In 1885 William Cornelius Van Horne, head of the Canadian Pacific Railway, chose the township of Granville — not Port Moody as expected — to be the Western terminus of the new transcontinental railway. At the time Granville, or Gastown as locals called it, consisted of about 600 people, mostly men, living in a rough and tumble village that had sprung up around a couple of hotels/bars. “This city will be great so deserves a name commensurate with its greatness,” declared Van Horne. “I name it Vancouver, after Captain George Vancouver, the first European to sail into the Burrard Inlet in 1792.”
We know how the City got its name, but perhaps the following dozen facts offer less familiar information about Vancouver:
- An urban oasis, Stanley Park is 10% larger than New York City’s Central Park, at an immense 1001 acres. On October 29, 1889, Canada’s sixth Governor General, Lord Stanley, dedicated the Park “to the use and enjoyment of peoples of all colours, creeds, and customs, for all time.”
- The grey squirrels found in Stanley Park today descend from eight pairs of grey squirrels that Vancouver received as a gift from the Mayor of New York City in 1909.
- Greenpeace, one of the world’s oldest and most successful environmental groups, was founded in Vancouver in 1971.
- In 2000 Vancouver doctors Alastair Carruthers and Jean Carruthers presented findings from the first major study on the safety and efficacy of Botox to prevent wrinkles. The husband-and-wife team were the international pioneers in the use of the medical marvel many years earlier. Botox is now one of the most common cosmetic procedures around the world.
- Vancouver was incorporated the same year that Coca-Cola and the automobile were invented: 1886.
- Although the name suggests otherwise, the California roll originated in Vancouver. Chef Hidekazu Tojo not only created the world-famous sushi varietal, but also went against Japanese culinary customs by making sushi inside-out.
- The Guinness family (of Irish stout fame) financed the building of the Lions Gate Bridge at a cost of $5.8 million, to open up the British Properties of West Vancouver where the family owned 4700 acres of land for development. Construction began in March 1937 and the bridge officially opened in November 1938. In 1955 the Guinness family sold the bridge to the province for $5.9 million. As a gift for Expo ’86, the family donated a new set of lights on the bridge. While the lights transformed the bridge into a distinct landmark, the energy and maintenance bills were steep. In 2009 the bridge’s lighting system was updated with LED lights, reducing power consumption by 90%. The Lions Gate Bridge is designated a National Historic Site of Canada.
- Kitsilano Pool — at 137 metres, almost three times longer than an Olympic pool — is Canada’s longest swimming pool. The outdoor saltwater pool opened in 1931.
- The term “Skid Row”, used to describe the seedier areas of a large city, allegedly originated in Vancouver in the 1800’s. Timber workers transported logs on skids along a path or row to the Burrard Inlet where they were floated to the mill.
- Errol Flynn, the swashbuckling actor from the early days of film, died of a heart attack in a West End apartment in 1959 at the age of 50. His body was taken to the Vancouver morgue, now home to a Police Museum.
- Lions Gate Entertainment Corporation is a Canadian-American entertainment company that was formed in Vancouver in 1997 and is headquartered in Santa Monica CA. In 2013, it ranked the most commercially successful mini major film and television distribution company in North America and the seventh most profitable movie studio.
- BC was once the “wettest” province in Canada. Prior to prohibition, British Columbians drank roughly twice the national average. In fact, bars and saloons in BC used to be open 24-hours a day!
Feel free to send me fun facts to add to future Friday posts! •