West Vancouver Historical Society’s Unique Role in the Community
Our purpose is to preserve and promote awareness of West Vancouver’s history. Membership is open to any individual, association, company or professional group interested in enjoying, celebrating and preserving the history of West Vancouver.
We acknowledge that we are on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Musqueam Nation. We recognize and respect them as nations in this territory, as well as their historic connection to the lands and waters around us since time immemorial.
1980 Founding of the West Vancouver Historical Society
The West Vancouver Historical Society began as a committee within the Rotary Club of West Vancouver. Members of the Rotary Club of West Vancouver, including Rupert Harrison, Hugh Johnston, Harvey Hill, and Thomas Erling-Tyrell, saw the need to preserve the history of West Vancouver. The concept was discussed at a series of meetings with the Mayor, Municipal Manager, and other officials of the Corporation of the District of West Vancouver. The Rotary Club was encouraged to proceed and the members approved the proposal on April 30, 1980. Start-up funding was assigned and an application for incorporation under the Society Act was prepared.
The Rotary Club as a non-profit society under the Society Act of British Columbia incorporated the West Vancouver Historical Society on July 17, 1980. An interim executive committee of Rotarians was appointed to organize a series of events as part of a membership campaign. The old West Vancouver Ferry “Hollyburn” was chartered for a memory cruise and the first sixty members were signed up. A series of lectures and slide shows attracted sufficient new members during 1981 that the Rotary committee stepped aside and called for an election of officers from within the society membership.
1982 The First Annual General Meeting
The first Annual General Meeting of the Society was held January 21, 1982. Bernard (Bernie) G. Holt, recently retired West Vancouver Senior Secondary School Principal, was elected President of the Society.
In March 1983 the Historical Society began publishing a newsletter. The original title of the newsletter was Histrionics, later changed to History-Onics. The purpose of the newsletter was to inform the membership about the activities of the society, and to publish vignettes related to the history of West Vancouver. The newsletter continues today under the moniker, West Vancouver Memories.
1984 The Society changes name and orientation
In September 1984, a new name, the West Vancouver Museum and Historical Society, reflected a change in orientation. Initially, the society’s purpose was to collect archival material and only secondarily, museum artifacts. The change in name indicated the Society would start working towards the creation of a museum and archives in West Vancouver. In partnership with the Municipality, the Society worked towards the creation of a museum and archives in West Vancouver for the collection, preservation, storage and housing of historical materials.
1992 Growth of the Society and the Gertrude Lawson House
The Historical Society grew rapidly to more than 500 members. A fund raising program was implemented to obtain suitable housing for the growing collection. The Society was instrumental in securing the former home of Gertrude Lawson as a site for the West Vancouver Museum and Archives. The Society succeeded in raising more than $500,000, which, with municipal, provincial and heritage partners, led to the establishment of the West Vancouver Museum and Archives. The building was extensively renovated and on June 29, 1992, was officially dedicated as the home of the West Vancouver Museum and Archives.
1993 Support to the Museum and Archives
By 1993, professional operating staff was in place. The community Museum and Archives was a reality. The Society was able to revert to a support role by forming a volunteer pool for the facility and for fund raising activities. At the annual general meeting on March 25, 1993, the name was changed back to West Vancouver Historical Society.
After separating from the Rotary Club, the Society became the support group for the new Museum, providing volunteers to work at the museum, running the Gift Shop, obtaining grants and assisting with funds when needed. It also assisted in obtaining photographs and memorabilia for the Museum and Archives.
1998 Preserving the Point Atkinson Lightstation
WVHS has also been instrumental in advocating for the preservation of Point Atkinson Lightstation. In 1998, PALS, the Point Atkinson Lightstation Sub-committee of WVHS, began advocating the development of this national heritage site as an interpretive centre. PALS continue today to advocate for the preservation and promotion of the Lightstation.
2010 Lions Gate Bridge Heritage Site Advocacy
WVHS was instrumental in achieving the designation of the Lions Gate Bridge as a National Heritage Site
2012 WVHS Books
Newcomers to West Vancouver have been able to learn about the community’s past through two recent publications celebrating our history — the 2012 centennial book “Cottages to Community, the story of West Vancouver’s Neighbourhoods”, and in 2014, “Arrivals and Departures, the Story of the People and Ferries of Horseshoe Bay”.
2016 Initiation of West Vancouver Stories Oral History Project
In 2016, “West Vancouver Stories”, a project affiliated with WVHS, is the community’s first formal and continuing oral history project, collecting the stories and memories of the people who built West Vancouver.
The Museum has, over the past ten years, moved away from being an artifact museum to become more of an architectural and art museum. The Society reinvented itself, as it was no longer needed by the Museum. In recent years, the Society’s support has been directed more to the Archives and it also moved into bringing West Vancouver’s history to the citizens of the community, through its publication of books, presentation of speakers and outreach.
Our most recent book, “Dreamers and Designers, The Shaping of West Vancouver” by Francis Mansbridge with photographs by John Moir was published in October 2018. This book look sat the relationship of the British Properties and the Park Royal Shopping Centre and their role in shaping the development of West Vancouver.
Proceeds from the sale of these books have supported initiatives at the West Vancouver Art Museum, the Archives and the West Vancouver Memorial Library for projects designed to preserve West Vancouver’s history and make it available to the community. Future books are under consideration.