Monday, March 30, 2015

A Leisurely Life

Friday, I told you a little about the life of the elite in the early 1900s in Vancouver. However, leisure was something to be enjoyed by people in walks of life. The mild, coastal climate seemed to bring that out in people.

In 1910, Hastings Park hosted its first annual summer fair. The population of Vancouver was 65,000 at that time and 68,000 people paid 50 cents to enter the gates.

People tended to focus on Stanley Park for year-round recreation. As they still do today. The huge, forested land mass at the mouth of Burrard Inlet was originally set aside as a bulwark against a US invasion into the British Colony. Fortunately, residents of Vancouver saw more to the area than that. When our first city council was formed, one of the top priorities was to request use of the then federal military reserve as a city park.

CPR land surveyor, Lauclan Hamilton, advanced the proposal. It is said that the CPR lobbied for the park so that their West End developments  would be more valuable. In 1889, Lord Stanley officially dedicated the park  "to the use and enjoyment of people of all colours, creeds and customs for all time." It didn't take long for the park to become the pride of Vancouver.

Here was where the citizens went to enjoy summer strolls and bicycle rides. A prime attraction in the park was the Hollow Tree and the towering grove of Douglas Fir and western red cedar, known as the Seven Sisters. This was a favourite spot for visitors to have a chance to see the "giants of the forest".

A lone black bear, kept by the first park ranger, became the first inhabitant of the Stanley Park Zoo. The park ranger's son, Henry Avison, recalls one day.

"One sunny Sunday afternoon, the wife of the Methodist clergyman approached the bear...and poked it in the ribs with the point of her umbrella. The bear took umbrage, and took a swift swipe at its molester... and, in the twinkling of an eye, there was more than her slip showing." Not long after, a bear pit was constructed to protect the decency of park visitors.

Hollow Tree. Photo taken in the early 1900s by Philip Timms.

The Dominion Photo Co. took this shot of the Seven Sisters in 1921.

In 1912, the zoo was expanded when a British landscape architect, T. Mawson, laid out the winding paths and gardens we see today. 

There are other recreational spots in Stanley Park like the Vancouver Rowing Club, the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club - both established in 1905. These clubs are social and recreational centres for the privileged. The Brockton Point Athletic Grounds - today's Brockton Oval - was the site of popular lacrosse matches and bicycle races. If musical entertainment was more to a person's liking, they would spread out on the grass around the bandstand at the site of present-day Malkin Bowl.

Just outside of Stanley Park - at Georgia and Gilford - was the Horse Show Building. It was the second largest structure of its kind in North Amerca, second only to New York's Madison Square Gardens. Annual equestrian shows were the places for the West End Elite to see and be seen. The Horse Show Building was built in 1898 and demolished in the 1960s.

In 1911, the Denman arena - close to the Horse Show Building - became the first in Canada to house an artificial ice rink. Four years later, the Vancouver Millionaires won the Stanley Cup there.

I would like to thank the  book Vancouver a History in Photographs by Aynsley Vogel and Dana Wyse for the above information and to the Vancouver Public Library for the old photos.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Vancouver Elegance

The year was 1900 and it was the beginning of the Golden Years in Vancouver. For the city's rich, from then until 1914, was a time of Edwardian elegance. In the CPR controlled West End, the city's upper class created a privileged world consisting of proper  British comforts. Fantastic mansions, surrounded by clipped hedges and holly bushes, were built along Davie, Denman and Robson Streets.

Benjamin Tingley  Rogers built the Gabriola, a stately Victorian mansion, which occupied two lots at Davie and Nicola. Gabriola was designed by Samuel Maclure and reported to have cost $25,000 - "probably twice as much as the next best residence in the city."

Inside Rogers's home was elaborate wood panelling imported from England, 18 fireplaces, opulent stained glass and the city's first concrete basement. You can see photos I took of the Gabriola in 2011 in this entry.

More than three quarters of the city's elite lived in the West End in 1908. That is according to Vancouver's Elite Directory. The West End was a haven, allowing the upper crust to insulate themselves against the surrounding wilderness.

The world of a woman revolved around  "at home" days and garden parties. These parties were held in a different part of the neighbourhood on each day of the week. A man's life, outside of business that is, consisted of exclusive clubs - the Terminal City Club, the Vancouver Lawn and Tennis Club, the Vancouver Yacht Club. The most sanctified club was simply called the Vancouver Club. The children of the West End attended private schools. It sounds like it was very sheltered.

However, the city was rapidly developing and the West End, once considered "out of town" was falling under urban pressure. Fortunately, the elite had another option to escape the common folk. The CPR was developing Shaughnessy Heights, an even more rarefied neighbourhood on the southern rise above 16th and Granville. 

These lots were highly restricted and costly but once offered for sale, wealthy buyers lined up around the block to purchase their share. They wanted to be part of the land touted as the most exclusive residential area west of Mount Royal and South of Nob Hill.

Thanks to the book Vancouver; A History in Photographs by Aynsley Vogel and Dana Wyse for the above information. 

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I had an amazing weekend and I am going to tell you all about it. March 21 and 22, 2015, the BIL Conference, or un-conference, was held at the Imperial Theatre at 319 Main Street. I was a volunteer and a speaker.

The doors opened at 8:00 am on Saturday and, of  course, some things still needed to be done. That's the fun of it all, isn't it? I know some people would have preferred things be better organized - you know who you are - but to me a little chaos makes life more interesting. Too much structure seems so unnatural.

Things got under way. Jonah Spear was the emcee and what an awesome job he did. Watching him in action was worth coming to the show. But he wouldn't have had much to do if BIL hadn't had the great line up of speakers it did. And the topics ranged from how to make your tweets better, to seeing garbage in different light, to bitcoin to a talk about 3D printing. There were political and health discussions. Dave Asprey of the Bulletproof movement spoke about Hacking Your Willpower. There was free Bulletproof coffee for both days AND Dave was there on Saturday for a little while signing books and talking to people. Yes, I got my copy.

There were three areas where people could speak - the main stage on which talks were set by the head organizers, the second area, which was smaller room that sat, I think, about sixty to eight people then a lounge area that perfect for round table discussions. In all three areas, visuals were possible. In areas two and three, the speakers had to bring their own computer and most people did. 

Things got a bit behind on Sunday. Slow starting, I guess but everything came together in the end. I was there at 7:03 am for set up and I was the only volunteer there for about 45 minutes. I was beginning to worry that I would be the only one setting everything up until Drew appeared. Then Nena then more.  Sundays.

I spoke both days. My Saturday speech went well, I had friends and family show up to cheer me on. But I wasn't able to get it recorded, which I need for promotional purposes. So I booked area 2 on Sunday. (I was in Area 2 on Saturday too.) Sunday's speech went really well and I'll let you when the video is available to be viewed.

It was a wild weekend. I slept most of Monday. MS does kick my butt sometimes. However, I would do it all over again. In fact, I will be next year.

TED Talks has committed to another five years in Vancouver, which means BIL will be here for at least that long. BIL is an experience that everyone should enjoy. It isn't about selling things, it is about getting people together, opening minds and getting people talking and thinking. You don't have to agree with everything that is being said. You can also pick and choose who you want to hear. You kind of have to since there are so many talks.

If you are in Vancouver, the area or even planning a trip to the city in 2016, come to BIL and meet us BILders. The next Vancouver BIL will be on February 20 and 21, 2016 at the Imperial Theatre, 319 Main Street. At least that's the way it looks now.

I have a lot of people to thank: Michael Cummings, Ryan Plesko, Cody Marx Bailey (thanks Cody for helping me to download my video from last year) and Bradley Shende. These are the guys that brought BIL to Vancouver. Thanks to Suresh Fernando, Drew MacDonald, Kristin Piljay, Kei Baritugo, Agnes Cariboo, Jackson Smith, Cindy Bolf - who came up from Los Angeles not only to speak but to help - Luke Cockerham, Lani Gelara, Michael Rubins (thanks for taping me and covering the event on Sunday) and Nena, Jane, Z, Liz, Gordon, Greg, Daniel, George, Alex, and Susan. Thanks Ricky for taking all the photos. And a great big thank you to Rama, Clint, Dolan, Jordan and all involved with The Soul Network for coming to BIL.

I think I thanked everyone. If I forgot your name, it was not intentional and I do thank you.

Thanks to Free Smileys for the above animation.

I hope you find the beauty around you.