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Vancouver Gazetteer

 

Since the late 1800s, HBC has had a strong presence in Vancouver – one that is certainly evident in the number of references to the Company that pop up all over the city.  Just in the downtown core alone there are many significant references to HBC heritage. Starting in Stanley Park and working your east, these sites include:

Prospect Point in Stanley Park

Located at the northern tip of Stanley Park, Prospect Point is the resting place of one of HBC’s most significant ships.  Today a cairn and plaque honour the famous S.S. Beaver.  Arriving from Britain in 1836, she was the first steamship to operate on B.C.’ s coast, and in 1858 she brought James Douglas and a party of dignitaries to Fort Langley, where on November 19th Douglas was sworn in as the first Governor of the new colony of British Columbia. The  S.S. Beaver was leased to the government as a survey vessel in 1863 and sold to private interests in 1874. In 1888 the 53 year old ship’s career came to an end when she was wrecked off the rocks at Prospect Point.  She remained part of the Vancouver shoreline for four years until finally breaking up and sinking in 1892. During those years many of her fittings were scavenged and turned into souvenirs. The ship’s hull, however, still remains under water and has become a popular scuba diving site.  Such is the Beaver’s fame that it is debated whether Beaver Lake, in the middle of Stanley Park, is not named after her as well.


Weeks House, built 1895. Now the Diamond Centre for Living.

Weeks House in the West End - 1459 Barclay Streete

George W. Weeks came to Vancouver in 1886 to run the city’s first HBC store. Prior to that he had been served at both Fort Yale and Fort Hope. Weeks built this house in 1895 in the West End, where he lived with his wife, Hannah, and their four children. The house remained in the family until 1950. The Parks Board purchased it in the mid-1960s and it later received heritage designation. During the 1990s it was extensively restored. In 1994 the City arranged that it should be leased to the Vancouver Friends for Life Society for $1 a year.  This charitable organization provides support to people living with life-threatening illness, as well as assistance for their families and friends.  In 1995 it was renamed the Diamond Centre for Living in honour of the Diamond Family who donated money for its renovation.

Helmcken Street in Central Downtown Vancouver

This street is named for Dr. John Helmcken (1824-1920), who began his career with HBC in 1850 as a doctor in Victoria. Helmcken later married Cecilia Douglas, the daughter of HBC Chief Factor and Crown Colony Governor, James Douglas.  Like his father-in-law, Helmcken was also heavily involved in politics. In 1856 he was elected to Vancouver Island's first Legislative Assembly.  He served as Speaker of the Assembly until 1866, when Vancouver Island and the mainland colony of British Columbia were united, and in 1870, Helmcken was one of the three British Columbia delegates sent to Ottawa to negotiate Confederation with Canada.  

Hudson House on Water Street in Gastown - 321 Water Street

Hudson House, Vancouver

In 1895, Hudson's Bay Company built this facility in Gastown to serve as its main warehouse for fur and liquor products.  From this location, the Company did a booming business outfitting prospectors and supplying provisions and mining equipment during the Klondike gold rush. It continued to be used as HBC’s warehouse into the 1960s. The structure was gutted by a fire in 1972, but was subsequently renovated in 1977 by architect Werner Foster to accommodate offices and retail space. Designed in Richardsonian Romanesque style by W. T. Dalton, the building still exists today, and is known as Hudson House. A plaque on its exterior acknowledges its original function.

 


 


 

 

Woodward's downtown Vancouver store

 

Woodward’s - 101 West Hastings

The Woodward’s Department store, designed by George Wenyon, et al, was established at Hastings and Abbott in 1903. Over the years, however, it grew to occupy half of the block in the vicinity of Hastings, Abbott, Cordova and Cambie. Woodward’s business, headed by the family patriarch Charles Woodward, grew tremendously in the first decade of the 20th century, becoming famous for promotions such as 25-cent Days.  Introduced in 1910, this promotion had legs: decades later $1.49 Days were still around! By the 1980s, however, business was faltering and in 1992 the company filed for bankruptcy. The next year HBC acquired most of the company's assets. When the once great department store closed its doors on January 15, 1993 the feeling was that of the end of an era.  However, the well-known landmark – home of the famous tower with the illuminated “W” on top – has since received heritage designation, and is now part of a major mixed usage revitalization project in the Downtown East side.

Yaletown

The town of Yale, located upriver in the FraserValley, began life in 1848, when Hudson's Bay Company set up shop there and established FortYale. Yale was named after James Murray Yale, once the Chief Factor at Fort Langley. In 1858, when gold was discovered just 2 miles south of Yale on the Fraser River, large numbers of people began to pour into the area from all over the world. Yale suddenly became a large city with many stores, restaurants and hotels along the river. Later, during the railway construction in the 1880s, Yale became the main supply centre for all the work in the Cascade Division of British Columbia. When the CPR men moved down the line and set up a new centre along False Creek in Vancouver, they took the name with them and their new site became know as Yaletown. In the early 20th century, Yaletown became Vancouver's warehouse district. Today many of those buildings have acquired heritage designation, been restored and converted into apartments, offices and retail space. Yaletown is now a thriving urban neighbourhood, home to some of the city's top fashion and design shops, restaurants and bars.