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.


  1. The art work on those windows are spectacular. Thanks for an interesting history lesson about the elite and the beautiful park.

    1. It is a gorgeous park Lee. You'll have to come up and visit then we can walk along the seawall.