Intersection of Granville and Hastings
Streets in 1907
[Photo: Vancouver Public Library VPL 6776]
Vancouver a Century Ago
Back on May 7, 1907 a Seattle movie maker named
William Harbeck came up to Vancouver, attached a movie camera
to the front of a B.C. Electric streetcar and filmed the major streets
of the city. The film is black-and-white, its silent and its
only seven minutes long, but its wonderful. You see Vancouver
and its people of a hundred years ago in motion. Audiences who have
seen the film are delighted and fascinated.
It is fun and exciting to see streets full of horse-drawn wagons,
menevery one of them wearing a hatstrolling into long-gone
shops, women hurrying along in their dark, ground-length skirts,
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 second CPR station, long since
gone, at the foot of Granville, Troreys jewelry store and
the original Province newspaper building. There are horse-drawn
carriages and lots of people on bicycles and not an automobile in
sight. (There were a few cars in the city in 1907; we just dont
see any.) The journey ended at a spot on Davie just about where
the Fresgo Inn sits today.
Harbeck filmed the journey along Granville and Hastings, along
Westminster Avenue (now Main Street) and Carrall, Powell, Cordova
and Cambie, Robson and Davie . . . a look at Vancouver of a century
ago. (The photo above is of the same era, but not a frame from the
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 Australia! It had apparently been dumped there by movie
house managers along with other movies no longer wanted.
Someone looking at the film decided it was in an American city
and sent it off to the Library of Congress in Washington. Their
people looked at it and said, This isnt an American
city; theyre driving on the wrong side of the street!
They decided it wasnt British, and sent it off to the National
Archives in Ottawa. They ran the film. Thats Vancouver!
CBC Vancouver archivist Colin Preston managed
to get a copy from the Archives, and we can thank the research efforts
of Andrew Martin, of the Special Collections department at
the Vancouver Public Library, for pinpointing when the film was
made. Hed found a Province story, dated May 8, 1907,
that described the filming of the day before. It jauntily reported
that Vancouverites had been Stricken with Kinetoscopitis.
We learned that the film was shot with the cooperation of Mr.
W.E. Flumerfelt* of the Vancouver Tourist Association.
The Trorey shop is particularly interesting: just three months
before the film was shot George Trorey had sold his business
to Birks. They kept him on as manager, and they kept his famous
sidewalk clock, too. It became the Birks Clock
The Vancouver Historical Society has a terrific Harbeck project
planned for 2007. Theyre going to film the same route, at
the same speed, and produce a DVD that will allow you to see both
films individually and then side by side.
A fast personal note: as an at-large member of the board of the
VHS I recently spent an afternoon at the Vancouver City Archives
going through the 1907 city directory to find familiar names along
the Harbeck route. One name was very familiar: occupying a studio
on the second floor of 570 Granville: Miss Emily Carr, artist.
p.s. *W.E. Flumerfelts name popped up again
at the Archives in a pamphlet for a show the Loyal Order of Moose
staged on December 9, 10 and 11, 1912. He was one of the shows
organizers. The title: Moose in Burnt Cork. It was a minstrel-style
show, with the performers in blackface. There are dozens of ads
in the pamphlet, my favorite being a full page for Joshua Johnston,
Master in the Art of Disguising, and the Greatest
Private Detective of the Age. There are photographs of Mr.
Johnston in various disguises, including one as an organ grinder,
complete with monkey. His office was at 349 Pender Street, equivalent
to 349 West Pender today.
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