Speaking of Vancouver in the Fifties, as I was last time, I was struck recently by this photograph from the archives (Vancouver Public Library 81817). It shows the city's West End looking north across Burrard Inlet to the mountains. You can see that there are pretty well no tall buildings?west of Burrard Street, which is the main thoroughfare running north from the bridge.
The photo was taken in 1952, just a few years before the first high rise residential tower went up in the West End. In 1956 the city did away with the six-storey height restriction on buildings, setting off a building boom that lasted two decades. By the time it was over, in the early 1970s, the West End had become the neighbourhood?of soaring concrete towers familiar to us today. Between 1956 and 1976 developers built 181 high rises; that is, buildings between ten and 32 stories.
Today the West End is considered a very attractive neighbourhood, close to Stanley Park,?to downtown shops and jobs, to the English Bay beaches and the Coal Harbour seawall. I am envious every time I stroll through it. So it is hard to remember that at the time the high rise boom was considered a bit of a mistake. Supposedly densification led?to traffic congestion, unfriendly streets, crime, etc. That's why the "reform" city council elected in 1972 brought the building frenzy to a halt. Now, of course, it is considered the precursor of the high-density downtown living that is celebrated as "Vancouverism."
Anyway, the photo captures the low-rise city just before its transformation into the City of Glass, which is why it appeals to me.?
One of my favourite books about Vancouver is Eva Hoffman's 1989 memoir Lost in Translation. Hoffman writes about her life growing up in Poland and emigrating to Canada with her parents and sister?when she was just entering her teens at the end of the 1950s. The family settled in Vancouver and judging from?her book Eva hated everything about the city, which she called "a bit of nowhere."
With the bracing certainty of adolescence, she dismissed?the people?as shallow and...
Today's New York Times has an article about the Nanaimo Bar, that custardy treat that according to the Times all of us up here north of the border just can't get enough of. (Does that make me less of a Canadian? I have never liked them, too sweet.) There is even a recipe.
The origin?of the bars has?always been hard to pin down. The Times puts it in the 1950s and suggests that they were...
The new issue of Canada's History, just out, contains a small contribution from myself, a review of Rick James's book?about rum-running on the BC coast. But the main feature in the mag is an article by James Naylor assessing the significance of the Winnipeg General Strike.
This year is the centenary of the strike, which took place in the spring of?1919. It came at the end of a...
The second stage of our walk along the Arbutus Greenway (part one here) took us south from 16th Avenue into the heart of Kerrisdale. Because the southern border of Vancouver used to be 16th, the entire route runs through what was the municipality of South Vancouver (until 1908) and then the municipality of Point Grey. Vancouver expanded to absorb its neighbouring municipalities on Jan. 1, 1929.
Anyway, this section of the...