vintage telephone booth, and the awesome original fixed side seating in the performance hall. “One thing replaced the other,” said Metcalfe of the transition from lodge to artist haven. “The architecture informed our practice.”

For more information on this fantastic piece of Vancouver art history, visit their website, or better yet, pay them a visit! The space is open to the public – just buzz! – and offers plenty of (generally) free events and exhibits involving new music, contemporary art, media, and so much more. Who knows, you just might run into a legendary Canadian artist with a few stories to tell!

Archival photos courtesy of the Western Front Archives


GHOST HOODS | On The Rise And Fall (And Rise) Of Mount Pleasant’s “Brewery Creek”

April 10, 2014 

The GHOST HOOD series dovetails with the new HOODS section of Scout (launching on Monday)

by Stevie Wilson | In conversations about Mount Pleasant these days, the old “Brewery Creek” moniker is being increasingly employed on account of all the new breweries that have arrived in recent years. But what exactly is the significance of the name? It’s important to note that although it’s generally thought of as synonymous with the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, the “Brewery Creek” distinction refers to a particular stretch of waterway that was integral to the growth and economic development of the area. Long before white settlers arrived, this expansive region was a popular harvesting location for First Nations. It would later become an important economic sector for new businesses thanks to its flowing natural resource.

The patch of land that became known as Mount Pleasant was originally shrouded in dense, dark rainforest. The creek that drained this forest into the salty waters of False Creek sat at the bottom of a large ravine that was open to the sky. It offered an abundance of flowers, berries, and other plants used by First Nations for medicine and food. The (now lost) waterway began near where Mountain View Cemetery is located today. Water flowed downhill just west of modern-day Fraser Street to a marshy, dammed area near 14th Avenue (Tea Swamp Park). From here, the creek flowed down the Mount Pleasant hillside, following a northeastern path alongside a First Nations trail (near where Kingsway cuts across Main Street), and continuing into the eastern waters of False Creek (which have since been filled in) near Terminal Avenue.

In 1867, the creek area in Mount Pleasant became Vancouver’s first piped waterway, delivering water by flume to Gastown – then the center of the city – and the boilers at Captain Edward Stamp’s Mill near the foot of Dunlevy (later known as the Hastings Sawmill).

The Brewery Creek region was defined by its open landscape, its distinct flora and fauna, and the numerous businesses that followed the path of the waterway – including several slaughterhouses, the nearby Vancouver Tannery, and an assortment of local beverage-makers that used the creek to power their water wheels: the San Francisco Brewery (later known as the Red Star Brewery), Mainland Brewery, Landsdowne Brewery,  Lion Brewery, and the Thorpe & Co. Soda Water Works. Read more

DIG IT | On Groceries & Police Shootouts At The Finch’s Market Location In Strathcona

March 11, 2014 


by Stevie Wilson | As one of Vancouver’s most unique neighbourhoods, Strathcona has plenty more to offer than just a grouping of heritage homes. The “East End”, as the area was originally called, was one the first residential settlements in the city and, unlike many other communities, it never developed its own commercial sector, preferring instead of rely on a handful of locally-owned convenience and bodega-type stores.

A great example of Strathcona’s continued romance with small markets is the street-level corner of the Jackson Apartments at 501 East Georgia. Built in 1910, the Italianate-style apartment building was designed by E.E. Blackmore, the same man behind the storied Pantages Theatre on East Hastings.

Georgia Street, which was then known as Harris Street, had been poised to be a direct streetcar route to downtown via the original Georgia Viaduct, but when those plans fell through (because the viaduct couldn’t support trams), the neighbourhood still had the BC Electric line, which not only guaranteed its popularity as a residential spot but also gave it enough commercial viability to attract some trade.


The first recorded main-floor business at the Jackson Apartments was the Costalas Costa Grocery in 1911. It began the address’ unbroken “market” tradition that continues to this day (though Finch’s Market specializes in coffees and sandwiches, it also functions as a neighbourhood grocery, selling everything from apples and dairy products to preserves and pasta).


It was here on this corner in 1917 that police chief Malcolm MacLennan famously met his end. He and an 8 year old bystander were shot and killed by a local man named Bob Tait in a shootout with the VPD. There is a mosaic memorial to the fallen chief set into the sidewalk just outside the front door.


In the 1970s, when the streetcar rails were removed, it was known to the community as Fung’s Grocery. More recently, locals will recall it as the infamous U-Go-2-Store, which featured a variety of smokes, pops, Mr. Noodles, No Name bags ‘o chips, and a few candies that cost just a nickel apiece.


Today, the address operates as Finch’s Market, whose owners, Jamie Smith and Sheryl Matthews, gutted the space and built from the ground up to reveal and maintain much of the space’s historic charms, including the original brick walls, large fenestration, radiator, and corner entrance to match the oriel windows (see above). Scout Editor Andrew Morrison lives close by and took plenty of pictures during the construction process, so be sure to also take a close look at the gallery below. You can really see just how big of a transformation it was. Oh, and pop inside sometime for a quiet lunchtime retreat (they do some seriously great sandwiches) with a little local history on the side.



Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she branched out with a cryptic agenda: to encourage the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with Scout columns that aim to reveal to readers the many fascinating things that they might walk past every day without noticing.

HEADS UP | Heritage Vancouver Society To Give Iconic ‘Marine Building’ Tour March 12


Standing proudly at the north end of Burrard Street, Vancouver’s Marine Building, which opened in 1930, is certainly one of the most iconic and stunningly beautiful heritage buildings in the city. If the doorway is any indication of the level of craftsmanship and style of the offices inside, just imagine how impressive it must be to set foot in the art deco-styled penthouse!

Next week you will have an opportunity to do just that. On the night of Wednesday, March 12th, the Heritage Vancouver Society will lead an informative tour of the building’s jaw-dropping lobby and gorgeous penthouse. Tickets aren’t cheap, but this will be money well spent, particularly because your 100 beans counts as a donation to the Heritage Vancouver Society (tax receipts will be issued) and there will be a reception that includes wine and hors d’oeuvres.

We went last year and it was such a fantastic experience that we want to go again. Click on any of the photos below to get a feel for the magic of the place…

Wed, Mar. 12 | 5:30-8pm | Marine Building (355 Burrard) | $100 | DETAILS

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The History Of The City’s Modernist Oasis Of Tropical Cool

February 24, 2014 


by Stevie Wilson | Looking over a city recognized for its abundance of greenery and glass, the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park is a unique, historic example of Vancouver’s propensity for design. Full of exotic flowers and more than a few awesome-looking tropical birds, it’s a family-friendly city escape with a brilliant view to match.

Construction began in 1967 with funds donated from Prentice Bloedel, a wealthy timber industrialist known for his devotion to the protection of natural resources, reforestation, and recycling. His patronage of 1.4 million dollars (the largest gift to the city thus far) exemplified the post-war trend of large industries wishing to associate themselves with civic development, and complemented smaller financial contributions from the Provincial and Federal governments. Architect McKinley Underwood designed the triodetic dome, surrounding plaza, and fountain to coincide with the Vancouver Park Board’s vision for celebrating Canada’s centennial that same year. Henry Moore’s imposing Knife Edge – Two Piece sculpture also offers guests of the plaza a look into mid-century artistic flair.

The main structure’s design borrows from Buckminster Fuller’s larger Biosphere built for Expo ’67 in Montreal, and features materials manufactured in Ottawa that were then shipped to Vancouver. While the aluminum framework was constructed in 10 days, it took over a year for the entire design, complete with walkways and fountain, to be completed. The design purpose of the Modernist, geodesic styling is two-fold: to capture the optimistic and future-facing mid-century sensibilities of locals and tourists, and offer a new take on the pioneering 18th and 19th-century glass and metal solarium design.

The site also boasts the honour of being the first large triodetic dome conservatory in the country and was intended, as it remains today, to be an educational and scenic display of exotic plants. In its first year, the conservatory hosted over 500,000 guests. Attendance at the conservatory waned over the following decades, and in November of 2009 the Park Board voted in favour of closing the attraction due to growing repair and maintenance costs and the need for a complete replacement of the roof. The conservatory was set to close just after the 2010 Winter Olympics in March, though in January it was noted that attendance had increased dramatically now that pre-Olympic construction in other areas of Little Mountain and Cambie Street has been completed (go figure!). In February, public interest groups and financing, including $50,000 from the Friends of the Bloedel Association, inspired the Board to revise their decision.

The Parks Board ultimately accepted a proposal for the conservatory to be run under the jurisdiction of the VanDusen Botanical Garden, and it remains a gorgeous city escape, especially during the chilly months. The roof is currently undergoing a massive renovation, but inside the spot remains as peaceful as ever. We’re lucky to still have this lush piece of history, so pay a visit next time you need a little escape from winter. It makes a great date spot, too.



Stevie Wilson is a 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 historical things that they walk past every day without noticing.

DIG IT | Looking In/Up At Mount Pleasant’s Iconic 1912 “Skyscraper”, The Lee Building

February 7, 2014 


by Stevie Wilson | Just over two years ago in 2012, the Lee Building celebrated its centennial to much fanfare and fond recollection as one of Mount Pleasant’s most iconic landmarks. One hundred (and two) years on, it operates nearly just the same as ever, with an assortment of small businesses and residents occupying the 7-story building heralded as the first skyscraper in the city. Designed by English architect Arthur Julius Bird, the building features a prototypical brick and stone masonry design, a look that was fairly new on the West Coast when it was completed 1912. Bird is also remembered as a pioneering force in city zoning and planning, with a particular focus on residential construction on sloped areas – a convenient match for Mount Pleasant’s hilly landscape.

The Lee, which sits on land that once was home to a large church, is named for Herbert O. Lee, a local businessman who originally opened H.O. Lee Grocery at 2425 Main Street (now home to F As In Frank. In addition to being president of the Westminster Lacrosse Club, Lee was well known as a successful, politically-minded man with plenty to offer the growing Mount Pleasant community.

Inside, the 7-storey building still retains many of the historic features, including an original elevator (now out-of-service) complete with antique chandelier and copper walls, mahogany railings on the stairway, and elegant marble walls and flooring on the main level. It’s a happy wonder that over the last century – including a period of dilapidation in the 1960s and ‘70s – that much of the original façade and interior remain intact.

Even the sidewalk outside The Lee boasts a story: in 1952, coinciding with the widening of Broadway as a major thoroughfare, the arcade-style sidewalk was constructed offering a unique covered passage for local shoppers and residents. This meant the removal of the front section of shops (rather than tearing down the entire building) and maintaining the original pillars for support. The building still towers as one of the few (for now) visible high-rises at the Main and Broadway intersection, so enjoy a look inside and out next time you find yourself in the ‘hood.



Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she branched out with a cryptic agenda: to encourage the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with Scout columns that aim to reveal to readers the many fascinating things that they might walk past every day without ever noticing.

DIG IT | Peeling Back The Layers Of Boozy Bootlegger History At Gastown’s Peckinpah

January 23, 2014 


by Stevie Wilson | Every once in a while Vancouverites are treated to excellent historical restorations. During the process, it is through the old bones of architecture – even though only temporarily exposed –  that we’re given glimpses of our city’s past. One great example is the Byrnes Block, which sits on the southwest corner of Maple Tree Square where Water Street meets Carrall Street in Gastown. The main building (and the later addition next door) was originally known as The Alhambra Hotel (in the photo series above, you can see how the rows of chimneys recall the days when each suite in the hotel offered private fireplaces). It was built in 1886 out of the ashes of the Great Fire as one of the city’s first fire-proof buildings. The original architect was Elmer Fisher, who was commissioned by George Byrnes, a wealthy Australian industrialist.

The site is perhaps the famous for housing the location of “Gassy Jack” Deighton’s first saloon, but the Victorian Italianate address was also home to The New Frisco Hotel, clothing store Jelly Beans for Jeans (1970), and Bootlegger Jeans (yes, that Bootlegger). There are even rumours of a Baskin-Robbins’ residency, though the truth of that I could not discern with any authority.

The location had already fallen into desperate disrepair by the 1950′s, so the latter half of the 20th century did not see its best years, which explains the Bootlegger Jeans tenancy. It wasn’t until 2009 that a massive renovation (overseen by the Heatherbrae Group) saw the structure, façade, and fenestrations restored to their former (and current) glory.


As Scout editor Andrew Morrison pointed out when Peckinpah was moving into the corner space in 2010 (see gallery above), plenty of historic gems could still be found inside the walls, including wallpapered Georgia Straight pages and antique bottles. Owners Ryan Murfitt and Tyson Reimer decided to keep most of it, so the next time find yourself in the restaurant munching on BBQ and sipping on bourbon, take a peek downstairs and dig one of Gastown’s most delicious historical time capsules.



Stevie Wilson is a historian masquerading as a writer. After serving as an editor for the UBC History Journal, she branched out with a cryptic agenda: to encourage the people of Vancouver to take notice of their local history and heritage with Scout columns that aim to reveal to readers the many fascinating things that they might walk past every day without noticing.

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The Ping Pong Punk Rock History Of 828 East Hastings St.

January 6, 2014 


by Stevie Wilson | The Hastings Dance Studio at 828 East Hastings sits like a bright orange beacon just east of Hawks Avenue in Strathcona. Unless you’re an avid flamenco dancer or table tennis star you might not know much about what goes on inside. For decades, this building has been a community center and hotspot for swing dances, readings, boxing matches, punk rock shows, weddings, and even political rallies. It was constructed with funds collected by the local Veneta society, debuting in 1928 as the Silver Slipper. It was the first Italian Hall in the area, catering to this growing cultural demographic in the area.

Soon after launching, the building’s purpose broadened in scope, blooming brighter as a general community hub. By the 1930s, The Celestial Gents (Canada’s first modern Chinese swing band) were playing here to much fanfare, as were The Pony Pals, an early version of the 1940s BC country band The Rhythm Pals. Various dances and sock-hops geared towards Vancouver’s growing teen population were also a fixture.

Following the Second World War and the forced interment of Japanese-Canadians, the Vancouver Buddist Temple utilized this address as their interim space before moving to their current location a few blocks to the southwest on Jackson Avenue in 1954. By the 1960s, the building had been renamed the Hastings Auditorium and featured a unique neon sign depicting a couple in the midst of a ballroom-dancing. In the 1970s, it continued to operate as a meeting place for a variety of community groups and gatherings, including the Vancouver chapter of the notorious Fair Play for Cuba Committee (made famous by the membership of Lee Harvey Oswald prior to his assassination of JFK).

With the 1980s came another transformation: the venue became well known for alternative music shows. It became a mainstay in the growing Vancouver punk scene alongside other spots such as the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret and the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. The name changed, too: fans of local bands, including the Pointed Sticks, D.O.A., and Young Canadians (formerly The K-Tels) will remember it as Viking Hall.


The hall was also the site of Charles Bukowski’s last poetry reading outside of the United States. It was in 1979, and entrance cost $6. The evening featured Bukowski’s typical boisterous banter with the 650-person crowd in-between a 17-poem set. Video footage of the reading, thought lost for several years, was eventually organized by fan Dennis Del Torre into a documentary film nearly 25 years later, entitled There’s Gonna Be a God Damn Riot in Here. Those in the know might also recognize the venue from Dennis Hopper’s 1980 cult classic Out of the Blue, which features a (half) live scene of the Pointed Sticks playing two of their songs for the crowd.

These days the address still serves as a community space. Known as the Hastings Dance Hall, it’s home to Al Mozaico Flamenco Dance Academy and the Vancouver Table Tennis Club. Much has changed inside, but the exterior – aside from a few coats of bold paint and missing original signage – remains much the same. Enjoy a peek next time you’re in the area, and maybe try out a few moves!



Stevie Wilson is a 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 historical things that they walk past every day without noticing.

YOU SHOULD KNOW | More About The Old And Storied Pub 340 On Cambie In Gastown

December 13, 2013 


by Stevie Wilson | It wasn’t too long ago that Pub 340 was a haven for punk and rock ‘n roll fans. If you ever got the chance to see any of the myriad bands that graced its dilapidated stage, you may have suspected that the place had a long history in the Vancouver scene. And you’d be right. The building enjoyed a long and dynamic life as a turn-of-the-century hotel and parlour, long before its walls had even heard of Mr. Chi Pig and SNFU.

Built circa 1898, the building began as the Commercial Hotel. It served as a temporary home to tourists, travellers, and workers drawn to the area’s booming resource economy. The hotel stood in great company with similar buildings in the area, some of which still stand today as testaments to the growing wealth and subsequent real estate spike ushered in by necessity and local investment (in 1886, the Great Fire had ravaged Vancouver, leaving only a handful of buildings standing and a void of commercial and residential spaces). In 1889, the Flack Block was constructed right next door (home to Meat & Bread today), rounding out the area and contributing to the revitalization of Gastown.

The architecture signals a departure from the intricate Victorian designs of old and into the more subdued Richardsonian Romanesque-inspired style complete with molded brickwork, recessed entry (later removed), stonework by David Gibbs and Company, and diagonal-patterned spandrels that were typical of the period. Separate entries for Ladies and Gents added a sophisticated edge to the downstairs parlour, which featured a sub-ground level. In Pub 340’s heyday as a venue one often heard tales of an old basement bar. They’re absolutely true, and it’s still down there, gathering dust in dormancy. Next door, the Rose Brothers barbershop kept clients looking their best.


During the 1960s, the hotel – still boasting the same curled marquee it had for the last several decades - was a point of inspiration for famed photographer Fred Herzog, but tragically, in 1973, it was the site of a massive fire. Five men died inside, including one of the beer parlour’s waiters, and it was believed to be an act of arson. At this point, Vancouver bylaws had no provisions for smoke detectors or sprinklers for single room occupancy buildings, with an estimated 40 individuals dying each year – mostly on the Downtown Eastside. The mass media attention following this incident finally led to the passing of the Fire Sprinkler Bylaw later that year, largely thanks to locals like the legendary Bruce Eriksen and the Downtown Eastside Residents Association (DERA).

In 1976, the Commercial Hotel was revamped with a Spanish-inspired theme, becoming the El Cid. It ran for 11 years – with rumours of brothel activity – until 1987, when it was transformed again into the Stadium Inn. It was at some point during these transitions after the fire that the large ornamental rooftop façade was removed, and with it some of the notable charm of the structure.

Today, the former hotel remains an SRO site, with a revamped version of Pub 340 still housing fledgling local bands and comedy acts within. It doesn’t look (or smell) like it has been particularly well taken care of, but take a second glance (inside and out) the next time you stroll by, and imagine its better days.



Stevie Wilson is a 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 understand.

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About Vancouver’s Once Iconic “Aristocratic” Chain Of Diners


by Stevie Wilson | Vancouver has always been a city with a great love for food, particularly of diner fare. The first Aristocratic Restaurant, a family-oriented cafe that would become locally famous for its “courteous service, quality food, all over town”, popped up at Kingsway and Fraser in 1932. It featured a popular drive-in service catering to a growing car culture across the city. This drive-in, and those which would follow, underscored the early-to-mid-century cultural emphasis on convenience, great gimmicks, and fast food (particularly the 15-cent hamburger). When founder Frank Hunter sold the chain in 1947, he had established nine successful locations all across Vancouver. These include addresses at 13th & Cambie, 10th & Alma, Main & King Edward (now Helen’s Grill) and – perhaps the most iconic of them all – at Granville & Smithe.

The company evolved into Aristocratic Restaurants Ltd and expanded to include the development of several other restaurants across the city: Risty’s, the Silk Hat, Henri’s Grill & Smorgasbord, and the Flame Super Club. Additional locations of the original Aristocratic were established at the Lee Building on Main & Broadway and on Marine Drive in North Vancouver. Hunter’s company did exceptionally well, and eventually a dozen locations of the Aristocratic dotted the Vancouver and Burnaby landscape. Not bad for a former baker who took a chance on the industry he used to cater to!

The 1950s were a decade of change for the Aristocratic restaurants. Hank Oliver became chain manager in 1953,  when the rising number of restaurants, growing competition, and commercial missteps led to a degradation of quality and popularity. The business employed 95 staff and featured its own butcher shop at the Cambie location (sold to White Spot in 1975). Despite being a successful manager and consultant, Oliver was let go from the business, only to be called back to work in 1956 in an attempt to revitalize operations. Oliver took things a step further by buying into the company and taking ownership of five locations.

The Aristocratic empire was eventually reduced to one location – Broadway and Granville – which served up diner-style food until its closure in 1997. It’s worth noting that however nostalgic and charming the familiar “Risty” sign decorating the entrance to the Chapters at Broadway and Granville might be, it’s not authentic.  The original – from the 1960′s – can be found in the Vancouver Museum (thanks to curator Joan Sidel). It’s a 10’x11’ installation that is a little too heavy for the bookstore’s window. The replica was designed after the location closed to make way for redevelopment.

Some heritage fans have noted, quite aptly, that the small scale of the reproduction encourages visitors to forget the impressive size (literally) and history of the landmark restaurant, but what is nostalgia if not an edited, customized version of history? Whether you’re on your way to a five-star meal or a quick stop at a greasy spoon, be sure take note of the miniature reminder next time you pass by.



Stevie Wilson is a 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.

YOU SHOULD KNOW | About Vancouver’s Early Affection For The Art Of Photography

August 21, 2013 


by Stevie Wilson | Anyone with a camera (or a smartphone) knows that Vancouver is a fantastic place to snap incredible photographs. Long before the days of digital sharing, there were many Vancouverites with an eye and a passion for the art of photography, and their organizations tell us quite a bit about our city’s leisurely relationship with the capture of scenery.

Back in the late 1800s, photography was a passion for many well-to-do individuals with enough time and money to spend their days reflecting on the craft. The first independent club in Canada was the Quebec Amateur Photographer’s Association, which operated from 1884-1886 in Quebec City. Other creatives set out to celebrate the science and art of photography by launching numerous clubs across the country. This resulted in myriad partnerships and affiliations, with British Columbia spawning many clubs, including the Powell River Camera Club (1939), the Victoria Camera Club (1944), and the granddaddy of them all, the Vancouver Camera Club (1897). The VCC is not to be confused with the Camera Club, a 40-member co-ed Vancouver organization established two years earlier previously in 1895, though the 1897 group was purported to be the first of its kind in the province.


The Vancouver Camera Club featured many high-ranking individuals from across the city, including the young F.T. Salsbury, whose father, William Salsbury (of Salsbury Street fame), was involved in the finance sector of the Canadian Pacific Railway and had been an alderman for Ward 1 (among many other distinctions). Salsbury Jr. was an active Vancouverite, known for being a sports fan (cricket and rowing, natch), and the first secretary of the VCC. Other members included Board of Trade member C.M. Beecher (one-time Vice President), alderman and businessman George Buscombe, and accountant Maurice Gintzburger. Most members appear to have been involved in the various resource industries that were creating a name for Vancouver back then. The club had 56 members when it launched, but it only lasted three years, disbanding in 1890.

Members would likely have been quite thrilled with the development of the Kodak camera, which launched as their club reached its nadir. Previously, other cumbersome box cameras had relied on the manual use of plates, but Kodak’s new technology introduced rolled film to the masses. The first meeting of the club was held at the Edwards Brothers Studios on Cordova Street, which was known in later years as a hub for amateur photography in Vancouver following the Kodak revolution. In 1903, the Vancouver Photographic Society was established, paving the way for a new generation of enthusiastic photographers to get together and share in their documentation of Vancouver’s adolescence. One can only wonder what sort of Instagram filters they might have preferred!



Stevie Wilson is a 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.

SEEN IN VANCOUVER #454: “Powell Street Festival” Reviving The Heart Of Japantown

August 5, 2013 


by Michelle Sproule | The always awesome and super fun Powell Street Festival went down over the weekend in and around Oppenheimer Park. The area was once the beating heart of Japantown; a bustling neighbourhood complete with Japanese shops, groceries, restaurants, rooming houses and more. That was before January 1942, when the community was uprooted and forcibly interned by the Canadian government (with its property confiscated) for the remainder of the Second World War. The festival – now celebrating its 37th year – is an entertaining and inspired combination of traditional and contemporary expressions of Japanese Canadian identity. That means great food (mmm, love me some Mogu karaage), performances, arts, crafts, sumo wrestling, kids’ activities, and much more. It was a ton of good times and an eyeful to boot. Take a closer look above and below.

IMG_5392IMG_5393IMG_5394IMG_5395IMG_5398IMG_5400IMG_5404IMG_5406IMG_5407IMG_5408IMG_5413IMG_5420IMG_5416IMG_5421IMG_5424IMG_5426IMG_5435IMG_5433IMG_5432IMG_5429IMG_5444IMG_5434IMG_5442IMG_5447IMG_5454IMG_5455IMG_5457IMG_5460IMG_5462IMG_5464IMG_5465IMG_5466 2IMG_5467IMG_5469IMG_5471IMG_5475IMG_5476IMG_5478IMG_5480IMG_5481IMG_5484IMG_5503IMG_5491IMG_5490IMG_5498IMG_5504IMG_5508IMG_5409IMG_5514


YOU SHOULD KNOW | About The Once Heavily Armed Section Of Point Grey Beach


by Stevie Wilson | Built in 1939 in response to the perceived military threats along the coast, the Point Grey Battery stood among four other Vancouver artillery forts intended to protect the inner harbours. At its peak, Point Grey Fort was the most heavily armed, and featured 250 soldiers and personnel in addition to a sophisticated system of defenses to both react to and initiate an attack. The Point Grey peninsula has always played a strategic role in reserve planning, with military designation dating back to the 1860s; however, before WWI the area had not yet been required for this purpose. Though they were never used, a small numbers of guns were set up along strategic points in 1914 to ward-off an offensive from the German navy. At the peak of WWII in 1942, several defenses had been set up across the Lower Mainland, including gun stations at Point Atkinson, Stanley Park, and Steveston, with Point Grey acting as a pivotal access point for domestic security.


During WWII three six-inch caliber anti-ship guns were stationed out at Point Grey, with the concrete remnants of their underground storage facilities and tunnels still visible adjacent to what is now UBC’s Museum of Anthropology. The men stationed at Point Grey Fort belonged to the 58th Heavy Battery Coast Brigade (Royal Canadian Artillery); service began on August 26th 1939. The site boasted its own power supply, hospital, canteen, and a wide assortment of anti-aircraft machinery. The three massive anti-ship guns featured canopies to provide shelter, while camouflage netting kept the crews hidden from airborne enemies. Underneath the guns, their respective underground magazines protected 500 shells and propellants that were accessed by a mechanical hoist.

A three-storey observation deck was the central command station for soldiers, who kept watch on the waterfront through a system of binoculars coordinated with the movement of searchlights on the beachfront. These searchlights (which still stand at Tower Beach) were designed to operate with high tide, as to increase visibility at any hour of the day. Built in 1941 to replace existing smaller lights, the towers were able to project light three to five miles into the night to guide the anti-ship guns. In all, there were 10 electric lights positioned across the Burrard Inlet, each with 80 million candle-power efficiency.


Point Grey Fort was vacated at the end of the war and eventually closed in 1948 without ever having fired a shot – other than the occasional warning shots over ships entering the Inlet. The artillery was removed and shipped to NATO allies, while the University acquired the base for student housing. Decades later, during the development of the Museum of Anthropology, architects took care to preserve much of battery infrastructure; the centerpiece of the museum, Bill Reid’s The Raven and the First Men, is centered on the base of a former gun turret. Today, the adjacent sites outside the museum are maintained by the 15th Field Artillery Regiment Museum, with much of the original concrete structure still intact. Take a peek next time you’re headed out to Wreck to enjoy the…scenery.



Stevie Wilson is a 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.

Next Page »