West Vancouver Timeline

West Vancouver Timeline

Our West Vancouver Timeline will always be “a work in progress”. We welcome suggestions regarding historical events not yet included in the Timeline.

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.

Credits: 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. Pre-contact to 1938 was written and adapted by Gallery Guide Volunteer Yvonne Wilson, March 2003.



Squamish and Burrard Peoples lived on the North Shore for millennia before recorded time.


1791: First European sighting of the future 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: In the year of the Gold Rush, BC became a British Colony. The North Shore is surveyed and land purchased.


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 1880s.


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 pre-emption 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 began 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 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.