North Van History Highlights

Lions Gate Bridge Souvenir Pamphlet 1939. NVMA 1939-5.

Lions Gate Bridge Souvenir Pamphlet 1939.  NVMA 1939-5.

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

Before 1792 For millennia the ancestors of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam peoples harvest Burrard Inlet for fish, shellfish, seaweed and plant material. “When the tide goes out the table is set.”

First Nations Canoe, Siwash Rock. NVMA 952

First Nation’s Canoe, Off Stanley Park, ca. 1940s. NVMA 952

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.

Moodyville 1900. NVMA8841

Moodyville 1900. NVMA 8841

1868 – St. Paul’s Church

St. Paul's Church 1890. NVMA 50401

St. Paul’s Church 1890. NVMA 50401

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.

North Van Ferry No.1. NVMA 54511

North Van Ferry No.1. NVMA 5451

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.

Lonsdale Avenue 1913. NVMA 18771

Lonsdale Avenue 1913. NVMA 1877

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).

Wallace Shipyards 1916. NVMA 3149

Wallace Shipyards 1916. NVMA 3149

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.

Coast Salish leaders,1908. NVMA 15860

Coast Salish leaders,1908. NVMA 15860

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.

Milling, Indian Arm 1919. NVMA 3325

Milling, Indian Arm 1919. NVMA 3325

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.

2nd Narrows Bridge Construction 1925. NVMA 9736

2nd Narrows Bridge Construction 1925. NVMA 9736

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.

King George VI & Queen Elizabeth at Lions Gate 1939. NVMA 11330

King George VI & Queen Elizabeth officially open Lions Gate, 1939. NVMA 11330

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.

Duke of Kent at Burrard Dry Dock 1941. NVMA 1193

Duke of Kent at Burrard Dry Dock 1941. NVMA 1193

Wallace Pipe Band 1943.NVMA 27-1159

Wallace Pipe Band 1943.NVMA 27-1159

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.

Women at Burrard Dry Dock c.1942 NVMA 12384

First women at Burrard Dry Dock c.1942 NVMA 12384

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).

2nd Narrows Bridge Collapse 1958. NVMA 10076

2nd Narrows Bridge Collapse 1958. NVMA 10076

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.

Eva Nahanee with basketry work, 1970s. NVMA 2506

Eva Nahanee with basketry work, 1970s. NVMA 2506

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.

Burrard Terminal Fire 1975. NVMA 8512

Burrard Terminal Fire 1975. NVMA 8512

1977 – Seabus Launched

The Seabus goes into operation, linking the North Shore once again by ferry with downtown Vancouver.

Seabus Launched 1977. NVMA 12754

Seabus Launched 1977. NVMA 12754

1985 – Lonsdale Quay

Lonsdale Quay Pamphlet 1985. NVMA 1985-24.

Lonsdale Quay Pamphlet 1985. NVMA 1985-24.

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”.

Cathedral, Douglas Senft, 1986.

Cathedral, Douglas Senft, 1986.

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.

Restored Burrard Dry Dock Crane, Shipbuilders Square, 2015

Restored Burrard Dry Dock Crane, Shipbuilders Square, 2015. C. Halsey photo.

2015 - Low Level Road

A new roadway through what was once Moodyville, enhances rail and port operations and addresses community safety and traffic challenges.

Low Level Road, 2015. Cecil Halsey photo.

Low Level Road, 2015. C. Halsey photo.

Section II: A Community Develops

1891 – District of North Vancouver

The District of North Vancouver incorporates; and stretches from Horseshoe Bay in the west to Indian Arm in the east, excluding Moodyville.

Birds Eye View of the North Shore, 1966.

Birds Eye View of the North Shore, 1966.

1898 – Residential School

St. Paul’s Indian Residential School opens on Keith Road just north of the Mission Reserve on the site of the present-day St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School. The residential school remains open until 1959.

St. Paul's Residential School 1905. NVMA 4839

St. Paul’s Residential School 1905.
NVMA 4839

1902 – Holiday Destination

Peter Larson opens the Hotel North Vancouver on Esplanade. It becomes the focus for the growing community and a holiday resort for Vancouverites. A fire destroys it in 1929.

Hotel North Vancouver 1900s. NVMA 95

Hotel North Vancouver 1900s. NVMA 95

1905 – The "Express"

The community’s first newspaper, the “Express”, begins publication.

1906 – Transportation Hub

The British Columbia Electric Railway Company initiates streetcar service on track running up Lonsdale Avenue from the waterfront. Eventually the service grows to three lines, connecting the ferry dock to Capilano Canyon on the west, Lynn Canyon on the east, and Upper Lonsdale. The streetcars are replaced by buses in 1947.

BC Electric Railway Streetcar No. 40, 1909 NVMA 344

BC Electric Railway Streetcar No. 40, 1909. NVMA 344

1907 – ‘Ambitious City’

On May 13 the City of North Vancouver – christened by the “Express” newspaper as the Ambitious City’ — is created as a separate municipality.

Express Newspaper 1907. NVMA 1907-1

Express Newspaper 1907. NVMA 1907-1

1912 – West Vancouver Secedes

Municipality of West Vancouver is separated from the District of North Vancouver.

1923 – Squamish First Nation

Sixteen Coast Salish chiefs sign an amalgamation document to create the Squamish First Nation and a council of chiefs to conduct Squamish affairs.

1930 – Deep Cove Resort

Deep Cove is developing as a summer resort, site of Corfield’s Dance Hall. The Deep Cove Yacht Club is formed in 1936.

1932 – Receivership

In December, buffeted by the Great Depression, District government is taken over by a commissioner appointed by the province. The District does not regain an elected government until 1951. The City follows the District into receivership in January 1933 and is also managed by a commissioner until 1944 when wartime prosperity allows a return to democratic governance.

1939 – King George VI and Queen Elizabeth

On May 29 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth pay a royal visit to North Vancouver, arriving by limousine via the Second Narrows Bridge and proceeding back to Vancouver across the Lions Gate Bridge.

Royal Visit May 1939. NVMA 13264

Royal Visit May 1939. NVMA 13264

1947 – A Community of Communities

A post-war population boom opens several new residential neighbourhoods, including Norgate, Capilano Highlands and Edgemont Village.

1950 – RCMP Arrive

RCMP begin policing North Vancouver with the dissolution of the BC Provincial Police.

Constable Scott near Cleveland Dam Site 1951. NVMA 7514

Constable Scott near Cleveland Dam Site 1951. NVMA 7514

1957 – Re-amalgamation

City council investigates the possibility of re-amalgamation with the District but the matter dies. The issue is revisited several times during the 1960s but no steps are taken.

1961 – Upper Levels Highway

On March 4 Premier W.A.C. Bennett opens the Upper Levels Highway between the Second Narrows Bridge and Taylor Way in West Vancouver.

1966 – North Vancouver Memorial Community Centre

In March the North Vancouver Memorial Community Centre (now the Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre) opens at 23rd and Lonsdale. It is a joint City-District project and has been approved by a referendum.

1967 – First Mall

Capilano Mall opens on Marine Drive in the low-lying area known as “Skunk Hollow”, former site of wartime housing.

Capilano Mall Expansion 1975. NVMA1975-23

Capilano Mall Expansion 1975. NVMA1975-23

1968 – Capilano College

Capilano College (now Capilano University) begins offering classes on the grounds of West Vancouver Secondary High School. It moves to its present campus (between Lynn Creek and Seymour River) in 1973.

1972 - North Vancouver Museum and Archives

The North Vancouver Museum and Archives is established (originally as the North Shore Museum & Archives). In 1976 it moves to facilities at Presentation House. In 2006 the Archives moves to the newly-renovated Community History Centre in Lynn Valley.

North Shore Museum & Archives members 1974. NVMA 347

North Shore Museum & Archives members 1974. NVMA 347

PGE Railway Station as Museum 1975. NVMA 11756

PGE Railway Station as Museum 1975. NVMA 11756

1977 – Presentation House Theatre

In July the Presentation House Theatre opens.

Presentation House Arts Centre 1978. NVMA 12213

Presentation House Arts Centre 1978. NVMA 12213

1980s – Iranian Settlement

Many Iranian immigrants, both before and after the 1979 revolution in Iran, settle in North Vancouver.

North Shore News features Norouz Celebration c.1980.

North Shore News features Norouz Celebration, 2012.

1988 – Park & Tilford Shopping Centre

Park and Tilford Shopping Centre opens on the grounds of a former distillery.

1989 – North Shore Studios

North Shore Studios (originally Lions Gate Studios) opens as a film and television production center.

2000 - The Land is a Person

District launches Public Art program. Each art piece is an original, one-of-a-kind work that reflects North Vancouver’s local heritage, culture and environment.

Dzawada’enuxw (Kwakwaka’wakw) Artist Marianne Nicholson, 2012.

Dzawada’enuxw (Kwakwaka’wakw) Artist Marianne Nicholson, 2012.

2001 - CityScape Arrives

North Vancouver’s Community Arts Council opens an arts facility on Lonsdale Avenue. Architect: Peter Cardew; Designer: Martha Sturdy

North Shore News Article, Feb. 2,2001. Paul McGrath, photographer.

North Shore News Article, Feb. 2,2001. Paul McGrath, photographer.

2003 - Energy Smart

The Lonsdale Energy Corporation (LEC) begins. LEC provides dependable, clean, and competitively priced energy to residential and commercial buildings in the Lonsdale area. By heating our community naturally, the demand for energy lessens and support for global and local climate action grows.

Lonsdale Energy Corporation Interior. City of North Vancouver.

Lonsdale Energy Corporation Interior. City of North Vancouver.

2006 - Community HIstory Centre

Opened in 1920, this building at 3203 Institute Road was designed by local architect and civil engineer, Henry Blackadder, as Lynn Valley Elementary School. In 2006, it opens as the first purpose-built archives, of the 21st century, in British Columbia.

2006 COMMUNITY HISTORY CENTRE 2554396

2008 – City Library

The new $36-million City library opens on September 20, part of a redeveloped Civic Centre that soon includes a new City Hall.

New City Library 2014.Photo by Tom Arban.

New City Library 2014.Photo by Tom Arban.

2012 – Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art

On October 13 the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art, named for the famed North Shore artist, opens in the North Vancouver School District’s new headquarters building on Lonsdale Avenue.

Gordon Smith Gallery, 2015.

Gordon Smith Gallery site, C.Halsey photo 2015.

Section III: The Great Outdoors

Time Immemorial

First Nations ancestors venture into the mountains to hunt, practice spiritual pursuits, and gather local plants and rocks. The ancient campsites are now protected by provincial archaeological legislation.

The Lions 1919. NVMA 8631

The Lions 1919. NVMA 8631

1888 – Water for Vancouver

A dam is built on the Capilano River to deliver water to Vancouver via a pipe under the First Narrows.

Dam, Capilano River 1908. NVMA 10091

Dam, Capilano River 1908.
NVMA 10091

1889 – Footbridge to Destination

George Grant Mackay, with the help of August Jack Khatsahlano, builds a footbridge made of rope and cedar planks across the Capilano Canyon. It is the original Capilano suspension bridge.

Capilano River Bridge at Second Canyon 1889. NVMA 2720

Capilano River Bridge at Second Canyon 1889. NVMA 2720

1889 - First Climb of Lions

Chief Joe Capilano of the Squamish Nation guides a group of non-Aboriginal hunters to the top of the West Lion peak. It is the first time either of the Lions is known to have been scaled.

Chief Joe Capilano 1908. NVMA 2579

Chief Joe Capilano 1908.
NVMA 2579

1894 – Grouse Mountain Summited

In October the first hikers to climb Grouse Mountain reach the summit. They name it for the blue grouse they see along the way.

1905 – Victoria Park

Groups of community volunteers begin clearing land at 7th and Lonsdale to create Victoria Park. The Park is the first component of a system of boulevards and parks known as North Vancouver’s “Green Necklace.”

Clearing Victoria Park 1905. NVMA 53

Clearing Victoria Park 1905. NVMA 53

1912 – Lynn Canyon Park

Lynn Canyon Park and suspension bridge open and are well-placed as the ‘end-of-the-line’ for the Lynn Canyon streetcar users.

Twin Falls Lynn Canyon Park. NVMA 11175

Twin Falls Lynn Canyon Park. NVMA 11175

1924 – Mountain Highway

Mountain Highway is completed to the top of Grouse Mountain where the first chalet is built.

Mountain Highway. NVMA 8854

Mountain Highway. NVMA 8854

1926 – Greater Vancouver Water District

The Greater Vancouver Water District is created, drawing water from the Capilano and Seymour River watersheds.

1935 – Capilano Suspension Bridge

The Capilano Suspension Bridge is purchased by “Mac” MacEachran, its longtime manager.

Capilano Suspenson Bridge. NVMA 2136

Capilano Suspenson Bridge. NVMA 2136

1936 – Mount Seymour Provincial Park

Mount Seymour Provincial Park is created.

1949 – Grouse Mountain Chairlift

Grouse Mountain chairlift opens at the top of Skyline Drive. It is the world’s first double chairlift and replaces a two- to three-hour hike from the base of the mountain.

Grouse Mountain Brochure 1955. NVMA 1955-4

Grouse Mountain Brochure 1955.
NVMA 1955-4

1950 – Cates Park

Cates Park (also known as Whey-ah-Wichen Park) is dedicated in memory of Charles H. Cates, founder of the historic Cates Towing Company, and develops over the following decade.

1954 – Cleveland Dam

Cleveland Dam opens, flooding the area above it to create the Capilano Lake Reservoir. The reservoir provides a third of Metro Vancouver’s water supply.

Cleveland Dam, Capilano Lake & the Lions 1950s. NVMA 10635

Cleveland Dam, Capilano Lake & the Lions 1950s. NVMA 10635

1965 – North Shore Search & Rescue

North Shore Search & Rescue is formed as a community-based team to search for lost & injured hikers and skiers in the North Shore mountains.Hiker Alick Patterson assisted from Seymour Mountain, 1956.

1966 – Grouse Mountain Skyride

On December 15 the Grouse Mountain Skyride opens.

Skyride with the Lions behind. Sharon Blair photo, Natural Color Productions. Post 1966.

Skyride with the Lions behind. Sharon Blair photo, Natural Color Productions. post 1966.

1981 –Lynn Headwaters

Lynn Headwaters becomes a regional park.

1981 – Deep Cove Bike Shop

The Deep Cove Bike Shop brings mountain biking to the North Shore.

1983 – Capilano Suspension Bridge

Nancy Stibbard purchases the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which has been owned for the previous thirty years by her father, Rae Mitchell. The Bridge is the North Shore’s number one attraction for visitors.

2004 - First Nations Snowboard Team

Established in 2004, the First Nations Snowboard Team program works to improve the quality of life and to empower Aboriginal youth across Canada. Squamish artist Xwalacktun depicts Thunderbird and Eagle on this board to provide inspiration for the athletes.

First Nations Snowboard 2009. NVMA 2009.1

First Nations Snowboard 2009. NVMA 2009.8.1

2009 – Filtration Plant

The Seymour-Capilano Filtration Plant, the largest water filtration plant in Canada, begins distributing water to the residents of Metro Vancouver. The plant treats water from the Capilano and Seymour watersheds. Upon completion (May 2015) 1.8 billion litres of drinking water will be treated daily.

Seymour-Capilano Filtration Plant, 2015. Metro Vancouver Photo.

Seymour-Capilano Filtration Plant, 2015. Metro Vancouver Photo.

2010 – Winter Olympics

During the Winter Olympics hosted by Vancouver/Whistler, the American television network NBC broadcasts its coverage live from Grouse Mountain.

2010 - Turbine Attraction

Grouse Mountain’s Eye of the Wind is BC’s largest energy producing wood turbine; it supplies 25% of Grouse Mountain’s energy needs. It is the world’s only wind turbine that provides visitors a view just three metres from massive, energy-producing rotating blades.

Wind Turbine Atop, 2015. Grouse Mountain

Turbine , 2015. Grouse Mountain

Did You Know?

Voters' List, 1897.

Voters’ List, 1897.

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]