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West Vancouver Timeline


Our WV Timeline will always be "a work in progress". We welcome suggestions regarding historical events not yet included in the Timeline.


Pre contact: Squamish and Burrard peoples lived on the North Shore for centuries.

1791: First European sighting of West Vancouver. Pilot Don Jose Narvaez passed through English Bay and explored the northwest to Jervis Inlet in the 36-foot sloop Santa Saturnia.

1792: On July 3 Captain George Vancouver entered First Narrows and explored Burrard Inlet. First Nations peoples from the village of Holmulchesun greeted him, which was located at the mouth of the Capilano River.

1858: The B.C. mainland was proclaimed a British Colony. Surveyor S.J. Dawson recommended to the Canadian Government that the West Vancouver area be the terminus for the Transcontinental Railway.

1859:  Captain Richards surveyed from the H.M.S. Plumper and recommended the Burrard Inlet as a more protected harbour for settlement and the railway. He pointed out that the South Shore was more accessible by land. Richards selected Point Atkinson as a British Naval Reserve.

1863: Corporal Turner of the British Royal Engineers completed a survey setting out the boundaries of Reserve No.5, home of the Squamish Nation, at the mouth of the Capilano River.

1868: John "Navvy Jack" Thomas, who began the first ferry service across the Burrard Inlet, began extracting sand and gravel from the west side of the Capilano River. This material was used in the making of concrete and was transported in his five-ton sloop to construction sites in Moodyville, Hastings and Gastown.

1869: Sewell Moody obtained timber leases for both sides of the Capilano.

1870: Sewell Moody, who had purchased the Pioneer Mill in 1864, acquired two timber leases west of the Capilano River. The smaller lease extended along the shore west of Cypress Creek to Point Atkinson and was soon exhausted of available timber. The larger lease extended east from 22nd Street to the Capilano River and north to the headwaters of Brothers Creek. Moody's main camp at Ambleside operated into the 1880's.

1872: James Blake became the first non-native landowner in West Vancouver, pre-empting 160 acres on either side of Lawson Creek (l7th Street).

1873: John "Navvy Jack" Thomas, who had married the granddaughter of Chief Capilano, sold his half interest in the Granville Hotel and arranged to take over Blake's preemption and built a house for his bride.

1874: Arthur Finney began construction of a wooden lighthouse on May 4th at Point Atkinson. The lantern for Point Atkinson arrived in January and in March the first Light Keeper, Edwin Woodward began work for an annual salary of $800. First pre-emption on Bowen Island by William Eaton.

1876: The first settlers' children were born in West Vancouver; Christine Thomas at Navvy Jack Point and James Atkinson Woodward at Point Atkinson.

1877: Josias Charles Hughes pre-empted 121 acres at Ambleside, the territory between Blake's property and the Capilano Indian Reserve. Isaac Fisher, a New Westminster banker, filed a pre-emption and mineral claim in the Whytecliff area.

1882: The B.C. Government suspended the pre-emption privileges and cancelled those on which the required improvements had not been made - to prevent land speculation until the location of the railway terminus had been determined.

1885: The first commuter, "Navvy Jack" Thomas, used a rowboat to commute to Vancouver from his home on the West Vancouver waterfront.

1886: The railway terminus was established and the City of Vancouver incorporated in April. On June 13th everything west of Hastings Mill burnt to the ground. The shoreline of West Vancouver was rapidly pre-empted. This pattern of settlement along the water was dictated by the early settlers dependency on the water and lack of access by land. A road survey crew ran a preliminary trail from Capilano to Eagle Harbour but this was quickly overgrown. Construction began on the first Capilano Dam.

The first land pre-emptors in West Vancouver were:

J.P. Hughes "Navvy Jack" Thomas J.R. Chapman J. McCormack A.N.C. King P.A. Allen Stan James Murray Thain Peter Larson Ed Collett Nils Frolander Capt. Westerlunder A. Nelson Capt. Alcock Richard Gosse J.C. Wilson

Lack of access to land discouraged further pre-emption activity until 1891.

1890: Canessas Fish Smokehouse operating on Eagle Island. Pilot Cutter "Claymore" based in Pilot Cove.

1891: The City of North Vancouver was established which included all of the present West Vancouver. The total population was 300. The promise of a road to Eagle Harbour stimulated a new surge of pre-emption and other land speculation. A syndicate headed by the Burrard Inlet Coal Co. promoted the sale of residential lots in the City of Newcastle. This was the name used to describe early West Vancouver; the company also claimed the existence of a substantial coal deposit. Like many promotions of the time, the scheme evaporated, as did the proposed road construction. The severe depression of the 1890's dried up the land speculation.

1892: In an effort to attract settlers, North Vancouver negotiated a loan ($40,000 for 50 years at 8%) to build a road or wagon trail from Deep Cove to Eagle Harbour. Fourteen years will pass before this road reaches West Vancouver. J.C. Keith who underwrote the loan gave his name to the road.

1893: The first school was opened on Bowen Island; Mr. William Acheson was hired to teach for $50 a month.

1897: The Whiteside and Burnham Cannery erected at Eagle Harbour at August Nelson's unfinished mill site. This cannery continued as late as 1918. John Cates ran a ferry service to Bowen Island.

1898: The Defiance Cannery was erected at Sandy Cove and was operated by several owners into the 1950's. It is now a Fisheries Research Station. Francis Wm. Caulfeild bought acreage around Skunk Cove from Balfor Ker. Ker acquired the property from Nils Frolander, the original pre-emptor. Ker allowed the Pilot Boat Captains to erect the "Pilot House" just outside the Cove. Caulfeild charged the Pilots $1 a month rental so that the pilots would have no claim on the land.

1902: A few early residents in West Vancouver. Some were earning a living providing farm products to the lumber mill at Moodyville in North Vancouver. Others worked for the Great Northern Cannery (although the work was seasonal and most employees itinerant). Others came simply to enjoy the beauty and the solitude of their recreational cottages.

1905: The order of sale in default of $1320 mortgage issued against the estate of John "Navvy Jack" Thomas. J.C. Keith then purchased the property. An eight-mile shingle bolt flume down the Capilano was completed.

1906: In November John Lawson purchased the Navvy Jack Thomas property from J.C. Keith. On December 6th, Lawson leases part of his new waterfront property to the McNair Timber Co. Ltd. For use as a railway log dump and booming ground. The yearly rent was $35.

1907: McNair-Fraser Lumber Co. built a logging railway that ran from the pier on the 16th Street waterfront north east through the middle of the 1200 block Inglewood to approximately 11th Street where it turned north, then curved north east crossing Brothers Creek. There were two camps; the lower was near 11 th Street and the upper approximately 1-mile beyond. The lower camp had a large stable, a cookhouse and a bunkhouse. The upper had a blacksmith's shop, 3 bunkhouses and a combination cookhouse, store and dining hall.

1908: The McNair-Fraser Lumber Company needed something better than a locomotive to cope with West Vancouver's steep hills to get to the logging sites so purchased a unique cable engine called the "Walking Dudley". The Dudley made 4 round trips in a 10-hour day trailing 10 to 16 logs each time. The first Presbyterian and Methodist Church services were held in John Lawson's home.

1907-1913: The provincial government divided the land into parcels with road allowances at _ mile intervals. Unlike the divisions in Caulfeild and later the British Properties, the grid does not consider topography. As a result many roads go straight up hill instead of following contours this results in steep grades and a propensity to flood.

1909: John Lawson began the development of the Hollyburn area (near the waterfront). A ferry service between West Vancouver and Vancouver harbour was initiated. Also a daily ferry service to Bowen Island from Vancouver. A dynamite plant opens on Bowen Island and a number of accidental explosions lead to an inquest and juries recommendation that books of rules be printed in Chinese as the Chinese workers cannot read the English warnings and instructions.

1910: The North Vancouver District Council built a wharf at Hollyburn (l7th Street) at a cost of $9,000. The wharfs exposed situation made it unsuitable for ferries it was also too short and did not extend into deep water. This did not prevent it from still being used by ferries between 1909 and 1912. It became an attraction for tourists and young fishermen. The foundations for the Presbyterian Church were laid at the southeast corner of 18th and Marine Drive. On April 24 a two-day forest fire threatens the upper camp of McNairs logging operation.

1911: Scattered tents and summer cottages dotted the shore of West Vancouver. Miss Mary Reid came from Ontario to teach the 14 boys and girls who were of school age in West Vancouver. The students were between the ages of 5 and 14. Before she arrived the children had to hike over the Keith Road to North Vancouver. Before the Presbyterian Church is complete the services were held in a makeshift tent. But one day the tent collapsed under the weight of a heavy snowfall, so a more sturdy, temporary building had to be constructed. To help pay the costs of the new building a decision was made that it would be rented to the school board as a schoolhouse.

1912: West Vancouver becomes a separate District Municipality. The split between North and West Vancouver was amicable-even as terms were discussed the North Shore Council approved a by-law for $100,000 to improve Keith Road and to build Marine Drive. Charles Nelson was elected first Reeve (Mayor) and the first Municipal Hall was built at a cost of $3500. At separation West Vancouver assumed $156,000 of North Vancouver's debt of $54,300,000 (a heavy load for a population of 700). The debt was accumulated for development costs and services. By the end of 1912 the school population was 44. The Council tried to encourage industry (fish canneries, logging). The Clachan hotel is built by the Stevenson sisters at the east side of 25th Street and the waterfront. David Rogers built a timber mill above McNairs upper camp and the Walking Dudley's track was extended to serve the mill.

1912: The first lighthouse at Pt. Atkinson was torn down and replaced by a new tower.  Col. Wm. P. Anderson, Chairman of the Dominion Lighthouse Board designed a concrete hexagonal tower, 65' high, embracing six buttresses, which stood 108' high above sea level.

1913: The Conservative Hall is built at Dundarave. The first classes for children in the Dundarave area were held in the Conservative Hall with Miss MacKay as Principal. They moved into a new two-room schoolhouse in 1918 at the site of the West Vancouver Care Centre. A two-room schoolhouse called Hollyburn is built and Miss Lillian Smith became principal. In July the ferry service moved to the foot of 14th Street, where a new pier, freight shed and ticket office were built. (Today the ticket office is known as the Ferry Building Gallery). The first St. Stephens Church was built. Campbell and O'Conner opened a lumber mill at 3rd Street and Mathers. F.W. Cardinell Shingle Mill builds at 27th Street and Marine.

1913:  First Reported (toll station) telephones in West Vancouver.

1914:  First telephone switchboard with 35 magneto 'phones located in John Lawson's real estate office.

1914: The Pacific Great Eastern (P.G .E.) passenger service had its first run to Dundarave on January 1. On January 2 the train derailed at 24th Street. The original Methodist Church was at 2200 Fulton. A pier was built at Dundarave to provide transportation for those living in the area. McNair and Fraser Lumber Co. ceased to operate. Hollyburn Lumber Company opened a mill at 14th Street and Fulton.

1915: Marine Drive to Caulfeild was officially opened.

1916: The Dundarave pier built in 1914 was not well used and was discontinued in favour of a bus system. The bus service was inaugurated to 25th Street, the bus held 12 people and ran on an hourly basis.

1917: Logging was still a major industry with seven operators and several small contractors establishing shingle mills, lumber mills and logging operations in West Vancouver.

1917: Telephone exchange opened at 1718 Marine Drive with 65  magneto 'phones connected.

1918: The Council decided to obtain foreshore rights in Horseshoe Bay, Copper Cove and Fisherman's Cove. The Council now wanted to control all the foreshores and faced the problem of expropriating established housing. A 10,877 foot timber flume was built from the McNair, Fraser Lumber Co. mill on Hollyburn Ridge to the P.G.E. Station at Sharon Drive.

1918-1920: The number of schools was growing with the opening of Cypress Park School and the 22nd Street School (Pauline Johnson).

1919: The West Vancouver Courier, the first regularly published paper came into existence. It was printed until 1921.

1921: A one-roomed school in a rented private house was opened in the Whyte Cliff area.

1922: The introduction of electric power, before this time coal, oil lamps, wood stoves were used.

1924: Telephones converted from magneto to manual service - 418 telephones in service.

1925: A new St. Stephens Church was built. The old church became the parish hall. A small amount of logging continued as an element of land clearing. Skiing on Hollyburn Mountain was started by three Scandinavian who used the deserted logging bunkhouses as their cabins. The area around the cabins had been previously logged and provided open areas for cross-country skiing. By the Fall of 1926 they had moved up the hill to ski camps at First Lake. A ski jump was also built on the east side of First Lake.

1926: The Council initiated the Town Planning Act and zoning By-laws to ensure a quality residential area free of major industry. West Vancouver becomes a strictly residential community. The Library was moved from its old home, in Gemmill's Drug Store on the corner of 14th Street and Bellevue, to a more modern home at the corner of 14th Street and Marine. Hollyburn Theatre opened with five vaudeville acts and a "Great War Play" entitled 'The Dark Angel'. A large shingle mill was demolished to clear a site for the Inglewood School.

1927: Gleneagles Golf Course opened. Hollyburn Pacific Ski Club was formed. Inglewood School was opened as the West Vancouver High School. The first apartment block was built in West Vancouver, called "Appleton Court". (The west end of the current West Vancouver Municipal Hall is situated on this property at 17th Street and Esquimalt.

1931: The British Pacific Properties Limited company was formed. The Sewell family arrived in Horseshoe Bay to set up a boat rental business. The first May Day was celebrated in West Vancouver and the first Queen, Peggy Barker was chosen. May Day continued until 1973.

1938: Lions Gate Bridge opened to traffic. The official opening in 1939 was presided over by H.M. King George VI. The population of West Vancouver at that time was 8,324.

1938: New telephone exchange opened at 6093 Marine Drive to serve 52 customers in the Caulfeild and Horseshoe Bay area.

1950: West Vancouver Memorial Library opened (November 11, 1950) at its present location.

1956: New telephone exchange opened at 1651 Inglewood Avenue providing dial service to over 7400 customers.

1958: West Vancouver Recreation Centre opened at 22nd and Marine Drive

1963: Ice Arena constructed

1964: The new West Vancouver Municipal Hall opened November 20, 1964 at 750 17th Street

1977: West Vancouver Memorial Library expansion completed with official opening of new premises on November 14, 1977.

1979: July 23, 1979 – Tribute to Rupert A Harrison on his retirement after 42 years of service to the Municipality of West Vancouver having served 36 of those years as Municipal Clerk. September 30, 1979 – Municipal Parks and Public Works Yard opened on Cypress Bowl Road.

1981: Opening of the West Vancouver Seniors Centre at 21st and Marine Drive.  The Centre was awarded the 1981 Canadian Architects’ Award of Excellence and the 1985 Canadian Parks and Recreation Association Facility Excellence Award.

1982: March 22, 1982 – endorsement of the formation of the West Vancouver Historical Society for the purpose of preserving West Vancouver’s historical heritage for the knowledge and benefit of all the citizens of West Vancouver.

1985: Negotiations underway with the Squamish Band to allow development of Ambleside Park and the Centennial Seawalk. Horseshoe Bay Revitalization initiated.

1987: District of West Vancouver 75th Anniversary Celebrations

1992: Official Presentation of the Patent of Registration for the Coat of Arms of the District of West Vancouver.

1994: Gertrude Lawson House opened as the Municipal Museum and Archives on July 1, 1994. Through cooperation with BC Rail, preservation of almost all usable land along Seaview Walk for recreational community development became a reality. Dedication  of certain municipal lands above Upper Levels Highway as old growth wilderness park.

1994: Pt. Atkinson was designated a National Historic site in recognition of its crucial role in navigation and life saving to B.C's marine trade.

1995: Expanded Seniors’ Centre opened. Citizen Survey of 1995 awarded the municipal organization a 97 percent approval rating.

1996: Lightkeeper services were terminated at Pt. Atkinson on May 31st, and the station was automated with solar panels and batteries to power a rotating beacon and electronic foghorns.  The horns were permanently removed two years later.

1997: West Vancouver Court House officially amalgamated with North Vancouver and moved to that district. District of West Vancouver wins Communities In Bloom Award.

1999: BC Ferries/Horseshoe Bay development issues escalate. Recreation Facilities Master Plan developed.

2000: Celebration of the Millennium with completion of the Millennium Clock and Millennium Tree projects.

2010: February 12 to 28 - 2010 Winter Olympics, snowboarding and freestyle skiing events on "Cypress Mountain".

2010: May 23, 2010 - Commemoration of the Lions Gate Bridge as a National Historic Site.

Content originally from the West Vancouver Museum & Archives. Compiled from material collected by: Hugh Johnston and Dave Barker, West Vancouver Historical Society, Rupert Harrison, District of West Vancouver, and the West Vancouver Museum and Archives. This version (Pre contact to 1938) was written and adapted by Gallery Guide Volunteer Yvonne Wilson, March 2003, and reformatted for the WVHS website, October, 2009