10 of the Best Historic Sites in Vancouver | Travel Guides | History Hit

10 of the Best Historic Sites in Vancouver

Luke Tomes

05 Mar 2021

Vancouver, a metropolis which lies on the west coast of Canada in British Columbia is the nation’s third largest city and a city that boasts a rich and diverse history. The area was originally inhabited by Native Americans until European settlers arrived in the late 18th and early 19th century.

Here is a list of the top 10 historic sites in Vancouver.

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1. Stanley Park

Stanley Park is a public park that borders the downtown of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. It is Canada’s most-famous and Vancouver’s largest park, strecthing 4.05 square kilometers (405 hectares).

Originally home to the Musqueam, Squamish, and Burrard First Nations, it was once the location of a large village called Whoi Whoi, or Xwayxway, roughly meaning place of masks.

George Vancouver explored the peninsula during the Vancouver Expedition in 1792, nevertheless the area only started to see significant activity after the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush in 1858. By 1860, many nonaboriginal, European settlers had started building homes on the peninsula.

To this day, Stanley Park remains North America’s third largest urban park – it’s deep, natural forest has led to it’s popular nickname “urban oasis”.

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2. Granville Island

Granville Island is a peninsula and shopping district in Vancouver, British Columbia. It is located across False Creek from Downtown Vancouver under the south end of the Granville Street Bridge.

The city of Vancouver was called Granville until it was renamed in 1886, but the former name was kept and given to Granville Street, which spanned the small inlet known as False Creek.

In 1869, a small reserve was created in False Creek, east of the sandbars, and by 1899, residents were being forced to leave the area completely by European settlers.

Today, the Public Market is the jewel in the Island’s crown. An indoor market featuring a fascinating assortment of colourful food and produce stores, showcasing handcrafted products and the very finest in unique gifts, the Public Market attracts over 10 million vistors each year.

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3. Gastown

Gastown is the original settlement that became the core of the creation of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Gastown was Vancouver’s first downtown neighbourhood and is named for “Gassy” Jack Deighton, a Yorkshire seaman, steamboat captain and barkeep who arrived in 1867 to open the area’s first saloon. The town soon prospered as the site of Hastings Mill sawmill and seaport, rapidly becoming a general centre of trade and commerce.

Gastown is a neighbourhood that seamlessly combines old with new, history with the way forward. The district has retained its historic charm and independent spirit. Victorian architecture houses a thriving fashion scene, impeccably curated décor boutiques, one-of-a-kind galleries and some of the best culinary fare in Vancouver. It is an ideal neighbourhood to explore on foot.

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4. Vancouver Maritime Museum

The Vancouver Maritime Museum is a museum devoted to presenting the maritime history of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and the Canadian Arctic.

Vancouver has long been associated with its maritime history. Before George Vancouver’s Expedition in 1792 and the subsequent arrival of European settlers to the peninsual, the area was a popular fishing ground for indigenous communities.

Once the first European colonists had arrived and settled, Vancouver quickly became a hub of trade, establishing itself as a vital Pacific port, especially after the opening on the Panama Canal in 1914.

Today, the museum’s main exhibit is the St. Roch, a historic arctic exploration vessel used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police which became the first ship to completely circumnavigate North America, and the second vessel to transit the Northwest Passage.

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5. Museum of Vancouver

The Museum of Vancouver is an award-winning civic history museum located in Vanier Park, Vancouver, British Columbia. It is currently the largest civic museum in Canada and the oldest museum in the city of Vancouver.

Showcasing the history of the city, the museum is a family-friendly place with vintage neon signs and artifacts of interest. It’s a fine attraction with educational historical displays and stories from the past.

It also has numerous permanent and temporary exhibitions alongside a host of galleries showcasing the history of the city throughout the 20th century.

The museum has a large collection of objects which reflect to a large extent the interests of the donors and of the curators who made decisions on acquisitions over the years. These include ethnological items, Asian and Egyptian antiquities and memorabilia relating to important figures and events throughout the history of Vancouver.

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6. Holy Rosary Cathedral

Holy Rosary Cathedral, is a late 19th-century French Gothic revival church that serves as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver.

Official construction of the cathedral began in 1899 on the site of an earlier church by the same name. It was opened on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 8 December, 1900, and was regarded as the “finest piece of architecture west of Toronto and north of San Francisco.”

The church was elevated to the status of cathedral in 1916 and is now listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register as a legally protected building.

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7. Pacific Central Station

Pacific Central Station is a railway station in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, which acts as the western terminus of Via Rail’s cross-country train line to Toronto and the northern terminus of Amtrak’s train line to Seattle and Portland.

The Neoclassical Revival Pacific Central Station was completed in 1919 for the Canadian Northern Railway, and designed by the architecture firm Pratt and Ross. It became a heritage railway station in 1991.

Pacific Central Station is a handsome illustration of Beaux-Arts architectural principles, retaining both the exterior features and interior detailing typical of the style.

The station retains the general layout and major components of its site and serves as a prominent landmark in the urban fabric of Vancouver.

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8. Burnaby Village Museum

Burnaby Village Museum, located at Deer Lake Park, is a must-visit historical site in the Greater Vancouver Area. The open-air museum transports visitors back to a 1920s tram-stop community.

Burnaby Village Museum began in 1971 as part of the Burnaby Centennial Project with a specific goal, according to the museum’s website, to create “a small town reflecting the early history of British Columbia.”

Spanning 10 acres of land, the museum today constitutes of a reconstructed 1920s village, containing 31 full scale buildings and costumed staff demonstrating traditional trades.

Watch for businesses of a bygone era such as Wagner’s Blacksmith Shop, Way Sang Yeun Wat Kee, Chinese Herbalist, Seaforth School and Treble Clef Phonographs.

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9. Marine Building

The Marine Building is a skyscraper located in Downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. It is considered to be one of the world’s most exquisite examples of art deco architecture.

When it opened in 1930, the Marine Building had the distinction of being the tallest building in the British Empire. The building was conceived by Lt. Commander J.W. Hobbs, an entrepreneur from Toronto. Hobbs recognized that the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 would greatly increase Vancouver’s importance as a commercial port, and decided that the city needed a grand and iconic building.

The terra cotta exterior is inlaid with reliefs of state of the art forms of transportation from the 1920s including zeppelins, steamship biplanes, and trains. The giant brass doors pick up the marine theme with intricately carved seaweed, turtles, crabs, and seahorses. The doors open onto a dazzling lobby, where the wall sconces take the form of plaster ships riding the crests of waves carved into the lobby walls. The lobby also contains antique telephone booths with functioning telephones.

Visitors will have plenty to marvel within this architectural gem.

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10. McLean Mill Historic Park

McLean Mill Historic Park is a former sawmill and logging operation located in the Alberni Valley of Vancouver Island.

A legacy of the early British Columbia forest industry, this steam-powered sawmill is typical of many operations that flourished in the province from the 1880s to the 1940s. Although small in scale, it contains many elements of larger coastal mills including the log haul and double circular saws.

The mill is enriched by associated resources that tell the story of logging, transportation and labour. Together, they commemorate an industry that has dominated economic and social life in British Columbia.

McLean Mill is the perfect place for a stroll any time of year. Whether it’s to take in the history or to go for scenic walk with your family or fury baby, you won’t be disappointed. The surroundings are breathtaking.

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