A Very Short History of Grandview

I wrote the following for the Vancouver Heritage Foundation in support of their Grandview Heritage Tour (see below).  It has been published today in Spacing, along with photographs.

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For scores of generations, the wooded hills of Grandview were prime hunting and trapping land for First Nations. Once the Europeans arrived, Grandview was the scene of intensive logging, with skid-roads running down to False Creek and Burrard Inlet. Logging continued into the late 1890s and in the entire district less than a dozen houses were occupied before 1901. In 1891, an interurban railway had been built between Vancouver and New Westminster. The route, including what would become Commercial Drive, formerly Park Drive, owed as much to land speculation as it did to transit economics. The interurban made the area better known but, with no transit stops in the neighbourhood, it did little by itself to add to the growth of Grandview.

The situation changed with the new century, as timber leases gave way to speculative acreage, often owned by British interests, which was gradually released for public sale and eagerly sought by a rampant realtor industry. It was further assisted by the incorporation of Grandview into the City’s extensive streetcar system. Residential and commercial development and sales in Grandview were slow until, after weathering a small recession in 1907, the neighbourhood witnessed a massive building boom for several years, peaking in 1912. Many of the Grandview and Commercial Drive properties that seem so characteristic of the district today owe their birth to this boom, from modest homes to grand mansions.

Education and religion were strong components of the community from the earliest years. ‘Xpey Elementary, at Victoria & Hastings, is on the site of the first public building in Grandview, a school built in 1903 to serve the families in Cedar Cove. The original 1910 Britannia Secondary building can still be found just west of the Drive. Two of the earliest churches have undergone radical restorations but both the Cultch, originally a 1909 Methodist church and the 1910 Robertson Presbyterian Church, now a housing complex at Napier and Salsbury, illustrate how heritage is still woven into the living community.

Grandview continued to grow after the First World War but the neighbourhood was hit badly by the Great Depression. It took another war and significant immigration to kick start Grandview’s economy but the place hasn’t looked back since. Entrepreneurial Italians moved into the neighbourhood in large numbers in the 1950s, and a section of Commercial Drive is now officially recognized as Little Italy. They were followed by waves of immigrants from all over the globe, many of whom settled here. It is now a thriving cosmopolitan stew of a place, as a visit to Commercial Drive will show. The Drive’s architectural mix of Edwardian stores with apartments above, the more utilitarian one-storey buidings of the 1920s and 1930s, and a scattering of modern ones, today house street markets and cafes of increasing popularity.

Grandview, with Commercial Drive at its heart, is a fascinating neighbourhood with an evolutionary story that can be seen in its architecture. Exploring its legacy storefronts, well-utilized parks and community spaces, and leafy side streets can be a journey through over 100 years of history.

Interested to learn more about Grandview? Join Vancouver Heritage Foundation for the Grandview Heritage Tour – September 28th, 12pm – 5pm


News from Burnaby Village Museum

Sanya Pleshakov came to our meeting tonight to tell us about all the upcoming things at the Burnaby Village Museum.

If you’re interested, here are the programs starting this Saturday (there are a couple sold out already):


Burnaby Neighbourhood History

Free Speakers Series and Walking Tours

Explore a range of local history, heritage, and cultural topics. Community members are invited to bring their own stories, memories and questions to share. Presented in partnership by the Burnaby Village Museum and the Burnaby Public Library.

Talks »

Walking Tours »

Presentations are free but registration is required. Call the library at 604-436-5400 to reserve your place or use the links below to register online.


History of the Heights

September 25, 7-8:30pm
McGill Library | 4595 Albert Street
Register »

See photographs, share stories, and learn about the history of “the Heights” in North Burnaby. City of Burnaby Heritage Planner Lisa Codd will talk about the early development of the neighbourhood as well as some of the well-known businesses and landmarks that are still part of the community today.

Across the Pacific: Chinese Canadian Stories in Burnaby 

October 2, 7-8:30pm
Tommy Douglas Branch | 7311 Kingsway
Register »

Join us for a virtual tour of Burnaby Village Museum’s Across the Pacific summer exhibition on the history of Chinese Canadians in Burnaby. Co-curator Denise Fong will share stories and historical photographs about Chinese Canadians in Burnaby, and their past and present connections to villages in Guangdong, China. The Hong family from Marine Drive’s Hop On Farm will share about their family’s multigenerational ties to Burnaby and farming in the Big Bend neighbourhood of south Burnaby.

Songs of Resistance

October 16, 7-8:30pm
Burnaby Village Museum | 6501 Deer Lake Avenue
Register »

Join Solidarity Notes Labour Choir and City of Burnaby Heritage Planner Lisa Codd for an evening of song and short presentations about some of the protests and strikes that are part of Burnaby’s history. Singing along is encouraged! In partnership with the City of Burnaby Community Heritage Commission.

Unfounded: Discussions in Decolonizing Heritage

October 23, 7-8:30pm
Bob Prittie Metrotown Library | 6100 Willingdon Avenue
Register »

How do we come to know our communities? What narratives and sense of place shape our connection to the lands we live upon? In this presentation, we will look at how dominant colonial narratives are embedded into the built environment, place names, heritage landscapes, and the very planning of our cities–contributing to exclusion and erasure of the local Coast Salish Nations who have lived on their unceded territories since time immemorial. How has “Heritage” contributed to the harms of colonialism? And what will it take to decolonize and re-Indigenize the stories, landscapes, and understandings of the places we call home? Led by Kamala Todd, Indigenous Community Planner and Filmmaker.


Walking Tours

Explore the outdoors and indoors of our beautiful city during our Neighborhood Histories Series walking tours. Community members are invited to bring their own stories and questions.

Ceperley Estate Walking Tour [sold out]

September 21, 2-3:30pm
Burnaby Art Gallery | 6344 Deer Lake Avenue
Register »

Tour the grounds of the Fairacres Estate, constructed by Grace and Henry Ceperley on the shores of Deer Lake between 1909 and 1911. The tour will feature a peek inside some of the remaining estate buildings, including the Fairacres mansion that is now home to the Burnaby Art Gallery. Tour provided by City of Burnaby Heritage Planner, Lisa Codd.

Heritage Bus Tour to the Transit Museum of BC  [sold out]

September 28, 2-4pm
Cameron Library | 9523 Cameron Street

Join the Transit Museum Society of BC on a bus and walking tour of their vintage fleet and see busses from as far back as the 1930s. Participants will have a chance to learn and explore BC’s transportation history with experts. Tour includes a ride to and from Cameron Branch Library on a vintage bus. Unfortunately, the bus is unable to accommodate wheelchair users–please inform staff at time of registration to make alternate arrangements. Sensible footwear with closed toes are required.

Tour the Al Salaam Mosque & Islamic Education Centre

October 5, 2-3:30pm
Al Salaam Mosque | 5060 Canada Way
Register »

Masjid is Arabic for mosque while Al-Salaam is Arabic for peace. The award-winning design of this architectural marvel was conceived by local Muslim architect Sharif Senbel. Learn from Sharif about the significance behind many of the architectural details, as well as the importance of the Mosque as a place of faith, education and service to the larger community.

GHG Meeting Thursday, Sept 19th, 7:00

Our next Grandview Heritage Group meeting is Thursday, Sept 19th.
We meet in the Britannia Board Room (“Info Centre”) at 7:00 p.m. and will have our usual wide-ranging and open agenda, which this month will include:

  • Introductions
  • Michael Kluckner on the character house motion Councillor Hardwick is proposing to stem the tide of demolitions in RS zones. It has some relevance to the RT zones that are a large part of Grandview; there are RS zones here too.
  • The Vancouver Heritage Foundation Grandview Tour on Sept 28th (see below)
  • Our Century Signs campaign for 2019–2020
  • Changes around the neighbourhood — Eric

Our discussions are always educational and entertaining … And, as usual, our agenda is flexible, and we are always happy to add items that you might want to discuss.
Everyone is welcome! Do come and join us!

Note that the Vancouver Heritage Foundation is putting on a Grandview Heritage Tour on Sept 28th and they are looking for a few more volunteers to help out. They’re wondering if any of our GHG members would be interested in volunteering.  In exchange for assisting during half of the tour, volunteers receive a ticket for the tour for the rest of the day. More details can be found on the volunteering page of the VHF website.