Chuck Davis
Photo: Jason Vanderhill

The History of Metropolitan Vancouver

This is a sample chapter from my forthcoming book, The History of Metropolitan Vancouver. The book will be published in 2011. Every year in Vancouver's history will have its own chapter. Have a look at events in other years in our site's chronology.

Chuck Davis

Sample Chapter


A note to readers: This is a first draft of the 1889 chapter proposed for the book. It was completed July 16, 2006. By the time the book appears in 2010 it may be much altered.

The story of how Vancouver got its water turns out to be interesting, complicated, frequently rancorous and occasionally even funny.

When it came to water, the little city of Vancouver was on the wrong side of Burrard Inlet. Virtually all the useful water was on the other side, tantalizingly close. Millions and millions of gallons of it, in rivers, creeks and lakes, poured into the inlet and ran off, unused, to the ocean. On the south side, where most of the people were, there was precious little water.

True, there was a good public well at the CPR depot on Coal Harbour, and another at the Hotel Vancouver, but carrying the day’s supply home in buckets could be, literally, a pain in the neck. And, as James Morton wrote in Capilano: The Story of a River, “Even the water from a private well at the back of a house was hardly palatable if one contemplated the dead rats so often seen floating on the surface.” Typhoid fever was not unknown.

Some locals used cisterns to catch rain, and many stores and offices in the city were supplied with water carried over the inlet by a scow from Moodyville and delivered to their doors by horse-drawn wagons. The Hastings Mill, on the south side of the Inlet and running more than 20 hours a day, needed a lot of water, so built a flume, which occasionally collapsed, to carry it from Trout Lake. (Residents along that flume line frequently tapped it, with the mill’s permission, for their own needs.) The mill had to post a man full-time at the lake to stop the beavers there from building dams that blocked the flow. Another of his chores was to remove the lake’s trout from the flume, which at times was almost choked with fish.

Vancouver’s population in the early 1880s had been just a few hundred, but the city would grow fast once the railway arrived, so a better and more reliable water supply was needed. A Victoria-based civil engineer named George A. Keefer, who had been the CPR’s surveyor for its route through the Rockies and the Fraser Canyon, came up with an idea to bring the North Shore’s water to Vancouver across Burrard Inlet. He recommended an underwater pipe be laid across the bed of the inlet. The initial reaction to his notion was skeptical, and with good reason: no one anywhere in the world had ever tried laying a water main across a body of seawater nearly 3,000 feet wide roiled by strong tidal currents. Other seawater harbors (Boston’s, for example) had been crossed by water mains, but the strength of the current was nothing like the First Narrows, where it runs from 4.5 to 9 knots. “Printers’ ink was called into requisition,” wrote one observer, “and many articles published demonstrating the utter impracticability of the project.”

But Keefer pressed on: he found “several prominent and enterprising capitalists” who liked his scheme, then—equipped at his own expense—formed a team, headed by a young colleague named Henry Smith and including his nephew George H. Keefer, to inspect all the lakes and creeks around the inlet and choose one as the location for a dam. After long and arduous days hacking their way through the forests of the north shore Smith’s team decided “Capilano Creek” would do. They surveyed the river for seven miles from tidewater, and decided on a site for a dam six-and-a-half miles upstream and 388 feet above sea level. The height of the dam would ensure that gravity would provide most of the force in getting the water across the Inlet. There was certainly enough water there: the Capilano emptied 450 million gallons of it into the Inlet every 24 hours.

Keefer wrote to his uncle, Thomas C. Keefer, in Ottawa for advice about the scheme. Thomas Keefer was one of Canada’s most well-known engineers, called by the Royal Society “undoubtedly” the greatest hydraulic engineer of his day. He replied from Ottawa to his nephew that he had laid pipe across several rivers in Ontario and New York, and there would be “no difficulty whatsoever bringing water across the First Narrows.”

But Thomas Keefer had never seen the Capilano, and never seen how the busy tidal waters of Burrard Inlet behaved. If he had, his reply might have been rather more cautious. “The waters of the Capilano,” James Morton wrote, “are slashed to ribbons by the tide rip at the narrows.”

Still, Thomas’ confidence—from nearly 3,000 miles away—convinced George to go ahead.

The Vancouver Waterworks Company was incorporated April 6, 1886, the same day the city itself was created. President was the well-known New Westminster businessman Capt. John Irving. George A. Keefer was a principal. Because of the river the group had chosen, locals called it the Capilano Company.

But they weren’t the only game in town. A rival firm, Coquitlam Water Works (CWW), also incorporated April 6, put forward a scheme to run its water into Vancouver over land from Coquitlam Lake, 20 miles away. This company was already under contract to bring water to New Westminster, which they eventually did.

In the spring of 1887, after a lot of heated debate, Vancouver’s city council had made its choice between the two rival proposals: CWW. That company’s scheme involved a much longer route and required burying miles of pipe, so it would cost more, $350,000 against $300,000 for the Capilano proposal. Council asked Vancouver voters to approve the CWW budget.

The voters said No.

The water question provided a lot of entertainment for the little city, and factions quickly formed for and against both companies. A second vote was held June 4, 1887 and in the days leading up to it advertisements for each side appeared in the local papers. One in the News-Advertiser listed 20 reasons voters should reject the Coquitlam company’s scheme. The ad showed no sponsor, but we can guess. The complete text of the by-law that would govern the operation of the water supply was run many times; its last paragraph is worth study: “And it is hereby further covenanted and agreed by the said company that they shall not employ any Chinamen or person of the Chinese race in or about the construction, maintenance or equipment of the said water works system to the City of Vancouver or within the limits of said city.”

It was the city’s first major public works controversy, everyone in town was intensely interested, and many locals imagined the whole British Empire was interested in the question. In the book By Track and Trail: A Journey Through Canada Edward Roper reported that one 1887 seaborne visitor from England to Vancouver asked the pilot, who had come on board the ship as it prepared to enter the harbor, for the latest news.

“Great news!” the pilot told him. “Capilano’s got it!”

“Got it?” the befuddled traveller asked. “Got what? Capilano? Who the devil’s he?”

“Well,” said the pilot, “you must be a very strange man not to know that all Vancouver is divided as to which waterworks scheme shall gain the city’s patronage, and they have been voting today, and Capilano’s got it!”

Roper reports that the pilot retired to the steamer’s bridge in great disdain, “to think a Britisher should be so ignorant.”

The vote was 58 in favor of the Coquitlam company, 86 against. The triumphant Vancouver Waterworks began to shape its plans. They intended to lay two mains across the Inlet in case one was damaged, and to build two reservoirs, one in the heavily forested government reserve that was soon to become Stanley Park, and the other “on the high ground south of False Creek.” The Stanley Park reservoir is remembered today only by a trail named for it. It was demolished in the early 1950s to install a picnic ground. The “high ground” location later became Queen Elizabeth Park. (The old reservoir VWW built there, which was paved over for a parking lot, would be demolished, and a new, larger and earthquake-resistant one installed in 200_.)

Work on the dam commenced January 30, 1888. It was completed April 18, little more than two-and-a-half months later. Remarkable, because everything—supplies, tools, machinery—had to be carried on mule-back six-and-a-half miles from the water’s edge and through the forest during what was reported as an unusually severe winter. “The canyon walls,” wrote Louis P. Cain in B.C. Studies, “did not permit the river to be diverted around the dam site at an economic cost.” The result was that the men had to work on excavating the foundations while standing in three to four feet of icy mountain water. But the dam was completed and, writes Cain, “created a reservoir 380 feet wide and 700 feet long during high-water season which held approximately 14 million gallons of water.” This first dam site and a road that was built to expedite the delivery of supplies there have long been submerged under today’s Capilano Lake.

The water still needed to get across Burrard Inlet to the city. Mains had to be built from the dam to a 280-foot-long tunnel (made necessary by the topography), then, at the other end of the tunnel, another set of mains was built to bring the water to the shore of the Inlet. Now all that was needed was to extend the first pipeline across the water.

George Keefer wisely decided to hire someone with actual experience in submarine pipe-laying for the work, and wrote to a fellow named John Ward of New Jersey. Ward was an inventive engineer who had devised a system of pipe-joints that was beginning to catch on with municipal governments and private water-supply firms all over North America.

Ward wrote back, happily accepting the assignment, and added: “It pleases me to hear that you propose to duplicate your submerged pipe, as it would be a pleasant thing for me to face the dangers of the narrows twice for money, in case you should conclude to make a contract with me for the work.”

His bravado evaporated shortly after he arrived. The story is told in an 1899 paper by Henry Smith, the man who had led the original search for a suitable stream. Smith reveals a quietly devastating wit in his description of Ward’s work.

“Mr. Ward, on his arrival, made a thorough inspection of the crossing, and expressed himself as confident of being able to complete his contract with ease and rapidity. Accordingly, on the 21st of April, 1888, he began operations, his plan being to joint the pipes on a suitable platform stationed at low water mark on the north shore, and by means of a stationary engine on the south shore, to haul them across, length by length. Inasmuch as Mr. Ward failed to carry out this plan to completion, the writer, without expressing any opinion as to its practicability, will merely describe his mode of procedure.”

Then Smith gives a detailed, technical explanation of Ward's modus operandi.

Here's the kicker: “However, after 18 lengths [of pipe], covering a distance of 216 feet, had been submerged, Mr. Ward concluded to substitute a steel wire cable for the wrought iron rod. In stretching this cable across the Inlet, it unfortunately fouled on a boulder . . . and such efforts as were made to dislodge it proved unavailing. Mr. Ward then notified the company that urgent private business compelled him to leave the work for St. Paul, Minnesota. He did not return . . .”

Here’s an indication of the problems the pipeline company faced: hold your hands apart nine inches. That’s the thickness of the first rope that was strung across the inlet as a guide for the pipeline, a rope that had been tested to 20 tons tensile strength. When the tide came in, said an awed observer, “it snapped like a pack thread.”

Vancouver Waterworks devised a new hauling apparatus over the summer and, with the help of a diver named Richard Thomas Llewellyn—who walked three times across the bottom of Burrard Inlet during the testing—successfully laid down a 12-inch main across the Inlet and had the satisfaction of testing it August 28, 1888. About this time fire hydrants manufactured in Victoria began to arrive, stacking up in warehouses until time came to connect them. “There seems no reason to doubt,” the Vancouver Telegram commented, “that Vancouverites will be able to wash down their Christmas dinners with copious draughts of bright, pure and sparkling Capilano water.” It took a little longer.

Finally, on March 26, 1889 a small crowd gathered at Georgia and Granville Streets and watched as a valve was turned and fresh Capilano River water began to gush out. Wrote the Weekly News-Advertiser “. . . water from the water works dam of the Capilano River, ten miles from the place of writing in this city, crossed the Narrows Monday night at 11:10 o’clock, at 1 o’clock had filled the mains on Georgia street and at 2 o’clock had reached Westminster avenue [Main Street].” Vancouver had its water.

It was delicious.

The city’s water became famed for its taste. A writer in the British Columbia Magazine of June, 1911 spoke of the great good fortune the Vancouverite enjoyed in his water: “The tinctured draught he gulps down in the heat of midsummer inspires him with the utmost of respect. It is out of the heart of these towering piles [the North Shore mountains] that the welcome water comes, fresh to his lips from glacial ice beds ages old.”

Industries began that couldn’t have existed without water, new restaurants opened, and the city’s clumsy watertanks, submerged behemoths holding 50,000 gallons each and installed after the Great Fire, were dug out and discarded. Alan Morley wrote, in his history Vancouver: From Milltown to Metropolis: “On April 14 [1889], the city tested 60 hydrants, the fire department abandoned water tanks forever, Thorpe and Co. opened its new soda water factory and innumerable housewives threw out their kitchen pumps.”

One welcomed change: the incidence of typhoid fever dropped immediately.

When breaks (usually caused by ships snapping the pipe, a result of a combination of shallow water and deep keels) occurred the effect was immediate and disastrous: factories stopped, restaurants had to close, fires were unchecked.

On November 15, 1889 a break developed in the submerged main and the city was without water for eight days. Several firms and cafes had to shut down. The Telegram couldn’t publish because its presses were hydraulic. VWW brought water over by boat and distributed it free of charge. In September 1890 the main on Granville Street ruptured and, said the Telegram, “the city awoke to find the Capilano River flowing happily down Granville all the way to the CPR station. Two ditches had to be dug to get the lake removed because, though it was a thing of beauty, it was in a very inconvenient place.”

A clause in the VWW contract with Vancouver permitted the city to buy the operation, and after a few years of accident-free operation, wrangling over the price, and threats of lawsuits on both sides—enough material for a book of its own—the city owned its own water supply. They paid $400,000.

The system delivered four million gallons to the city every day, an amount we slurp up today in about 20 minutes.


Public transit had its start here this year. A company called Vancouver Street Railways incorporated, won council approval, and began laying a single track down Granville Street. The original plan had been to use horse-drawn rail cars, but the company was persuaded to opt for electricity instead. (Seattle had tested its first electric cars on March 30.) The decision to go electric caused a delay while the company sold its horses and stable and began to string up trolley wire. They bought six cars from a big American builder, John Stephenson of New York City.

Later in the year the streetcar company would merge with the local illuminating company to create the Vancouver Electric Railway and Light Company Limited, with Mayor David Oppenheimer as director. Two very big present-day companies, TransLink and BC Hydro, would emerge from that tiny beginning.

There was lots for Oppenheimer to do in 1889. On March 5, as the outgoing president of the Vancouver Board of Trade, he had presided over its first banquet. It was held in the Hotel Vancouver, and cost $12.50 per plate, costly for the time. But it included a quart bottle of Mumm's Extra Dry Champagne.

Oppenheimer would be succeeded as president by the grandly named Ezekiel Vining Bodwell. Bodwell, tragically, would die in office this year and be succeeded by R.H. Alexander, who would also serve the 1890 term. One curious historical tidbit about E.V. Bodwell: it seems he is closely related to a George Bodwell, one of a small party of Union soldiers who captured Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of American, during the U.S. Civil War!

Oppenheimer presided at the January 4 opening of the first Granville Street bridge. (The current bridge is the third.) This first modest wooden span was 2,400 feet long and cost $16,000 to build. Before the year was out electric streetcars would be crossing the bridge.

A beginning of another kind occurred when on September 1 city council approved a part-paid fire department. It had been all volunteer to now. And council did something else important: they appointed a chief for the department: New Brunswick-born John Howe Carlisle. Carlisle, 31, had got off to an awkward start in 1886: he’d joined the volunteer fire brigade in May, and the city burned to the ground the next month. It certainly wasn’t his or the other members’ fault: the brigade lacked the equipment to fight a fire on that scale. The city got a lot for the $75 a month they paid this remarkable fellow. He would be chief for an astonishing 42 years, kept on past retirement age, and would always be pushing for more equipment, better and more modern equipment, and more firefighters. You’ll meet him again in these pages.

There was a brisk and steady buying and selling of property, and that led to the formation this year of the Vancouver Real Estate Board. Today, it’s known as the Greater Vancouver Real Estate Board.

And the oldest and largest law firm in Vancouver today traces its origins back to 1889. New Brunswick-born Jay Russell, who had arrived in the city in 1888, joined the Victoria-based firm of Yates & Jay to run its new Vancouver office. The firm would now be called Yates, Jay & Russell. It would eventually evolve into the famous Russell & DuMoulin, and is today known as Fasken Martineau DuMoulin.

The British Columbia Jockey Club was established April 12 to oversee races held at the East Park racetrack (later named Hastings Park). They produced programs for races and kept the racetrack in shape. A pamphlet from that day laying out the rules and regulations of the club also includes the names of its officers. They were a high-powered bunch: president was the Hon. Clement F. Cornwall of Ashcroft, a former Lieutenant-Governor; first vice president was W.H. Ladner, who had been reeve of Ladner a couple of times before this, and would be again three more times; second vice president was Lt. Col. J.C. Holmes of the Royal Canadian Artillery, and other executives included Alderman Sam Brighouse and Hastings Townsite businessman and race enthusiast George Black. Before the formation of the Jockey Club, Black used to organize horse races down Granville Street.

On September 28 Vancouver's first city hospital opened, a wooden building at Beatty Street and Cambie, with 35 beds.

On November 16 the Union Steamship Company was formed from the consolidation of the Moodyville ferry company and Burrard Inlet Towing Company.


1889 brought us the first visit to Vancouver by a Governor General. On October 29 Lord Stanley of Preston, who had been sworn in the year before, dedicated Stanley Park, which had been opened in September, 1888. An observer at the dedication wrote: “Lord Stanley threw his arms to the heavens, as though embracing within them the whole of one thousand acres of primeval forest, and dedicated it ‘to the use and enjoyment of peoples of all colours, creeds, and customs, for all time’.”

A few days before the dedication, incidentally, a letter was written (we’re not sure by whom) promising a suitable monument to commemorate the event. City archivist J.S. Matthews would discover that letter in 1950, more than 60 years after it was written, and realize the promise had not been fulfilled. He began a fund-raising campaign, and raised enough money to commission a statue. It took a while: the statue—created by English sculptor Sydney Marsh, and capturing Stanley’s expansive gesture—wouldn’t be unveiled until May 19, 1960. Fittingly, that ceremony was presided over by another Governor General, Georges Vanier.

Lord Stanley’s term would end in 1893, the same year he donated an enormous silver cup as an award for Canada's top-ranking amateur hockey club. In 1926 the National Hockey League would adopt the Stanley Cup as the championship prize in professional hockey.

Writer Rudyard Kipling visited us in 1889, during a tour of North America. He was 23 and just beginning to be known. (His short story, The Man Who Would Be King had just come out.) In a later travel reminiscence called From Sea to Sea, Kipling wrote about his first brief visit here, and how he came to own a piece of the city.

“Vancouver three years ago was swept off by fire in sixteen minutes, and only one house was left standing. To-day it has a population of fourteen thousand people, and builds its houses out of brick with dressed granite fronts. But a great sleepiness lies on Vancouver as compared with an American town: men don't fly up and down the street telling lies, and the spittoons in the delightfully comfortable hotel are unused; the baths are free and their doors are unlocked. You do not have to dig up the hotel clerk when you want to bathe, which shows the inferiority of Vancouver. An American bade me notice the absence of bustle, and was alarmed when in a loud and audible voice I thanked God for it . . .

“Except for certain currents which are not much mentioned, but which make the entrance rather unpleasant for sailing-boats, Vancouver possesses an almost perfect harbor. The town is built all round and about the harbor, and young as it is, its streets are better than those of western America. Moreover, the old flag waves over some of the buildings, and this is cheering to the soul. The place is full of Englishmen who speak the English tongue correctly and with clearness, avoiding more blasphemy than is necessary, and taking a respectable length of time to getting outside their drinks.

“These advantages and others that I have heard about, such as the construction of elaborate workshops and the like by the Canadian Pacific in the near future, moved me to invest in real estate.”

So Rudyard Kipling bought land here! Back in the 1970s I visited the property that he purchased. “What he bought,” the lady who lived in one of the houses that sits on the old parcel told me, “was a couple of lots here at the southeast corner of Fraser and East Eleventh. This house and the one next door are on the Kipling property. When he bought the land, Fraser Street was called Scott Street. My understanding is that his property extended 122 feet (37 metres) along Scott, and 66 feet (20 metres) along Eleventh. Both of these houses went up in 1928; there were huge trees here, nothing else.”

What was Kipling's reaction to his purchase of this tiny chunk of the Empire? “He that sold it to me,” he wrote, “was a delightful English Boy who, having tried for the Army and failed, had somehow meandered into a real-estate office, where he was doing well . . . I couldn’t have bought it from an American. He would have overstated the case and proved me the possessor of the original Eden. All the Boy said was: 'I give you my word it isn't on a cliff or under water, and before long the town ought to move out that way. I'd advise you to take it.' And I took it as easily as a man buys a piece of tobacco. Me voici, owner of some four hundred well-developed pines, a few thousand tons of granite scattered in blocks at the roots of the pines, and a sprinkling of earth. That's a town lot in Vancouver.

“You or your agent hold on to it till property rises, then sell out and buy more land further out of town and repeat the process. I do not quite see how this sort of thing helps the growth of a town, but the English Boy says that it is the 'essence of speculation,' so it must be all right. But I wish there were fewer pines and rather less granite on my ground.”

Kipling would visit Vancouver twice more . . . and his real estate purchases would end farcically.

Another Englishman, rather less celebrated, who arrived this year was a man named William Towler. Towler was 47, from Peterborough in England. That was fortuitous because he sent back a series of articles, titled Letters from an Emigrant, to a Peterborough newspaper, that give us a look at the Vancouver of the time. He sailed with his son, whom he doesn’t name, from Liverpool on February 28, 1889 on the Circassian. His reports of the voyage indicate it was relatively uneventful, and they disembarked at Halifax to board the train for Vancouver. Going through the Rockies, he told his readers, was exciting. “I have read somewhere that when the Creator had finished forming the world, He threw the remnants into British Columbia.”

By March 17 they had reached the “New Westminster junction.” We know that spot today as Port Coquitlam. “Many of our passengers got off here for Victoria and other parts of Vancouver Island,” he wrote, “to where they proceed by boat to-morrow. The balance of our 6,000 miles was now reduced to a dozen, and about that number of passengers remained aboard our cars, who had left Liverpool with us. One by one, and sometimes a half score or more at a station they were now scattered, never more to meet; all of us filled with the desire to better our circumstances, all full of sorrow at leaving the old land, all full of hope on reaching a new one.”

Later that night they arrived at Vancouver. The next day: “This morning was wet, the rain coming down as if it were fulfilling a contract against time.”

His description of Vancouver is good: although he likes the town, and its setting, and even the weather, he finds its physical condition disgusting: only a few brick buildings (this three years after the fire), dead rats in the street, rotting garbage, etc., phenomena curiously absent from Kipling’s account.

Towler refers to a one-armed man rounding up stray dogs. That would be John Clough, the city lamplighter whose job would end with the advent of electricity.

Not all the notable 1889 arrivals were of human beings. The Steveston Museum reminds us that in September “the Hudson's Bay Company tea clipper Titania arrived July 25 to carry the first direct shipment of canned salmon from Britannia cannery in Steveston to London, a trip around Cape Horn that took 104 days. Before this, salmon cases had been delivered to Victoria by stern-wheelers before being shipped to Europe.” (There is a splendid drawing of the Titania in the July 26, 1924 Province, a drawing, the paper told us, framed and hanging in the office of fishpacking magnate Henry Bell-Irving.)

A discovery

One day in the spring of this year a small party of workmen in the Marpole area was opening up an extension of South Granville Road to connect it with a bridge to Sea Island. Suddenly their spades began to turn up clam shells—in the midst of a thick and lofty forest. Next, from between the roots of these centuries-old giant trees, the workmen pried pieces of stone shaped like spear points, some that were hammered, others they couldn’t identify.

A few of the workers realized what had been found: a native midden, an ancient refuse heap. Sometime in the past it had been abandoned.

“And then,” says Hilary Stewart, “time and the forest took over.” Hilary Stewart has written and illustrated several books on native life in this region. “Much of the Marpole site was what’s called a kitchen midden. There had been a village there, by the midden. Post holes were discovered, and hearths.”

This was no small archaeological discovery. “The Marpole midden turned out to be a very, very major site,” Stewart says. “It was also a big one.

“But it was a puzzle, too. The place was a mass of deep shell deposits, in places up to 15 feet deep–but it was in the midst of a forest six miles from the sea! Were the Indians backpacking those shells up the river? Obviously not. Were they canoeing them up? Not likely.

“The answer came later. Geological surveys were done, and they showed that the mouth of the river had been 20 miles farther up in ancient times. Where those workmen had been standing at the south foot of Granville had once been right on the shores of Georgia Strait.”

Stewart shuddered when she looked at the photos of the first excavations of the site. They show, in one example, that the side of one mound has been simply gouged out, probably with shovels. Those early diggers just burrowed in, plucking out treasures as they found them.

Today, when a site is located, a grid is laid out and a painstakingly slow descent is made into the dig, with each artifact carefully drawn to show where it was found and at what depth.

In 1891 an Englishman named Charles Hill-Tout would move to Vancouver. When the locals learned he had some training in anthropology and archaeology they took him to see the Marpole midden and the village site that adjoined it. Hill-Tout asked G.F. Monckton, a mining engineer, to survey the site and get some idea of its extent. It was found to run 1,400 feet along the river bank and to be no less than 300 feet wide. Monckton did his calculations and informed a startled anthropologist that the site covered 4.5 acres.

Hill-Tout realized he was looking at the largest village site discovered to that time in North American archaeology.

We have an approximate idea of when the site was occupied—from about 400 BC to about 500 AD. Then, as silt from the Fraser created new land between the village and the river, the inhabitants moved on. “We don’t know that for certain,” says Hilary Stewart, “but it’s a reasonable assumption.”

The Marpole site was like others that lined the river: a single row of houses strung along the shore. The “string” could stretch pretty far—in 1808, when Simon Fraser visited Musqueam, farther west along the same shore, he found one row of connected dwellings, occupied, that extended 1,600 feet along the shoreline.

The midden would begin to develop between the houses and the river as the residents threw their garbage outside. It must have been pretty rich on hot days.

Today, a great part of the Marpole midden is covered by the parking lot of what used to be the Fraser Arms Hotel, and is now a Quality Inn. There’s still a lot of material under there, but Hilary Stewart isn’t particularly dismayed about that. “It’d be difficult to think of a better preservative for a midden than a covering of asphalt,” she says. “It’ll keep.”

The amount of material in the midden was astonishing. Some portions of the area were literally crammed with archaeological goodies. Stewart went into the hotel’s basement soon after it opened, and found artifacts sticking out of one unfinished wall.

Hill-Tout’s claim that the skulls unearthed at Marpole showed that these early Vancouver residents were Eskimoid was later disproved, but much of our knowledge of the midden is due to his careful examination of the site.

1889 Fragments

August 2 John Robson became premier of BC, succeeding Alexander Davie. Robson will serve to June 29, 1892.

December 5 The first Shakespearean production in the city, says Sheila Roberts in her book Shakespeare in Vancouver, was Richard III at the Imperial Theatre. “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York . . .”

The New Westminster Salmonbellies lacrosse team was formed. They would soon establish themselves as a team of national rank. From the article Leisure, Taste and Tradition in British Columbia by Douglas Cole, in The Pacific Province: A History of British Columbia.

The Trades and Labour Council was formed for the purpose of establishing a nine-hour work day.

Bridges connected Lulu and Sea Islands with the mainland. These and other early bridges suffered repeated damage from floods and ice.

John Hendry bought Hastings Mill, renamed it B.C. Mills, Timber & Trading Co. From Vanishing Vancouver, by Michael Kluckner: “BCMT & T was the largest forest products company in the province, an amalgamation in the 1890s by John Hendry of the Royal City Planing Mills with the Moodyville Sawmill in North Vancouver and the Hastings Sawmill on the Vancouver waterfront.”