Granville Island - History and Facts | History Hit

Granville Island

Vancouver, Canada

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About 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.

Granville Island history

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.

The area in which Granville Island is now located, was orignally a sandbar used by indigenous populations to capture shellfish. Eventually, a permanent village was established called Sen̓áḵw (intepreted as “The place inside the head of 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.

In the 1870s, settlers had established sawmills and logging roads on either side of the False Creek, and when the first Granville Bridge connected the shores of False Creek in 1889, the south side became even more desirable. Building in the area boomed in the following decades as it became apparent that new affordable land with access to water for industry was desperately needed.

In 1915, with the port of Vancouver growing, the newly formed Vancouver Harbour Commission approved a reclamation project in False Creek for an industrial area. At its height in the 1930s, there were 1200 people employed by 40 industrial companies, which manufactured and supplied fibre, rope, chain, and materials for logging, mining and shipping.

While the Great Depression years saw a decline in industry, the Second World War reinvigorated the island. Nonetheless, this sector saw another decline in the post-war years and a series of fires in the 1950s proved to be the final nail in the coffin.

By the 1970s, it was clear something had to be done about neglected Granville Island, and Liberal minister Ron Basford was one of the driving forces behind the proposed revitalization.

Starting in 1975, formerly industrial buildings were rejigged for a wide variety of tenants such as studios, shops, markets, restaurants, community groups etc. The corrugated tin was painted bright colours, while outdoor spaces were revamped. The centrepiece of Granville Island is the Public Market, one of the first buildings to reopen, in 1978.

Granville Island today

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.

The Island also provides an extensive marina, a hotel, Arts Umbrella, False Creek Community Centre, various performing arts theatres including Vancouver’s only professional improvisational theatre company Vancouver Theatresports League, the Arts Club Theatre Company and Carousel Theatre, fine arts galleries, and variety of shopping areas.

Getting to Granville Island

Getting to Granville Island by car is easy as many main routes run nearby, including the Granville St. Bridge above, and 4th Avenue to the south, and Burrard St. to the west.

If travelling by car, travel towards the intersection of West 4th Avenue and Fir Street before heading north and taking either the first right at West 3rd Avenue or the second right at West 2nd Ave.

You will then find yourself at the intersection of West 2nd Avenue and Anderson St., and should be able to see the Granville Island sign under the bridge looking northward on Anderson St. Follow Anderson St. onto Granville Island.

As soon as you turn the corner onto Cartwright St., you’ll notice that all of the streets on the Island are now one-way.

Parking is limited around Granville Island, however drivers may purchase parking time in the designated parking bays for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, or in 1 hour increments.

For those travelling by foot, bicycle or public transport there are various routes that take you to the island. The  number 50 False Creek bus comes from Gastown in the downtown area, along Granville St and stops just off Granville Island.

Bicycle routes to Granville Island follow the main car routes, but there’s also a pleasant, scenic bicycle path (shared with pedestrians) that runs east-to-west past the Island along the south shore of False Creek Inlet. There are multiple entrances to the island for pedestrians (East, West, North and South).


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