North Van History Highlights
North Van History Highlights presents significant developments on the waterfront, in the community and in the parks and mountains that make North Vancouver a special place. At the bottom of this page, see our Did You Know? section and learn about some North Van high achievers!
Click away and enjoy your voyage of discovery!
A visit to the Archives and a look at our online exhibits will add more to the stories. A sampling of artifacts that help tell some of the stories may be found in the Museum collection. A browse through our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook sites also provides opportunities to explore North Vancouver’s stories.
Section I: At Water’s Edge
Early Days on the Inlet
For millennia the ancestors of the Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Tsleil-Waututh and X’muzk’i’um (Musqueam) peoples harvest Burrard Inlet for fish, shellfish, seaweed and plant material. “When the tide goes out the table is set.”
1792 - The First Europeans
On June 13 British Captain George Vancouver meets a group of Squamish from the village of Homulchesan (xwemelch’stn) at the mouth of the Capilano River. Vancouver and his men are the first Europeans to enter Burrard Inlet. A week later Spanish mariners explore the inlet, including Indian Arm.
1860 - First Catholic Mass
First Catholic Mass on Burrard Inlet is celebrated at the Squamish village of Ustlawn (Eslha7a’n) at the mouth of Mosquito Creek.
1863 - Moodyville
In June the first sawmill on the Inlet, Pioneer Mills, opens near the mouth of Lynn Creek. Early in 1865 it is purchased by Sewell Prescott Moody and becomes the focus of a thriving community, Moodyville, with a hotel and the Inlet’s first school.
1868 – St. Paul’s Church
A Catholic Church, St. Paul’s, is erected at Ustlawn (Eslha7a’n), where Squamish families are settling. The original church is replaced with a new building in 1884, which was reconstructed with the twin towers it has today in 1909-10. The church becomes a National Historic Site in 1981. It is the oldest surviving mission church in the Lower Mainland.
1882 – First Electric Lights
Electricity comes to Moodyville; these are the first electric lights north of San Francisco.
1900 – Ferry Across the Inlet
A passenger ferry, the North Vancouver, Ferry No.1, begins running from the foot of Lonsdale to downtown Vancouver. Ferry No.2, the St.George, carried cars and was launched in 1904. Service continues until 1958.
1903 – ‘Lo Lo’ Launched
1903 – Alfred St. George Hamersley buys land to the west of Moodyville, subdivides it and begins selling lots. This area near the foot of Lonsdale Avenue emerges as the heart of the new community.
1906 - Ships on the Ways
Shipbuilder Andy Wallace moves his yard from Vancouver’s False Creek to the North Vancouver waterfront. During World War I, Wallace builds the first deep sea steel-hulled cargo vessels in BC. Wallace Shipyards later becomes Burrard Dry Dock (1925) and then Versatile Pacific (1985).
1908 - Talks with the Prime Minister
Led by Chief Joe Capilano (pictured fifth from left, front row) at North Vancouver Ferry Wharf, this delegation embarks on a journey to undertake talks with Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier. Land claims, fishing and hunting rights, and education are on the agenda.
1917 – Milling at Indian Arm
San Francisco lumber man Robert Dollar opens the Dollar Mill near the mouth of Indian Arm. It becomes the focus of the community at Dollarton. The mill closes in 1942.
1925 – Danger at the Bridge
On November 7 the Second Narrows Bridge opens to road traffic, making North Vancouver accessible to motorists. It opens to rail traffic the following year. Currents make navigation treacherous and vessels routinely smashed into the bridge. The worst incident occurrs in September 1930 when a log-carrier under tow knocks out one of the bridge spans; the bridge does not reopen until November 1934.
1925 - City Grows
In January Moodyville joins the City of North Vancouver.
1928 – First Grain Terminal
The Midland Pacific grain terminal opens on the site of the former Moodyville. It is the first major port installation on the North Shore.
1938 – Bridging the Narrows
On November 14 the Lions Gate Bridge across the First Narrows opens to car traffic. Financed by the Guinness family, through the British Pacific Properties syndicate, it encourages suburban development on the North Shore.
1940-45 – The War Effort at Home
During World War Two Burrard Dry Dock manufactures naval vessels and one third of all the cargo ships produced in Canada. At its peak, the shipyard employs 14,000 people in three round-the-clock shifts. Wartime housing booms to accommodate the workers and their families. North Vancouver’s role in maintaining the war effort is out of all proportion to its size as a community.
1945 – Women in the Shipyards
Women have been employed in the shipyards since 1942, making up about seven percent of the workforce. Burrard Dry Dock is the first shipbuilder in Canada to employ women in significant numbers. At the end of the war they all lose their jobs to men returning from the armed services.
1958 - Bridge Collapse
On June 17, 1958 one of the worst engineering disasters in BC history occurrs when the partially-constructed Second Narrows Bridge collapses into Burrard Inlet. Eighteen workers lost their lives (a nineteenth victim, a diver searching for bodies, died a few days later).
1960 – Iron Workers Memorial Bridge
On August 25 the new Second Narrows Bridge opens to traffic. It is later renamed the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge.
1970 - Traditions Continue
First Nations peoples work to retain their traditions through language, arts and cultural programs.
1975 – Fire!
An explosion and fire at the Burrard grain terminal (formerly the Midland Pacific) kills five workers. It is the largest fire in the history of the City. The facility is rebuilt and expanded by owner James Richardson and Sons.
1977 – Seabus Launched
The Seabus goes into operation, linking the North Shore once again by ferry with downtown Vancouver.
1985 – Lonsdale Quay
Lonsdale Quay opens next to the Seabus Terminal on the site of the former North Van Ship Repairs.
1986 - Along the Water’s Edge
North Vancouver’s Waterfront Park features Cathedral. The steel beams echo the ridges of the North Shore mountains. Cathedral invites the public to walk through it, sensing the “spirit inside the work”.
1992 – Versatile Pacific
In December the Versatile Pacific shipyard closes.
2005 – Waterfront Returned
On April 23 the 700-foot long Burrard Dry Dock Pier opens. Along with a waterfront walk, it affords public access to the formerly industrial waterfront for the first time in a century.
2014 – “The Shipyards”
City Council officially rebrands the historic central waterfront area “The Shipyards” and undertakes plans to revitalize the site as a public gathering spot.
2015 - Low Level Road
A new roadway through what was once Moodyville, enhances rail and port operations and addresses community safety and traffic challenges.
Did You Know?
During a visit to Vancouver in 1892 as part of his round-the-world honeymoon, the English writer Rudyard Kipling was enthusiastic enough about North Vancouver’s future that he bought a piece of land here. As a result, in 1897, the list of ratepayers eligible to vote in the local election included “R. Kipling.” Of course by then he was back in England and never cast a ballot. [image of voters’ list]