Vancouver Historical Society
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Meetings are held on the fourth Thursday of the month (except in June, July, August and December).

The society sponsors presentations by guest speakers on subjects generally relating to the history of Vancouver.

These gatherings take place in the Vancouver Museum, located at 1100 Chestnut Street at 7.30 pm. Enquire at the Museum desk for directions to the room.

All meetings and events (unless otherwise notated *) are FREE and open to the public and visitors are welcome.

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Current Projects

The Award-Winning City Reflections DVD is now available.

The DVD contains the 53-minute main feature, which was shown on May 22, 2008.

Still from William Harbeck 1907 film  

This main feature is based on the earliest known surviving film footage of Vancouver, shot in 1907 by William Harbeck from the front platform of a streetcar as it made its way through the streets of downtown and the West End. Besides the main feature and 1907 film, it also includes a full-screen version of the same route in 2007. Many additional features round out the DVD including news items from 1907, interviews with film and streetcar historians, and more on the intriguing life of filmmaker William Harbeck who died in the Titanic disaster of 1912.

There is also a special film bonus showing Victoria in 1907. Harbeck shot the film just days before his Vancouver footage. This equally fascinating Victoria footage shows the Francis Rattenbury-designed B.C. Parliament building, the Empress Hotel under construction, downtown streets and views along the Gorge waterway.

For more information or to order your copy of the City Reflections DVD, please visit

Read more about the film here »

Awards for City Reflections DVD

British Columbia Historical Federation's Award of MeritBritish Columbia Historical Federation's Award of Merit, presented by Ronald Greene, BCHF President, in Nelson B.C. on May 16, 2009.



City of Vancouver Heritage Award through the Vancouver Heritage Commission to recognize and honour special projects and accomplishments in the field of Heritage Conservation.




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Historical Markers in Vancouver Parks

The Vancouver Park Board has accepted in principle a Vancouver Historical Society proposal to place two historical markers. One would be at Hallelujah Point in Stanley Park (near the totem poles) and the other at Devonian Park (at the foot of Denman Street), each marking the historical significance of the area. The Park Board conditions are that the Board has the final say over the design and the wording, and that the Vancouver Historical Society must pay for the manufacturing and installation costs, estimated at $5,500. The Society is currently looking for funding for this project.

What follows is the wording that has been proposed for the signs. This information will be written on laminated boards, which will be mounted on metal posts.

The first marker would be placed at Hallelujah Point so that tourists could easily access it from the parking lot. It would consist of a three-part marker, each pointing out a different historical aspect of the surrounding area. Each part would consist of a printed message and photos or illustrations mounted on an angled board and held up by a metal post anchored into a cement base.

The Hallelujah Point marker will have three sections. The left section will have the following words:

Vancouver's First Graveyard From the 1860s until 1887 the deceased from the community here and from the early settlement of Hastings Mill, located across the waters near Gastown, were buried along the shoreline between the Nine O'Clock Gun and the Brockton Point Lighthouse. Bodies were also buried in the nearby wooded area. The graveyard was Vancouver's first burial site but ceased to be used when the Park roadway was built in 1887 and Mountain View cemetery opened that same year.

The centre section will have this information:

A Thriving Settlement
For several millennia Coast Salish people used this site. From the 1860s Europeans, Chinese and others built houses and lived along the shoreline. After Stanley Park was opened in 1888 the Chinese were the first to be removed. Others continued to live here until evicted in 1931, the last person leaving in 1957. One of the families planted lilac bushes to your far left - they are all that remain of this thriving community.

The right section will have this text:

Deadman's Island
Deadman's Island was used by First Nations peoples for millennia as a place for their dead. From the 1860s Europeans, Hawaiians, Asians and others, generally with contagious diseases, were buried there. Others made their homes there. The federal government, which secured title in 1906, repeatedly removed the island's varied inhabitants. In 1942 Deadman's Island became the naval reserve training centre, HMCS Discovery.

Names of the families will be featured separately from the main text, perhaps in a box or as part of the border. They include: Baker, Brew, Brown, untraced Chinese, Cole, Cummings, De Costa, Dunbar, Fernandez, Gonsalves, Klah Chaw, Kulkalem, Long, Mannion, Pells, Shwuthchalton, Silviey, Smith, West.

The second marker would be placed at Devonian Park either near the sidewalk along Georgia Street or along the shore beside the sidewalk there. As the information is layered, a single board held up by a metal post would be appropriate. The Devonian Park marker will have the following text:

From Coal Seams to a Park
This Site's Layers of History
Coal Harbour

In 1859, British Royal Navy Captain George Henry Richards named this bay Coal Harbour, after finding occasional coal seams within its sandstone. As the coal was of low quality and very sparse, it proved to be uneconomic to exploit.

Kanaka Ranch
In the 1860s Coal Harbour was settled by several Hawaiian families and consequently was known as Kanaka Ranch. They grew fruit and vegetables as well as fished and hunted to sustain their small community. They also sold coke, which they made from the local coal, to Hastings Mill, located near Gastown, where the men worked. The children trekked daily along a shore path to school at the Mill. (Possible family names to be added: Eihu, Keamo, Nahanee, Seeemia).

Denman Arena
In 1911 on part of the Kanaka Ranch site, the Patrick brothers built the Denman Arena, which was one of the world's largest indoor rinks at the time, holding 10,500 people. It was home to the Vancouver Millionaires who won the Stanley Cup in 1915. The Arena burned down in 1936.

Georgia Auditorium
In 1927, Frank Patrick built an auditorium at 1805 West Georgia Street alongside the Denman Arena. Over the years, the auditorium and arena hosted boxing and wrestling matches and many rallies as well as other attractions. Originally called Denman Auditorium, the name was changed to Georgia Auditorium in 1952. In 1959 this Vancouver landmark was demolished.

A Park
In 1984, through the will and determination of a number of dedicated people and the philanthropy of the Devonian Institute of Alberta, the Vancouver Parks Board created the Devonian Harbour Park, which you see today.

Another item could be added to the Denman Arena/Georgia Auditorium section, which would give a sampling of the many notables featured over the years at the complex.

For example:


Prime Ministers R. B. Bennett and John Diefenbaker, Premier W. A. C. Bennett


Aimee Semple McPherson


Roald Amundsen


Maurice Ravel


Dizzy Gillespie, Glenn Gould, Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson


Paul Anka, Everly Brothers, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Holly, Jeanette MacDonald, Margaret Truman

Sports Figures:

Jack Dempsey, The Vancouver Millionaires, Percy Williams

Each marker will be credited to the Vancouver Historical Society.

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