Granville at Hastings, 1907
[Photo: Vancouver Public Library
A note to readers: This
is a first draft of the 1907 chapter proposed for the book.
By the time the book appears it may be much altered.
1907 (Sample Chapter)
There werent many automobiles in Vancouver
in 1907 (a five-minute film taken along several downtown streets
this year shows precisely one), but there were enough for someone
in the Vancouver office of the Imperial Oil Co. to decide that the
usual method of fueling them at the timecarrying a sloshing
bucket full of gasoline up to the vehicle and pouring it through
a funnel into the tankwas somewhat dangerous. So, adjacent
to Imperials storage yard at the southeast corner of Cambie
and Smithe, the manager of the companys Vancouver office,
Charles Rolston, built a small open-sided shed of corrugated iron.
Atop a tapering concrete pillar he placed a 13-gallon kitchen hot-water
tank fitted with a glass steam-gauge marked off by white dots
in one-gallon increments. The tank was gravity fed, being
connected to Imperials main storage tank.
The filling hose was a ten-foot length of garden
hose, drained with thumb and finger by the attendant after filling
a car. The first attendant was Imperials former night watchman,
J.C. Rollston (no relation to Charles Rolston), who had been in
poor health. His coworkers believed he would improve in the sun
and open air. Future city archivist J.S. Matthews, who worked for
Imperial Oil at the time, said We got a barroom chair, and
my wife made a cushion for it. A corrugated tin shed was built
for shelter and Rollston was installed as attendant.
Canadas first gas station was now in business.
The fresh air and the sunshine soon banished the pallor from
Mr. Rollston's cheeks, Matthews recalled. And, ofttimes
as I passed and waved good morning, he would call out, I've
been busy this morning! How many? I would call,
and he would answer back, Three cars this morning!
The first gasoline-powered car in Vancouver had arrived in 1904,
so sales must have been slow at first! Two local bicycle shops began
selling gasoline, which they bought from Imperial for 20 cents a
gallon and sold for 40.
Word of this way of delivering gasoline to cars
spread. A dealer in Florida, says Matthews, wrote
asking details. (The Florida people had been using garden
watering-cans.) Its sometimes claimed this was the worlds
first gas station. Its not, but it was certainly Canadas
first. That humble kitchen hot-water tank is still around, tucked
into a basement corner in the Vancouver Museum.
A 1907 movie
The Vancouver of 1907 was a thriving, energetic
city. The population was climbing rapidly, jumping from 27,000 in
the 1901 census to the 70,000 of 1907. We can actually see
the citys vitality thanks to a man named William Harbeck who
set up a film camera at the front of a BC Electric Railway streetcar
and on May 7 filmed the citys downtown streets.
This is the earliest surviving film on Vancouver.
Its discovery was something of a miracle: it was found in the basement
of an abandoned theatre in Sydney, Australia! It had apparently
been dumped there by movie house managers along with other movies
no longer wanted. Some pieces are missing, and the entire film is
just five minutes long, but those five minutes are valuable.
It is fun and exciting to see streets full of horse-drawn
wagons, men (every one of them wearing a hat) strolling into long-gone
shops, women hurrying along in their dark, ground-length skirts,
bicyclists speeding by, and the occasional recognizable sign: Knowlton
Drugs; P. Burns (meat packer); the Edison Grand Theatre; Woodwards,
and Cascade: A Beer Without Peer. We see the now-vanished
second CPR station at the foot of Granville, Troreys Jewelry
and the original Vancouver Daily Province newspaper building.
(In reporting on the filming the Province said the people
of the city had been stricken with kinetoscopitis.)
We travel along Granville and Hastings, along Westminster Avenue
(now Main Street) and Carrall, Powell, Cordova and Cambie, Robson
and Davie . . . a unique look at a Vancouver of a century ago.
The streets are alive with people. We see in these
flickering, silent images a city that has almost tripled its population
in six years.
Lots going on
The citys major newspaper, the Province
(five cents, please) had a circulation of just over 15,000. (The
Vancouver Sun was still five years away.) In the Provinces
pages you find ample evidence of the economic and social ferment
Vancouver was enjoying.
- The Montreal-based jeweler, Henry Birks &
Sons, came to Vancouver in February of this year and bought the
well-established shop of George Trorey, at the northeast corner
of Granville and Hastings. They kept Trorey on as managerand
they kept his famous sidewalk clock, too. The Birks clock and
the store can just be glimpsed as our movie-streetcar swings east
onto Hastings from Granville. The clock is plainly visible in
the photograph at the top of this page.
- David Spencer, who had earlier (1873) started
a store in Victoria, put his son Chris, 38, in charge of a big
new Spencers on Hastings Street in Vancouver. Chris had
started working for the Victoria store in 1882 at age 13. The
new store was so successful that it eventually took up almost
an entire city block. Today, the building is SFUs downtown
- There were enough cars in Victoria to justify
the establishment there of a new organization, the British Columbia
Automobile Association. They would get to Vancouver in 1908.
- Just a few months after Harbecks May filming,
the Vancouver Police Department bought its first automobile. The
car got its first use in August when one Richard Goddlander, a
well-known police character, was charged with public intoxication
and given his first automobile ride. Destination: the city jail.
We have a hunch Richard would have been quite excitedif
- The chief of the Vancouver Fire Department,
John Howe Carlisle, arranged to have three motorized firefighting
units purchased this year, in the face of some amused, some not-so-amused,
opposition. The company making these unitsSeagrave of Columbus,
Ohiohad just begun their manufacture, and very few fire
departments in North America were making the switch, preferring
to stick with horses. Vancouvers motorized equipment was
the first in Canada. I think Carlisle was persuaded to go
motorized, VFD historian Alex Matches said, because
he was one of the first people in Vancouver to own an automobile.
It was a two-cylinder McLaughlin-Buick touring car, and Carlisle
was impressed with how quickly he could get around in it.
- The Vancouver Stock Exchange was incorporated
April 12, a month before this movie was made. The exchange, headquartered
at 849 West Pender, had 12 charter members. Said the president,
C.D. Rand: Many applications to list stocks of doubtful
merit have already been made to the Exchange, but have been promptly
turned down by your executive, and this policy will be adhered
to while we remain in office. That would change!
- On May 11, the University Womens Club
of Vancouver was founded by eight graduates. The club thrives
to this day. (The Stock Exchange doesnt.) One of the clubs
founding members was journalist Lily Laverock, whose future fame
in the city would be of a much different kind.
- A dozen Vancouver businessmen formed the Vancouver
Exhibition Association, with a goal of developing a fair to showcase
Vancouver to the world. They succeeded, and beginning in 1910
the Pacific National Exhibition would become an annual tradition.
- The most famous writer in the world at the time,
Rudyard Kipling, visited Vancouver again. Kipling really liked
this city; this was his third visit, and he even bought land here
(at the southeast corner of East 11th Avenue and Fraser Street.)
- W.J. Timmins, proprietor of the Pantages vaudeville
theatre on Hastings Street, was up from Tacoma to look over
the work. This little jewel of a theatre opened January
6, 1908. Its still there at 152 East Hastings, the oldest
theatre in Greater Vancouver, the oldest remaining Pantages theatre
in North America, and one of the oldest purpose-built vaudeville
theatre interiors in Canada. The theatrewhose architect
was Edward Evans Blackmorewas being eyed in 2006 by a consortium
of local theatre people who hoped to restore it to its original
In a February, 1949 article in the Province
Patrick Keatley says that Alexander Pantages preceded the East Hastings
establishment with a theatre in a rented store on Powell Street.
(There would be another Pantages Theatre built in Vancouver in 1914,
a 1,200-seat palace of entertainment. It was torn down in the 1970s
for a parking lot.)
Of course, there was crime news, too. Richard Goddlanders
beer-soaked ride paled into insignificance compared to the escape
of train robber Bill Miner, the Grey Fox, from the penitentiary
in New Westminster. And the Vancouver of a century ago could be
a tough and intolerant place: an Asiatic Exclusion League was formed
to keep Oriental immigrants out of B.C. The League was behind raids
September 7 in Vancouver's Chinatown and Japantown that would bring
shame to the city.
Riots and Racism
The Vancouver Sun Magazine in a 1947 issue
looked back at that event in an article by Albert Foote: A
monster parade marched down Hastings Street that night. First came
the speakers and their lady sympathizers in horse-drawn carriages,
followed by over 5,000 marching men, each with a white badge fluttering
from his buttonhole . . . Then someone shouted On to Chinatown!
and the trouble started . . . On the first trip only rocks were
thrown and hundreds of windows were broken. The second trip proved
more vicious, for this time there was gunfire. When the mob grew
tired of this they moved down to Japtown. Here they met fierce resistance
but there was no shooting . . . No Chinese or Japanese appeared
on the streets for days. The Oriental sections of Vancouver were
roped off by the police and remained under martial law for ten days.
Two days later the Province reported The
Chinese of Vancouver armed themselves this morning as soon as the
gun stores opened. Hundreds of revolvers and thousands of rounds
of ammunition were passed over the counter to the Celestials before
the police stepped in and requested that no further sale be made
to Orientals . . . Few Japanese were seen buying arms, but a birds-eye
view today of the roofs of Japanese boarding-houses and stores in
the Japanese district disclosed the fact that the Orientals are
prepared for a siege. Hundreds of bottles are stored on the roofs,
and these with stones, clubs, and bricks will be hurled at the whites
in the streets below should any further trouble occur.
Ironically, later in the year the city would play
host to a visit from His Imperial Highness Prince Fushimi of Japan.
When the federal Deputy Minister of Labour visited
Vancouver to review damage caused by the anti-Oriental riots, he
was dismayed to learn the manufacture and sale of opium here were
legal. To a man possessed of the moral rectitude of William Lyon
Mackenzie King, this was an intolerable situation. When he got back
to Ottawa he initiated a federal ban on the sale of opiumbut
in Chinese-run establishments only.
At one point in the Harbeck film the streetcar rattles
by 570 Granville Street. Up on the second floor of this building,
an artist named Miss Emily Carr had a studio. Who knows, maybe she
looked out her window (if she faced the street) as movie-maker Harbeck
passed. Tragically, when the Titanic sank in 1912 William Harbeck
was one of the hundreds who went down with her.
A new weekly publication called Saturday Sunset
started in June. Its stance on local race relations is indicated
by a cartoon it published in an early issue: one panel, titled Typical
Home of Vancouver white workingman," shows a pleasant Victorian
home with the man of the house coming home from work to be met by
his adoring wife and children. In the other panel is a long low
two-storey apartment block titled A warren on Carrall Street
infested by 2000 Chinese." Next to the white mans house
is a drawing of a little girl skipping rope. Next to the warren
is a drawing of a Chinese man sucking on an opium pipe.
Cultural doings, etc.
Vancouverites were singing new songs in 1907: Its
Delightful to be Married and Dark Eyes and On the
Road to Mandalay (with lyrics by Rudyard Kipling), and Harrigan
by George M. Cohan (H-A-double R-I . . .), humming a
tune called The Teddy Bears Picnic and reading a new
book, Songs of a Sourdough by Robert Service, including The
Cremation of Sam McGee and The Shooting of Dan McGrew.
George Eliots novel Adam Bede, written nearly 50 years
earlier, was being serializedin great swaths of tiny printin
A fellow named Richard Cormon Purdy opened a shop
on Robson Street and began selling chocolates.
The tiny Arbutus Grocery at the corner of West 6th
Avenue and Arbutus Street was built in 1907 by Thomas Frazer. A
century later its still there, with its boomtown
facade and an unusual corner entry. And construction started this
year on a rather grander building with General Alexander Duncan
McRaes Hycroft. The general, who was newly arrived
from Ontario, took advantage of Hycrofts location on a high
point of land to ensure that his stately Shaughnessy mansion, unlike
most of the others in that lavish neighborhood, would have a good
view of the north shore mountains. The house would take five years
to complete, and cost more than $300,000 at a time when $3,500 would
put you into a fine house.
A drawing of the proposed Dominion Building was
given May 4 in the Province. The finished design would be
slightly different, but its obviously that famous red-and-tan
building, called Vancouvers first skyscraper,
at the northwest corner of Cambie and Hastings. It would open for
business in 1910.
Over on the north shore the map changed. On May
13 the small, central core of North Vancouver's business and industry
broke away and formed its own municipality, the City of North Vancouver.
The residents felt their area would be more prosperous on its own.
The District was deprived of its water system, municipal hall, ferry
terminal and ferry, fire-fighting and road-making equipment, even
its cemetery. In return the new City paid some outstanding liabilities
of the District. A May 4th article in the Province had described
the new town as a City of Splendid Possibilities.
The Province was also the newspaper that
complained in its editorial pages (in June) that Seattle had a spieler
in an open streetcar who took visitors around the city pointing
out the sights. Why dont we? the paper asked.
Not until 1909 would the BC Electric follow that lead. More traditional
rail travel emerged when the Great Northern Railway, an American
firm, started construction of a line that followed a coastal route
from Blaine, around the Semiahmoo Peninsula and across the Fraser
River to New Westminster. When service started March 15, 1909, settlers
were finally able to arrive in numbers.
City council was discussing street names on September
30, and decided to commemorate famous battles. So what had been
Campbell Street became Alma Road (Crimean War), Richards Street
became Balaclava (also a Crimean War battlesite), Cornwall, the
second street with that name, became Blenheim to recall the Battle
of Blenheim, Lansdowne became Waterloo, and the old Boundary Street
on the west side that divided District Lot 192 and the CPR grant
Note: This is a first draft of the 1907
chapter in The History of Metropolitan Vancouver.
Archive - People »
- Places »
- Events »
- Books, etc. »