What Coal Harbour Used To Look Like 119 Years Ago


Dig this restoration job of a photo taken of Coal Harbour in 1895 by r/vancouver user stumo, who writes:

“In the foreground, several residential streets can be seen. Note that the streets are dirt with ditches at the side, and the sidewalks are wooden. In the middle of the photo, several houses are under construction. The railway tracks that ran along Vancouver’s waterfront are just barely visible on the right (east).

Across the water on the left (west) is Deadman’s Island, still heavily timbered at this point. There is a single building on the left (west) side of the island. This may well be the smallpox hospital that opened in 1895.

Behind that is what is now Stanley Park. The rightmost (eastern) portion had been logged in 1886, and there’s a small golf course just on the other side of Deadman’s Island (not visible). The buildings along the shorefront on the right are various shanties and cabins, possibly the remnants of the lumber camp located on that spot earlier. These were removed over the next few years.

And beyond that is the sparsely-populated North Shore. I believe that smoke plume is from a sawmill, and that there are log booms visible as well.”

In a follow-up email, he explains how he did it:

“I restored and coloured the image using the open source program GIMP on Windows. All told, it probably took 20 to 30 hours or so, but that’s been spread over a year or two. The colour choices for the buildings were based partly on the darkness of the building in the B&W (IE dark is usually red or brown), but I also looked at a few restored Vancouver heritage buildings to get an idea how they were painted. But as I said, the colour choices are completely imaginative, as are the restored portions (like the bottom left corner of the plate, which had broken off). I’m not completely certain where this is. I’m sure that I’m on the right east-west coordinates, and I think that the intersection is what is now Hastings and Thurlow, but I’m not certain at all. The text accompanying the image at the Vancouver Archives said that it had been taken at Burrard and Dunsmuir, and that fits with my Google Earth recreation to see if the North Shore mountains lined up, but I’m still not 100% sure of it.”

Either way, it’s a superb job. Click the picture above to enlarge it, and click here for the B&W original.

UPDATE: stumo just sent over this update, and the sightline image below: “The photo was almost certainly taken from the first Hotel Vancouver on Granville Street, and the intersection visible is Burrard and Eveleigh. The closest modern intersection is Dunsmuir and Burrard, as Eveleigh no longer connects to Burrard due to the Bentall Centre.”



There are 3 comments

  1. Very nice! An impressive piece of historical reconstruction.
    However, the buildings on the foreshore of Brockton Point (west of the current position of the 9 o’clock gun) are those of so-called ‘squatters’ who settled the area prior to being forced out of the park.
    Their story may be of interest and can be found in Jean Barman (2005) Stanley Park’s Secret: the Forgotten Families of Whoi Whoi, Kanaka Ranch and Brockton Point. Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, BC.
    Check the link to the Langara College archaeology field school above – we have been investigating the historical and pre-contact archaeology of Stanley Park for the last couple of years.

    S. Copp (Ph.D)
    Langara College