Unlocking North Vancouver History

Wilderness on the Doorstep: Vancouver’s Mountain Playground

Group at Capilano Suspension Bridge

There are questions as to who first hung a suspension bridge across the Capilano’s First Canyon. Initial landowner/engineer George Grant Mackay (about 1826-93) seems to have constructed one of hemp rope and cedar planks with local Natives, perhaps as early as 1890. (Natives dubbed it “the laughing bridge” after the sound of the wind blowing through it.) The Province newspaper of April 20, 1903, however, contains the earliest authenticated record of a plan to build the Capilano Suspension Bridge. This wire-cable span, opened in 1903 or 1904, was an immediate success. Its various owners added a teahouse and gardens by 1911, and Native totem poles provided by Chief Mathias Joe (about 1885-1966) of the Capilano Reserve in the ’30s. The bridge was completely rebuilt in 1956. Initially, it didn’t lead anywhere, but in the ’50s trails were developed on the west side and the teahouse became a gift shop. Today, the dramatic span remains a huge tourist attraction.

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WHAT
Hotelier Pete Larson poses with his family on the first steel-cable suspension bridge built over the Capilano Canyon.

WHERE
The 137-m bridge crossed the Capilano’s First Canyon, hanging 70 m over the gorge. Its successor is still there today.

WHEN
This bridge was built in 1903 or 1904. It had become a commercial operation by about 1907, with a 10-cent toll collected in 1911.

WHO
William T. Farrell constructed the first steel-cable bridge for then-landowner Bruno Stelzer.

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