Building Communities

One of the earliest residents of Lynn Valley was George Smith, shown here outside his property on Campbell Avenue in 1909. Shaketown was still an isolated community, a long way from the business centres of Moodyville and Lower Lonsdale. NVMA 26-19D-8

The District of North Vancouver was incorporated as an organized community in 1891. Property owners, most of whom had invested in land but did not actually live on the North Shore, had decided the previous winter that the time had come to form a municipality. They were encouraged by the creation of Vancouver in 1886 and the spurt of growth that the city subsequently experienced. Property values soared amid a frenzy of building and speculation. Why could not the same expansion occur on the north side of the inlet?

During a visit to Vancouver in 1892, the writer Rudyard Kipling purchased a lot in North Vancouver, making him eligible to vote in the local election in 1897. By then he was back in England and did not cast a ballot.

At the end of 1890 the proponents of incorporation held meetings in Vancouver to discuss their options. They agreed to petition the provincial government to create a municipality. Events moved quickly and the District of North Vancouver was inaugurated by letters patent dated August 10, 1891. The new district stretched from Horseshoe Bay in the west to Deep Cove in the east, excluding the First Nations reserves, which belonged to the federal government, and the two lots (DL 272 and 273) that comprised Moodyville. In total, the new district encompassed about 25,900 hectares (64,000 acres) extending from the waterfront up the flanks of the North Shore Mountains.

On August 22, 1891, the district’s handful of registered voters elected their first government, Reeve C. J. P. Phibbs and four councillors. Polling took place at Tom Turner’s farmhouse, which was located at the foot of what is now Chesterfield Avenue. This humble cabin, formerly a saloon operated by Turner’s uncle, William Bridge, can be called the birthplace of North Vancouver. High on the agenda for the new council was the need for roads to open the municipality to development. Thanks to local land promoter James Cooper Keith, who underwrote a loan on council’s behalf, work commenced on a road that would eventually extend across the District from one end to the other. Progress was slow. The North Shore was covered in thick forests and rock was very close to the surface. Heavy rainfall and the steep terrain led to constant flooding in some seasons. Roads, bridges, water lines and sewers all were vulnerable to washout and collapse. It was several years before Keith Road was finished—and even then it was rough going in places—but it was a start. Today Keith Road, sometimes under different names and not always contiguous, remains a major thoroughfare carrying traffic across the North Shore.

Tom Turner’s house, once a saloon, was the birthplace of North Vancouver where polling took place for the election of the District’s first government in 1891. NVMA 251

Every bit as important as the creation of a government was the formation that same year of the North Vancouver Land and Improvement Company. The NVLIC was a group of British investors, led by a wealthy Anglo-Irish landowner named John Mahon, with high ambitions for the North Shore. John Mahon sent one of his younger brothers, Edward, out to British Columbia to manage and extend his investments, and it is Edward, through the NVLIC, who is closely associated with the growth of North Vancouver. The company obtained several lots in the new District and began making them available for purchase by settlers. The first “stump farmers” settled in the vicinity of what is now 15th Street and Lonsdale, commuting downhill along a rough logging road to the ferry wharf and across the inlet to Vancouver. The 1901 census revealed a District population of 365 people.

Two other prominent speculators also acquired property. Alfred St. George Hamersley, a well-to-do Vancouver lawyer, purchased the District lot to the south of the NVLIC lands straddling Lonsdale Avenue, called it the Town of Lonsdale and subdivided it into lots. And on either side of Hamersley’s property, the Lonsdale Estate, another syndicate of British investors, owned significant holdings. With all these wealthy promoters vying to make money from their assets, the District experienced a period of impressive development, focused on the emerging commercial centre at the bottom of Lonsdale Avenue. One important landmark was the Hotel North Vancouver, opened on the Esplanade just west of Lonsdale by Peter Larson, a Swedish immigrant, in 1902. At that time the Esplanade was much closer to the waterfront than it is today. With lawns running down to the shore, the hotel became a favoured resort for people from Vancouver who came to enjoy the beach, the bandstand and the annual Canada Day celebrations. In 1903 the District could finally afford to build a municipal hall, at the corner of 1st Street and Lonsdale, where the council began meeting instead of in downtown Vancouver. The ferry service across Burrard Inlet was improved. The first school opened in 1902, along with the first bank in 1905. The District’s first newspaper, the Express, began publishing in 1905. A system of pipes brought drinking water from Lynn Creek, and on Labour Day in 1906 the BC Electric Railway Company (BCER) opened a streetcar line up Lonsdale from the ferry wharf as far as 12th Street. This was just three weeks after the first electric lights lit the streets of the young community. In other words, the District was acquiring all the amenities of a modern municipality.

> The Smallest Streetcar System

> How Did Lonsdale Get Its Name?

It was also growing geographically. One of the first neighbourhoods to develop outside the central core was North (or Upper) Lonsdale, originally known as “Spar Hill” for the fine stands of tall timber logged to produce ships’ masts. In 1902 a Boer War veteran named Thomas Nye received 160 acres (64.7 ha) of land in the vicinity of what is now Lonsdale Avenue and 29th Street in recognition of his military service. Nye joined just three other settlers who were living so far from the water, their remote lots connecting to “civilization” via a rough trail running down the hill through the trees. Nye built an impressive home for himself and sold some of his lots to other pioneers. The house, which still stands, is known today as “Nye’s Folly” because he went broke trying to finish it. (His real estate office also survives, as a private residence.) Another promoter of the neighbourhood was Jack Loutet, whose real estate company handled many North Lonsdale properties. Loutet went on to have a long career in local government, serving as District councillor, District reeve, City mayor and member of the provincial legislature. (His son Lindsay, an enthusiastic skier, created the Grouse Mountain Ski Club in 1927. An excellent photographer, his mountain scenes document the early years on the North Shore ski hills.)

Within a few years Lonsdale Avenue extended north as far as Queens Road, the street railway had arrived, and North Lonsdale, with its spectacular views and a 1912 population of 180 families, was being hailed in the North Shore Express newspaper as “the premier residential district of Greater Vancouver.”1 The District created Carisbrooke Park, or “North Lonsdale Park” as it was known until the 1950s, as an elegant green space for residents of the upscale neighbourhood. There was even a lighted bandstand for local concerts. On weekends the park was a gathering spot for hikers and skiers who had taken the streetcar up Lonsdale and were organizing themselves for the long trek up the slopes of Grouse Mountain.

By this time, ratepayers in the District’s commercial core, including the large land speculators, had decided to establish their own government. They thought it would be advantageous to create a smaller, more concentrated municipality with less responsibility for providing services to the large, but as yet sparsely populated, outlying area. Support for secession from the District built during 1905—there was really no one to speak for the interests of the fewer residents who lived beyond the central core—and culminated in a December referendum endorsing the creation of a new city, also called North Vancouver. (“Burrard” was the only other name given serious consideration but ratepayers decided to stick with the familiar.) Delays ensued but finally the details were resolved and the City of North Vancouver was incorporated on May 13, 1907. There were now two North Vancouvers: a City centred on the spine of Lonsdale Avenue surrounded on three sides by a much larger District. (The City gradually took over the land that had comprised Moodyville until, by 1925, all of it was absorbed.)

Some of the leading promoters of the City of North Vancouver gather at City Hall to celebrate Dominion Day, July 1, 1907. City mayor Arnold Kealy is seated in the centre, flanked by J. C. Keith to his right and Edward Mahon to his left. NVMA 96

> Tent City

Living in Shaketown

With the secession of the central core, the commercial and social centre of the District shifted to Lynn Valley, where logging had been going on since the 1870s. Initially the Moodyville company logged the Lynn Creek watershed mainly for Douglas fir. Loggers used axes to fell the giant trees, then removed the limbs and cut the trunks into manageable lengths. Oxen dragged the logs from the bush down skid roads to tidewater. These “roads” were necessary because the creeks on the North Shore are deep and narrow, not suited to the log drives more familiar on larger rivers. A skid road was constructed of logs laid crosswise to the slope, about 2.5 metres in width, with a U-shaped notch cut down the centre of the road. A greaser carrying a pail and brush went ahead of the oxen to slather the notch with dogfish oil to ensure a smooth run for the logs. The oil was produced from fish caught by the local First Nations, who sold it to the lumber companies.

After about 1890 the production of cedar shingles became a booming industry around Burrard Inlet. Wood shingles had not yet been surpassed by asphalt as the main roofing material in North America and red cedar made the best product. Shingles were made from lengths of cedar that were split into wedge-shaped blocks known as “shingle bolts” and either floated down a flume to the mill or hauled down the skid road. The number of shingle mills in BC rose dramatically, from 9 in 1891 to 93 by the middle of World War I. BC mills, most of them located in the Lower Mainland, produced the vast majority of the shingles manufactured in Canada, and exported them throughout the United States.

In 1895 H. H. Spicer leased timber rights in the Lynn Creek area from the Moodyville company and began cutting shingle bolts. Spicer’s men built several kilometres of flumes to carry the bolts to a collection pond near the present Park and Tilford shopping centre. The flume was a marvel of construction, consisting of a broad wooden trough elevated above the forest floor on a wooden trestle. When filled with water from the creek or a lake, it carried the bolts down the flume to tidewater. (Prospectors were also active in Lynn Creek, scouring the watershed for signs of gold or zinc and staking their claims. But the area, which was remote and rugged, lacked good roads and was never the site of any significant mineral discovery.)

After two years Spicer sold his operation to the Hastings Shingle Manufacturing Company, a Vancouver-based company owned by the McNair brothers, James and Robert. The McNairs, who originally came from New Brunswick, had established their first mill in the Hastings Townsite at the south end of the Second Narrows. They had done so well specializing in the manufacture of cedar shingles that the elder brother, James, was known as “the shingle king of the northwest.” James McNair built a house in North Vancouver City on East 6th Street at a cost of fifteen thousand dollars, a fortune at the time. Still standing today, it was considered one of the most palatial homes in the Lower Mainland, with a wraparound verandah, ornate fireplaces and beautiful hardwood finishings imported from as far away as Australia.

The McNairs extended logging operations northward, up Lynn Canyon and into the Rice Lake area where they had a shingle bolt camp. As they moved farther up the slope, they decided to build a mill to provide the lumber necessary for their network of flumes and plank roads, much of which was constructed by Chinese labour. Opened in 1903, this operation came to be called the “Upper Mill” and was managed by Julius Fromme. It was located in upper Lynn Valley above what is now Dempsey Road. In 1906, when the McNairs decided to close the business, Fromme and a partner purchased the mill and established the Lynn Valley Lumber Company. Fromme was “the first resident and real founder of Lynn Valley,”2 in the words of historian Kathleen Woodward-Reynolds. He had purchased land near the present-day corner of Lynn Valley Road and Mountain Highway, which he subdivided and sold to mill workers, and pretty soon a small settlement of bunkhouses and cabins emerged, known as “Shaketown.” Fromme opened a second mill nearby, the so-called “Lower Mill.” It produced mainly shakes from bolts that came down Hastings Creek to a collecting pond. Both mills continued in business into the 1920s.

Downtown Lynn Valley, the corner of Mountain Highway and Lynn Valley Road, in 1914. The Sanitary Grocery occupies part of what was called the “Triangle Block.” The Fromme Block across the street was home to J. Barker Hardware for many years. NVMA 2929

> Classroom Pioneer

For a brief period from 1917 to 1926, Fromme faced competition from another logging outfit, Cedars Ltd., owned by M. P. Cotton and his associates. Taking advantage of the strong demand for cedar, this company built a mill on the east bank of Lynn Creek about 5 kilometres above Fromme’s mill. It built a network of plank roads and was notable for employing motorized trucks to haul the timber, the first company on the North Shore to go in for truck logging. By the mid-1920s officials in the City and the District were worried about the impact of logging on the quality of drinking water from the watershed. After much debate, in 1928 the Lynn Creek watershed was closed to commercial logging, by which time the timber supply had petered out anyway.

Earlier, Robert McNair had created a second company, the McNair-Fraser Lumber Company, with the sole purpose of harvesting wood for the Vancouver mill run by his brother James. McNair-Fraser concentrated its operations west of the Capilano River, in what later became West Vancouver. In 1907 McNair-Fraser established a log dump at Ambleside and began to construct a logging railway up the slope into what became the British Properties and beyond. Eventually McNair-Fraser sold its timber rights, but logging continued in this area into the 1920s.

A major mill operation also was located on the eastern border between the City and District. For years the Western Corporation, a development company with headquarters in the Syndicate Block at Lonsdale and Esplanade, had been importing lumber and building supplies from Vancouver by tug and scow and delivering them to building sites across the North Shore by horse and wagon. In 1906 the company decided to open its own sawmill, a large complex between 16th and 18th Streets, just east of Grand Boulevard. This mill, which employed about eighty men, produced much of the lumber used for building in the early days of the District and City, using logs that it skidded down from the slopes of Grouse Mountain. The newly constructed street railway provided flat cars on which the lumber travelled from the mill yard to the waterfront. When the Western Corporation went bankrupt in 1909, the mill continued in operation as the Seymour Lumber Company until May 1912, when it was destroyed by fire.

As this photograph illustrates, the Seymour Lumber Company employed a multi-ethnic labour force, including Chinese, First Nations, Sikh and Japanese workers. NVMA 257

> Lynn Valley Pioneer

Because the municipal hall remained in the City when it separated, the District had no office of its own for several years. The first meeting of District council occurred on June 10, 1907, in the Lynn Valley School, which had opened three years earlier, and the first elections were held in tents and private homes. It wasn’t until August 1911 that the district hall opened at the intersection of Lynn Valley Road and Fromme Road. (It remained at this location until it was replaced by a new hall at its present, more central location on Queens Road in the 1950s.) For many years Shaketown’s only connection to the outside world was a plank road running down to Moodyville along the route that is today Mountain Highway. As the community grew, so did the desire for improvements to the transportation network. By early 1907 the streetcar line ascended Grand Boulevard as far as 19th Street, with a plank road extending north from there to Shaketown. Electricity and telephone service followed and then, in May 1910, the street railway itself trundled up what is now Lynn Valley Road to a terminus at Dempsey Road, making this once-isolated neighbourhood more easily accessible to the City and beyond.

By this time, residents had formed the Lynn Valley Institute, a social club and community centre based at a hall on Institute Road. Institute activities included choir singing, amateur theatrics, debates and, in 1911, the first music festival in the province. Postal service was provided by Mrs. Alice Sugden, who drove to Lower Lonsdale every day in a horse-drawn carriage to pick up the mail and bring it back to the post office, which was in her home. In 1912, when the Fromme Block opened at the corner of Lynn Valley Road and Centre Road, later Mountain Highway, the post office moved into it and the street railway brought the mail. All of these improvements made the Lynn Valley area a more desirable place to settle and, by 1919, the community had a population of about 1,400. “It was a period in which there were virtually no restrictions,” recalled Walter Draycott, with more than a hint of nostalgia. “You fished without a licence and none was needed to hunt, light a fire or pan for gold. In fact, no ‘Don’ts.’ According to your desire you built a cabin, erected a tent or lean-to anywhere along the river or in the woods. You hiked where you pleased . . . Truly, the ‘Good Old Days!’”3

> Bohemian in the Valley

A Canyon Playground

Once West Vancouver formed its own municipality in 1912, the Capilano River became the western edge of the District of North Vancouver. The Squamish village of Homulcheson was located at its mouth, but the valley of the Capilano was not yet extensively settled by outsiders. Still, it was known and valued for two resources: water and wood. When the new City of Vancouver was created on the south shore of Burrard Inlet, its municipal leaders sought a source of clean drinking water for the population they knew would be growing rapidly. They found what they were looking for in the Capilano where, as Chief Engineer H. B. Smith reported, “No purer water can be obtained from any source than that from this mountain stream.”4 The job of delivering water from the river to Vancouver was given to a private syndicate, the Vancouver Waterworks Company. It built a dam high up the valley, snaked a pipeline alongside the river for 10.5 kilometres down to tidewater, and laid a water main beneath the First Narrows and across Stanley Park into the city. It was an unprecedented engineering achievement for its time. On March 26, 1889, water from the Capilano began flowing into Vancouver homes and businesses. (Today the river continues to deliver about one-third of the water consumed in Metro Vancouver. All water consumed in the District and City of North Vancouver originates in either the Capilano or Seymour watersheds. Since the spring of 2010 this water has been filtered at the Seymour-Capilano Filtration Plant located near Rice Lake in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve.)

The water company—which became a public utility in 1891—built a wagon road to service its pipeline and this became Capilano Road. For several years it was the only way to access the Capilano area. There was a wharf at the foot of the road, where visitors would disembark and hike up the road to fish in the river or climb in the mountains. After the turn of the century, people could also take the ferry to North Vancouver, then make their way westward along Keith Road to the river. In 1906 Dickson Kells, a Vancouver hotelier, opened the Capilano Hotel near the water dam at a site that is now beneath Capilano Lake. He offered rooms to hikers, anglers, climbers and hunters, all of whom were attracted by the recreational possibilities of the valley. He also provided a “tally-ho” service, a horse and wagon to pick up and drop off customers at the Lonsdale ferry. Access to the area was much improved in 1911, when the street railway extended a line from Lonsdale diagonally westward to the river, terminating near what is now the intersection of Capilano Road and the Upper Levels Highway. A second hotel, the Canyon View, opened. It was owned by Peter Larson, proprietor of the Hotel North Vancouver near the ferry wharf, which from its opening in 1901 had become the unofficial community centre of the District. His newer venture was located at the Second Canyon, the site of today’s Cleveland Dam. It had thirty rooms, a long mirrored bar, a dining room, and an open-topped touring car to transport patrons to and from the streetcar terminus—all at a daily rate of $2.50. From 1928, renamed the Grand Canyon Hotel under new ownership, it also featured a suspension bridge spanning the canyon. The hotel remained open until the Depression, when it was converted into a school for girls, then an apartment block; both apartment and bridge were removed when the Cleveland Dam was built.

Other popular destinations along the Capilano Road were the tea rooms that catered to tourists wanting to get a good look at the canyon. (In 1924 the Province newspaper had this to say about the canyon: “One of the beauty spots of the world to which they travel in comfort by streetcar and automobile.”) One of these stopping places was the Tipperary Tea Garden and observation tower, opened by a young carpenter, Charlie Anderson, during World War i. Located at the Second Canyon, the Tipperary offered cold drinks and snacks to patrons who came to hike the forest paths and observe the salmon in the fishing hole below. It remained open until 1946, though most of the other tea rooms closed during the Depression.

At the same time as the Capilano was recognized as a mecca for outdoors enthusiasts, the valley’s valuable stands of timber had been attracting the attention of loggers. Initially the challenge of getting the wood to market seemed insurmountable. In its lower reaches, the river flows through narrow, steep-sided canyons that were impassable for logs. As a result, it was the demand for shingle bolts that drove the early development of the industry, as it had on Lynn Creek. By 1905 two syndicates of investors had built sections of wooden flume alongside the river, and the following year they merged to form the Capilano Flume and Boom Company. The structure, built largely by Squamish and Japanese work crews, was “a local engineering wonder,” writes the river’s historian James Morton.5 It was a V-shaped trough clinging to the sides of the canyons with a catwalk running beside it. Shingle bolts deposited in the flume at a mill high up in the valley were washed down to a collecting pond on the inlet. Fourteen kilometres in length, it was the longest logging flume in North America. For years the flume attracted youngsters who dared to ride the bolts and sightseers who used to “walk the flume” (actually the catwalk) to penetrate the steep walls of the canyon. It was demolished as a safety hazard sometime in the late 1920s.

Eventually American logging interests became interested in the valley of the Capilano. In 1908 a syndicate based in Chicago created the Capilano Timber Company to exploit the forest resources of the area. The market was not strong enough to allow the company to proceed with its plans until World War I, when conditions improved. By 1919 the Capilano Timber Company had pushed a logging railway 25.5 kilometres back into the watershed from its mill near the foot of Pemberton Avenue. (The site is now occupied by Vancouver Shipyards, owned by Seaspan.) The track ran north to Marine Drive, then west below Pemberton Heights to the Capilano, which it crossed on a wooden trestle into West Vancouver. It then proceeded north up the west side of the river. The company ran a state-of-the-art camp beyond the upper end of Capilano Lake, where logs were collected and loaded onto the railway for transport down to the inlet. At its height during the mid-1920s the operation employed 175 men. Logging had a devastating impact on the environment. A large swath of the Capilano Valley was denuded of trees and covered in slash. Fires became more prevalent and officials feared the possibility of a widespread conflagration. With the undergrowth destroyed, water runoff became heavier, leading to soil erosion and regular flooding in the river. The worst flooding occurred in 1949 when rushing water carried away part of the bridge at Marine Drive and West Vancouver was cut off from North Vancouver. Following this mishap, flood control measures in the river had the unintended consequence of wiping out valuable salmon spawning grounds. Between these measures and the opening of the Cleveland Dam in 1954, salmon stocks in the river fell sharply until the opening of the Capilano Salmon Hatchery in 1971 reversed the decline.

This colour postcard shows the Cleveland Dam, the Capilano Lake reservoir behind it and, in the distance, the twin peaks of the Lions. NVMA 6706

In the end, the river proved more valuable as a source of clean water than a source of timber. In 1926 the province created the Greater Vancouver Water District to manage and protect the local watersheds. The GVWD, led by Chief Commissioner E. A. Cleveland, pressured the logging company to abandon its operations in the Capilano Valley. In 1932 a spectacular fire destroyed the company’s waterfront mill, and by the end of the following year, commercial logging had ceased in the watershed. Even so, the damage was long-lasting. As recently as the 1990s, homeowners were experiencing turbidity (cloudy drinking water) as a result of soil erosion on denuded slopes. Some regulated logging continued in the Capilano and Seymour watersheds into the 1990s to clear diseased trees, protect against fire and otherwise manage the health of the forest. In the face of public protest, even this limited logging came to an end.

Just as it had in North Lonsdale and Lynn Valley, the arrival of the streetcar in the Lower Capilano facilitated business opportunities and residential developments. The first school opened in 1906, the so-called “little green schoolhouse,” catering to loggers’ families and those of the odd settler. Once the logging railway was in operation, men could leave their homes in Lower Capilano and ride the train into the valley to work in the bush. By the 1920s the population of the neighbourhood numbered about two hundred. One focal point of the community was a general store and post office located at the end of the streetcar line, established by Norman MacLeod in 1911. MacLeod had the only telephone in the area; he charged four cents to make a call. He also owned a motorcar, in which he drove visitors who got off the streetcar up to the suspension bridge for fifteen cents. A medical clinic operated out of the back of the store. (The store and the area around the streetcar terminus were destroyed by the construction of the Upper Levels Highway in 1960.)

Harbottle’s Jersey Products, founded by Thomas Harbottle, offered North Vancouver’s first home milk delivery. In 1938 Harbottle purchased this one-ton Diamond T pickup to use as a delivery vehicle. He sold his business in 1942 and the truck ended up in a scrapyard where it was rescued, restored and donated to the North Vancouver Museum by Harbottle’s son Jeffery. NVMA Fonds 44 series 5

Marine Drive was still a rural area in the 1920s, with several dairy farms in business on either side of the road. One unusual destination was the home of Napoleon St. Pierre at the corner of MacGowan Avenue. St. Pierre filled his garden with sculpted shrubs and offered to tell fortunes and read horoscopes for a fee. On Sundays the car traffic outside his house was so heavy as to block the road. Across the street, a dairy farmer named Billy Wilkins (known as the “yodelling milkman”) opened his own establishment, the Dew Drop Inn, where along with a cup of tea, patrons were treated to the predictions of an Indian fortune teller, complete with turban.

> The Tomahawk Restaurant

Depression and Recovery

During the economic depression of the 1930s, times were as tough in North Vancouver as they were elsewhere in Canada and around the world. “Money had taken a long vacation,” remarked Walter Draycott. Jobs dried up and residents scrambled to make a living any way they could. Homesteaders who tried to sell their properties discovered there were no buyers for their land. Instead they cut shingle bolts for the local mills and turned to foraging for food. “To augment the food supply,” recalled Draycott, “occasional journeys were made down the old Tote or Skid-road to the mud flats at Moodyville to obtain clams. The journey back, all up-hill for nearly three miles, with a sack half-full of clams was a test of endurance. Hazelnuts were gathered along the estuary banks of Seymour Creek and trout, in plenty, along the canyon route of Lynn Creek. No fishing permit necessary!”6

Many property owners, unable to pay their taxes, lost their homes. With its tax revenues dwindling, the District government laid off workers because it could not pay them. Money that was previously borrowed for local improvements had to be repaid, but there was inadequate revenue to make the payments. Financial relief for the unemployed was yet another drain on the budget. Crucial to the financial ills of both the City and District was the closure of the Second Narrows Bridge, damaged when a freighter rammed it in mid-September 1930. The bridge, which remained closed for four years, had been financed by the sale of bonds. Both North Shore communities were shareholders in the bridge company, which was legally required to pay interest to bondholders. These payments were an onerous burden for local governments already suffering from the strains of the Depression.

Finally, in December 1932, the provincial government stepped in and appointed a commissioner to administer the affairs of the District: Charles Tisdall, a former sporting goods merchant, provincial cabinet minister and one-term mayor of Vancouver. The following month, Tisdall became commissioner of the City as well. (Burnaby also went into commissionership at about the same time. West Vancouver avoided bankruptcy largely because, in 1931, British investors purchased from the municipality 1,620 hectares of land that became the British Properties development and gave jobs to many local men making improvements to the property.) The two elected North Vancouver councils were abolished. Tisdall took immediate steps to slash public services to a minimum, which meant layoffs and cutbacks. The municipalities had been contributing to the cost of unemployment relief, along with the province and the federal government, but by the middle of 1933, Tisdall reported that North Vancouver could no longer afford to pay its share. During that year only 38 percent of the assessed property tax revenues were actually collected; the following year that figure fell even lower, to 33.7 percent. Other austerity measures included the closure of the District hall and the centralizing of public administration in the City, along with the transference of policing from the local force to the BC Provincial Police. Tisdall and his successors ruled with the authority of dictators and managed to cut expenditures to the bone. Commissioner J. V. Fisher, who took over from Tisdall in 1934, reported that expenditures on municipal services had been slashed to 68 percent of what they had been prior to the Depression. Elected local government finally returned to the City in 1944, by which time the booming shipyards had brought renewed prosperity. The District, on the other hand, did not return to self-government until 1951.


This condition had arisen from a variety of reasons, amongst them being unsound and inflated assessed values of real estate, continued borrowing and spending money, in many cases for services which were beyond the means of the taxpayer to pay for; covering too large an area with municipal services, the breaking down of a bridge [the Second Narrows] connecting the North Shore with Vancouver City, the world economic condition and resultant absence of work, financing of unemployment, unbalanced budgets and tax delinquency.”

—Charles Tisdall, commissioner of North Vancouver7

One of the bright spots during the Depression was the success of the North Shore United soccer club, which won a national championship in 1938, led by star player Jimmy Spencer (r.). NVMA 13874

> Relief Workers Built the Blair Rifle Range

Seymour and Deep Cove

At the eastern end of the District beyond the Seymour River, residential development was delayed for many years by lack of reliable access. The original Keith Road was supposed to cross the entire District but it was little more than a rough track into the 1930s, and the bridge across the Seymour was regularly damaged by flooding. The Dollarton Highway, which opened in 1931, provided an alternate connection, but the Second Narrows Bridge was so unreliable that travel from Vancouver was hit-and-miss. Northlands had a few pioneer residents by the 1930s, and there was a dairy farm at Maplewood, but not much else. Deep Cove itself (known originally as “Deepwater”) was the site of a granite quarry until 1924. The quarry employed about one hundred men, who lived in bunkhouses on site and produced crushed rock for road work and other construction projects.

The other local industry was logging on the flanks of Mount Seymour. In 1917 the Deep Cove Lumber Company (DCLC), owned by Fred Buck, ran a 5-kilometre-long plank road up the mountain and began hauling out logs using 5-ton Duplex trucks. It was only the second truck-logging operation on the North Shore. Logs were brought to the shore at the bottom of what is now Gallant Avenue, the Cove’s main street, dumped into the water, boomed and towed to nearby mills. The DCLC operated until 1926, when its supply of timber ran out. Aside from logging and the quarry, the Cove was mainly a summer cottage community with only a handful of permanent residents. During the thirties the George family converted the old quarry into a hotel, Quarries Lodge, and Corfield’s Dance Hall on the waterfront attracted people from around the North Shore and even Vancouver to its lively Saturday night dances.


The last few miles of the road run through virgin forest. It was really a one-way road with passing places about every half-mile; you had to keep your wheels on mill-planed boards to keep from bogging down in the rain-soaked earth, and be prepared to drive backwards if you met another vehicle.”

—Poet Earle Birney on driving Keith Road to Deep Cove in the 1920s8


Despite its remoteness, Indian Arm—or the “North Arm,” as it was known officially until 1921—attracted sightseers and summer excursionists from as early as the 1880s, and even a handful of settlers who began to complain about the lack of access to their properties. By 1908 a regular ferry service from Vancouver delivered passengers to several points of call around the Arm, and a travelling post office brought the mail. (For many years, until it discontinued service in 1970, it was the only floating post office in the Commonwealth.) The only industry on the Arm, aside from a scattering of logging camps, was a granite quarry that operated for many years at Granite Falls, on the northeastern shore. In 1910 a group of Vancouver investors, spearheaded by B. F. “Benny” Dickens, built an elegant lodge, Wigwam Inn, at the head of the inlet, near the mouth of the Indian River. One of the other owners was the mysterious Alvo von Alvensleben, son of a German nobleman, who channelled millions of dollars from Europe into Vancouver business interests in the years before World War I. With the outbreak of war and the collapse of the local financial boom, he skipped town to avoid internment as an enemy alien. The Wigwam Inn changed hands several times over the years, and today belongs to the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club for use as an outstation. Much of the shoreline of Indian Arm was collected into Say Nuth Khaw Yum Provincial Park (also known as “Indian Arm Provincial Park”) in 1995. Other mini-communities along the west side of the Arm include Woodlands (now with road access to the rest of the District), Sunshine, Cascade and Brighton Beach.


Marjorie Winfield is a pocket edition gal who is not only skipper, but first mate, engineer, navigator and crew of a 30-foot craft best known along Burrard Inlet as ‘The Store Boat.’ For almost six years now, spring, summer, fall and winter, good days and bad days and cold days, calm days and stormy ones, this small friendly woman has carried supplies to the scores of North Arm residents in her ‘sailing supermarket.’ When the boat pulls into any one of the dozen docks along the Arm, women clamber aboard with shopping bags to buy from the well-stocked shelves, to visit and to chat. The boat and its personable skipper carry not only the supplies but the news of the Inlet.”

Vancouver Province, April 25, 1953


The lack of reliable road connections frustrated large-scale industrial development at the eastern end of the District. One exception was forestry at Roche Point, where Burrard Inlet rounds into Indian Arm. Known as “Whey-ah-Wichen” (“Facing the Wind”) to the Tsleil-Waututh people, it has been occupied for at least 3,500 years. Prior to contact with Europeans, the Tsleil-Waututh’s largest winter settlement was Temtemixwtn at Belcarra, but Whey-ah-Wichen was another important site where the Tsleil-Waututh lived in their large, multi-family, shed-roofed houses. The people fished for salmon and cod in the inlet, harvested clams and mussels along the shore, gathered herring spawn, and hunted deer, elk, bear, beaver and mountain goats. They also relied on a wide variety of plants for foods, medicines and implements, most notably the cedar dugout canoes in which they plied the waters of the inlet. Logging began at Roche Point in 1885 and, prior to World War I, a syndicate of investors made ambitious plans for an industrial centre there, including mills, shipbuilding, even a steelworks. Promoters, encouraged by plans for a Second Narrows Bridge and a rail line, spoke of the Point becoming the “Pittsburgh of the Northwest.” The prewar recession scuttled these optimistic dreams. The only project that actually came to fruition was a sawmill opened by the Red Fir Lumber Company in 1910. Later called “Cedarside,” it provided sawn cedar to a parent mill in False Creek. During World War I, the Canadian Robert Dollar Company purchased land to the north of Cedarside and, in 1917, established a much larger Dollar Mill. This mill shipped lumber all over the world. Workers lived with their families in the townsite that grew up nearby. “Each house has a garden,” Robert Dollar wrote in his memoirs, “and the rent of $15-a-month includes water, electricity and wood.”9 The houses were designed by his wife, Margaret. The small village, known as “Dollarton,” had a post office, a church and a school, as well as bunkhouses for the single men. The area was isolated and most people came and went by boat until the Dollarton Highway opened in the early 1930s, linking Roche Point to North Vancouver and the “outside world.” The highway was built, in part, as a work project for local men who needed employment during the Depression, which brought hard times for the forest industry. After years of prosperity, the Cedarside Mill closed, followed by the larger Dollar Mill in 1942. Jobs grew scarce and many people had to leave Dollarton.


When World War II broke out in September 1939, North Vancouver was far from the front lines. Nonetheless the war had a deep impact on the community. Initially there was anxiety around the Lower Mainland about a possible enemy attack from across the Pacific, a fear that intensified with the air assault on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in December 1941. Early the next year the federal government ordered the forced evacuation of all Japanese-Canadian residents from coastal British Columbia, whether they were Canadian citizens or not. Their property was seized and they were removed to internment camps in the Interior or sent to live in other provinces. Japanese families in North Vancouver were among the victims of this shameful episode in Canadian history.

Fear of invasion also led to the creation of a local Air Raid Precautions (ARP) unit, a group of volunteers who helped with homefront preparedness. Among their responsibilities was to ensure that residents obeyed the periodic blackouts that were imposed. When an air-raid siren mounted at Carisbrooke Park sounded a warning, all homes and businesses were expected to turn out their lights and blacken their windows. As well, street lights and traffic signals were extinguished.

Down on the waterfront directly beneath the Lions Gate Bridge, the military erected an artillery emplacement as part of the defensive installations to guard the Vancouver port. A battery of guns, supported by searchlights, was installed in a three-storey concrete gantry and manned round the clock by members of the 15th Coast Brigade of the militia. Known as “Narrows North,” this gun tower, along with a similar emplacement at Ferguson Point in Stanley Park, was expected to repel any attempt by enemy craft to enter the harbour. As it turned out, the attack never came and the installation was abandoned as soon as Japan surrendered in August 1945.

On the bright side, the war brought a return to better economic times on the North Shore, largely because of the shipbuilding industry. As a result of the demand for ships from North Vancouver’s two shipyards, there was a huge expansion in the workforce. At the height of the construction boom, for example, more than fourteen thousand men and women worked at Burrard Dry Dock in three shifts running around the clock seven days a week. The ferries were so crowded with commuters pouring across the inlet to work that extra vessels had to be put into service. In the autumn of 1942, as more and more men were called away to fight in the war, the company became the first shipbuilder in Canada to hire significant numbers of women to work in the yards. (That said, most of these women lost their jobs at the end of the war when men returned from the fighting.)


I have never regretted ever working in the shipyards. My mother was horrified to think that I was wearing men’s pants! Not me. I can still hear my mother: ‘Eileen, you wouldn’t!’ I said, ‘Oh yes, I would!’”

—Eileen Doherty, first female employee at Burrard Dry Dock10


Many commuters would have preferred to live close to their place of work, but North Vancouver, like many other places in Canada, had a shortage of affordable housing. During the tough times of the Depression, people were giving up their homes, not building new ones. Then, with the outbreak of war, a flood of workers into urban areas placed enormous pressure on housing stocks. The federal government responded to the housing shortage by creating a crown agency, Wartime Housing Limited (WHL), to build and manage inexpensive housing for war workers. Between 1941 and 1944, WHL built more than seventeen thousand houses and other assorted buildings across Canada. In North Vancouver the agency built hundreds of single-family bungalows, primarily in the City around the western edge of Moodyville and in Lower Lonsdale close to the shipyards. But there was also development at the edge of the District, in the flatlands near Mackay Creek known as “Skunk Hollow” (the site of today’s Capilano Mall). The compact, one-storey houses, which rented for twenty-two to thirty dollars per month, were supposed to be a temporary solution to the housing crunch and were intended to be removed, though many survived into the postwar period.


We used to save things like bacon fat—keep it in a tin in the refrigerator and accumulate it. And up at 14th and Lonsdale there was the Nova Theatre and two blocks up was the Lonsdale Theatre. And they would often have war drives. So on Saturday afternoons, usually it was a cowboy picture or maybe a serial—I remember the Mark of Zorro and things like that. But your admission was bringing a tin of bacon fat, a jam tin full. Another item was to roll up the foil from cigarette packages, any household foil, and make a ball and if it was the size of a six-inch ball that too could be brought and you’d get admission to the Saturday afternoon show.”

—Murray Dykeman, former District mayor, on his wartime boyhood11


Postwar Boom

Following World War II, the North Shore experienced an explosion of demand for reasonably priced housing. Now that access to Vancouver was assured with the opening and reopening of bridges at both the First and Second Narrows during the 1930s, large tracts of land opened for residential development. Prior to the war, North Vancouver had been a suburb of Vancouver; after the war it came of age as a community in its own right. “Returning veterans, a pent-up demand for cheap housing, the baby boom, ready availability of automobiles, and new consumer confidence all contributed to unprecedented growth,” writes heritage consultant and historian Donald Luxton.12 One sign of this transition was the conversion of the public transit system from “rails to rubber.” After forty years of service, the BC Electric Railway Company, with the approval of a public plebiscite, phased out its street railway service and replaced the trams with buses. Rails were lifted, roads repaved, and on April 23, 1947, the last trolley car made its final scheduled run. In the decade between 1941 and 1951, the population of the District increased by 144 percent, reaching 14,469, just slightly less than the City population of 15,687. By 1961 the population had more than doubled again (to 38,971) and the census showed that, for the first time, more people were living in the District than in the City.

Many of the North Shore’s now well-established neighbourhoods date from this postwar growth period. In the central part of the District, Lynn Valley had previously been characterized by a pattern of widely scattered homes with few areas of continuous settlement. Beginning in the 1950s more and more of the forest land gave way to suburban development, compact neighbourhoods of single-family homes, centred on the commercial crossroads at the intersection of Mountain Highway and Lynn Valley Road. That intersection is where Westlynn Mall opened for business in 1971. A good example of the suburban shopping mall that was spreading throughout the Lower Mainland at the time, Westlynn, or Lynn Valley Centre as it is now called, featured a collection of inward-facing shops surrounded by a large parking lot, much in the style of West Vancouver’s Park Royal, which had pioneered the style when it opened in 1950 as Canada’s first shopping mall.

Lynn Valley retained a working-class identity through the 1960s. Perhaps because of its history as a logging community, perhaps because of its location a bit removed from the central core, “the Valley” was known as a blue-collar enclave in a wider community that was fast becoming middle-class. “Lynn Valley,” recalls Bob McCormack, who grew up there in the 1950s, “was lunch bucket. Burrard Dry Dock, the King Lumber Company. People came home on a Friday night with soot and dirt all over them. So I think the culture was such that we didn’t have a lot.”13 The Valley also was known for its youth gangs, whose members hung out on the streets, drank and committed various forms of mayhem. The Ant Hill Mob and the Smiling Crabs were two of the more oddly named of the gangs, which other teens gave a wide berth. It was all pretty innocent by modern standards, but at the time, they added to the Valley’s rough-hewn reputation, which began to fade during the 1970s as all the neighbourhoods on the North Shore started to lose their distinct identities and merge into a shared “North Vancouverness.”


As a teenager, going to Balmoral and then Carson Graham [in the 1960s] there were the boys from my neighbourhood [Edgemont] and there were the Valley boys and they were a different breed for sure. They were considered tougher . . . The Valley had a real distinct . . . you know, if you were from the Valley you were considered to be tough.”

—Terri Johnson14


Farther west, another of the postwar subdivisions was Capilano Highlands, located between the Capilano River and Mosquito Creek. Although the plan for this development dates from before the war, it did not get underway until the immediate postwar period. The development featured the work of noted architect Fred Hollingsworth, who had his own home in the area and designed the street layout and many residences in the Highlands. The commercial hub of the neighbourhood became known as “Edgemont Village,” which continues to be a busy business and shopping centre. The last major residential development in the Highlands took place in the 1980s in Grousewoods, near the lower terminal of the Grouse Mountain Skyride.

Closer to the waterfront and the Lions Gate Bridge, the flatland now known as “Norgate” was initially cleared in 1947 as the site for a small airport. When the airport plan fell through, the land was sold to a developer and, by 1952, five hundred houses had been built, each with the identical floorplan, though exterior design features varied. Each house sold for nine thousand dollars. The first high- rises anywhere in the District were built in the Lower Capilano area in the 1970s, at Woodcroft on the banks of the river and at the International Plaza on Marine Drive.

> The Architect of Edgemont

The Matsumoto shipyard specialized in aluminum fishing boats, like the gillnetters shown here on the ways in 1961. VPL 45901

Following World War II the eastern end of the District also rallied. The site of the abandoned Dollar mill was subdivided into lots for the Roslyn Park subdivision. Shipbuilders located along the waterfront. Among the most prominent was Sam Matsumoto. After being interned in Slocan during the war as part of the displacement of Japanese from the coast, Matsumoto settled in Dollarton where he opened Matsumoto and Sons Shipyard in 1949. Specializing in aluminum vessels, Matsumoto manufactured the first aluminum-welded boats in North America. The yard was sold in 1988 to Allied Shipbuilders. Even earlier than Matsumoto, Mackenzie Barge and Marine Ways built marine vessels and carried out ship repairs on the Dollarton Highway from 1932. Both these yards have been bulldozed to make way for new residential developments.

Around the corner from Roche Point, Deep Cove transitioned from a summer cottage community into a suburban neighbourhood in the postwar period. With improved road access, more people settled permanently and by 1961 the Cove had a population in excess of four hundred. District government began to take more of an interest in the community. In 1970 the municipality took over the land where the dance hall and a motel had been and turned it into a waterfront park. Residents of the Cove have worked to accommodate the inevitable changes that development brings with the desire to retain a village atmosphere for their community.

Deep Cove’s “main street,” Gallant Avenue, in the 1960s. NVMA 106–10–11

Between Deep Cove and the Seymour River a series of residential subdivisions gradually filled in both sides of the Mount Seymour Parkway (the modern name for that section of Keith Road). The Blueridge, Seymour Heights and Windsor Park neighbourhoods all expanded during this period, facilitated by the completion of the new Second Narrows Bridge in 1960 and the opening of the Upper Levels Highway between the bridge and West Vancouver early in 1961. By the late 1980s the growth of the Parkgate area led to plans for a neighbourhood centre near the entrance to Seymour Provincial Park. These plans, which came to fruition during the following decade, included a shopping centre (Parkgate, which opened in 1992), a branch library (1995) and a community centre (1999). Northlands Golf Course, owned and operated by the District, opened for 18-hole play in 1997. In the context of the District as a whole, the Seymour area, both west and east, has experienced the most growth in population since the 1980s.

Construction of the bridge across the Capilano River was part of the completion of the Upper Levels Highway between the river and the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge in 1961. The project cut through the centre of the District. NVMA 3604

During the mid-1990s, developments east of the Seymour prompted a spirited public backlash when it was announced that the District had plans to sell public forest lands along the lower flanks of Mount Seymour for residential construction. Local residents wanted this area, which was widely used by hikers and mountain bikers, preserved as parkland, and they organized to oppose development. A petition calling for a halt to the project attracted more than ten thousand signatures. The result was that the District council rezoned the contested areas, known as Mountain Forest and Cove Forest, as recreational. This protest indicated that many residents were determined to preserve the identity of the District as a “green” community that protected its natural environment. The policy of selling off wilderness land to finance public facilities was brought into question, along with the rapid pace of residential development.

In contrast to the expansive developments in the District, in the City the Lower Lonsdale neighbourhood fell on hard times during the 1950s. A number of factors contributed to this stagnation. Following the closure of the streetcars in 1947 and the cessation of ferry service to downtown Vancouver in 1958, the area ceased to be the transportation hub it had been. Thousands of commuters no longer passed through the neighbourhood each day on their way to and from work and shopping. Instead they drove across the bridges. Local businesses felt the crunch. The shipyards no longer employed as many people, and the opening of Park Royal shopping centre in West Vancouver drew away customers from local shops. What had been the commercial heart of the North Shore was beating only faintly, while farther north a new civic centre emerged in the mid-1970s with the construction of a modern city hall, library and fire hall in the Central Lonsdale area.

Civic officials recognized the need to revitalize Lower Lonsdale. The arrival of the SeaBus in 1977 was a big help. Once again a “ferry” connected the North Shore to Vancouver and the bottom of Lonsdale regained its strategic location as a transportation centre. In 1979 the city partnered with the province to develop the waterfront with the construction of Lonsdale Quay and neighbouring Waterfront Park. As part of the development, the Insurance Company of BC (ICBC) located its new headquarters nearby and the province established the Pacific Marine Training Institute. When the Quay opened in 1985 the complex included a public market, a hotel, office towers, condominiums and a bus depot. It was a terrific shot in the arm for a neighbourhood that looked to be getting back on its feet.

Meanwhile the historic Versatile Pacific Shipyards was entering its final days. When it closed in 1992—the dry dock at the eastern end of the site was saved and is now operated by Seaspan—it left a broad swath of waterfront land vacant. In 2001 Pinnacle International won the right to develop the land, and a new hotel and a series of residential towers was built as a first step in revitalizing this stretch of waterfront. In 2014 City council rebranded the site “The Shipyards” and plans moved forward to develop part of it as a public gathering spot. After thirty years of development, Lower Lonsdale, with its ferry dock, public market, forest of new high-rise residential towers and heritage precinct, is set to become a gateway to the new North Shore.


When I was first elected in 1993, Lower Lonsdale was not a nice place. You know, it was where beer parlours were and vast open parking lots and abandoned buildings, and the shipyards were closed. It was not a nice place. The SeaBus was a bit of an anomaly. When that opened in 1977, and Lonsdale Quay, that kind of looked to potential, and with the ICBC moving in, it started bringing some people in. It said, ‘Hey, we have some potential here.’ So through the 1980s, they started to plan that, and then in the 1990s we actually started to build residential in Lower Lonsdale, and it’s been very successful ever since.”

—City mayor Darrell Mussatto15

An aerial view of the North Vancouver waterfront ca. 1977 shows a completed SeaBus terminal, the site of Lonsdale Quay to the right and the future Waterfront Park to the left. NVMA 9287

> Cracking the Political Glass Ceiling

> Population Chart: City and District

An Alternative Lifestyle

While middle-class residential neighbourhoods were emerging after the war, there was an alternative form of housing meant for the less well-to-do—squatters’ cabins. Historically, these makeshift dwellings were located on the foreshore at several locations around Burrard Inlet. Sizeable squatter communities were located in Stanley Park, Coal Harbour, False Creek, Brighton Beach and east of the Second Narrows at “Crabtown” in Burnaby. Often constructed of driftwood or scraps from the lumber mills, they stood on stilts and were usually “off the grid,” having neither electricity nor plumbing. Often the dwellings belonged to single men—fishermen, beachcombers, hermits, pensioners, workers at nearby mills and boatyards—but there were families as well. The cabins were especially attractive to free-spirited, artistic types who didn’t have a lot of money and didn’t mind the lack of secure tenure. It has been estimated that they provided homes to as many as 1,800 people in the inlet during the 1930s and 1940s, but during the 1950s port authorities razed almost all of them.

On the North Shore, squatter communities appeared at Roche Point and Maplewood Flats. The one at Roche Point, sometimes called “Lazy Bay,” began during the depressed economic times of the 1930s and numbered about ninety structures at its height. It was notable as the centre of a bohemian community of poets and painters that included, at one time or another, the poets Dorothy Livesay and Earle Birney. The most famous of the literary residents was the British-born novelist Malcolm Lowry, who lived at the point with his wife Margerie Bonner from 1940 to 1954. Most of his best-known novel, Under the Volcano, was written there. The ramshackle Roche Point dwellings were bulldozed in the late 1950s, though one or two survived, and the area became Cates Park.

At Maplewood Flats at the mouth of McCartney Creek, a small squatter community associated with the hippy counterculture occupied several shacks and tents in the late 1960s. The District government burned down these dwellings in the early 1970s, ostensibly to make way for a shopping mall that never materialized. The one exception was a home belonging to an elderly resident who was allowed to remain until 1986, when he went into a nursing home and his shack was demolished. The last squatter’s home at Roche Point—indeed, the last in Burrard Inlet—belonged to the jazz musician and poet Al Neil and his co-resident, the artist Carole Itter. Neil worked for many years as a watchman for the boatyard next door, but in 2015, he and Itter were evicted by the Port Authority to make way for redevelopment of the waterfront and their cabin was relocated. It was the official end of a colourful era.


The City and the District of North Vancouver became separate municipalities in 1907, but the possibility of re-amalgamation has never been far from the minds of North Shore residents who wonder whether their relatively small geographic area requires two governments. During the period when local government was suspended, Commissioner Charles Tisdall thought that re-amalgamation would save money by avoiding the duplication of public services. In 1939 water commissioner E. A. Cleveland proposed the creation of a single, smaller municipality focused on the lower slopes, with everything to the north becoming provincial parkland. The Vancouver Sun concurred. “Could not city and municipality join in a new shore-line corporation,” the newspaper asked in a July 15 editorial, “running back only to the foot of the mountains?” Despite apparent support among local business leaders, the idea was not acted upon, probably because of the outbreak of World War II.

This cartoon by David Alavoine in the North Shore Citizen pokes fun at the issue of amalgamation. The caption reads: “Your father’s chairman of tonight’s meeting on ‘Communities in Harmony and Amalgamation’!” NVMA David Alavoine Fonds 185

During the 1950s, in part because of the troubled financial situation of the prewar period, local politicians again began to consider reuniting the two municipalities. In 1957 the City commissioned a study of the financial implications of a merger, but despite concluding that it made economic sense, council did not pursue it. Almost ten years later, two separate studies concluded that a single municipality would deliver services more efficiently and more cost-effectively. A case in point was the joint City/District project to commemorate Canada’s upcoming one hundredth birthday in 1967. All across the country, communities were taking advantage of the centennial to sponsor their own birthday projects. Along with a host of municipal centres, parks and museums, these included a bathtub race across the Strait of Georgia and, in St. Paul, Alberta, a landing pad for flying saucers. In North Vancouver a more practical centennial committee decided on a new community recreation complex, encompassing hockey and curling rinks, a swimming pool and a civic auditorium. The public overwhelmingly endorsed the idea in a referendum, and in 1966, the North Vancouver Memorial Community Centre (now the Harry Jerome centre) and Centennial Theatre complex opened at Lonsdale and 23rd. (A Japanese tea house, constructed in 1910, had once stood on the site, along with a horticultural garden.) Shortly afterwards, in 1970, the two municipalities created a joint recreation commission to administer indoor and outdoor recreation activities.

> Cooperating for Health


So up until 1967 recreation was provided by people themselves and they had to look after it. And the municipality wasn’t providing recreation facilities, not on an extensive basis. That picture started to change in 1966/67 when suddenly the District and the City together went into recreation and the whole recreation picture started to change.”

—Dirk Oostindie, District parks superintendent 1959–199316


But if anyone had thought so, this was not a first step to re-amalgamation. Most members of City council, in particular Mayor Carrie Cates, were set against the idea, even when the provincial government got involved. In the spring of 1967 the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who favoured the idea of a single municipality, more or less ordered the City and District to hold a referendum on the issue, which they did in order to avoid what District Reeve Ron Andrews called “a shotgun marriage with the Provincial government holding the shotgun.”17 On September 19, 1968, North Vancouverites cast their votes on amalgamation. The result was both Yes and No. In the District, close to 90 percent of electors voted in favour, but in the City only 50.5 percent of voters approved and the law required a 60 percent approval in both municipalities. Many people observed that a minority of voters had scuttled the plan but there was nothing anyone could do. Nonetheless the issue continued to simmer and, in the spring of 1971, the City polled its residents once again on the issue. This time the vote against amalgamation was pronounced: 65 percent of voters said “No.”

For the time being the issue was dormant, but it never stayed asleep for long. In 1973 the provincial government once again hinted at forcing a merger, and despite the adamant opposition of City mayor Tom Reid, the two councils established a joint committee to study the issue once again. This committee dragged on its considerations for years without ever coming to a conclusion. The possibility of re-amalgamation has been raised several times since, most recently in 2014 when the District created a North Shore Reunification Committee to investigate the issue. The committee identified a range of questions that needed answers. Would reunification bring higher taxes? Would it improve the quality of public services on the North Shore? Would it change public access to government? What would a unified political structure look like? How should public opinion on the issue be determined? And so on. While the District over the years has been in favour of at least considering reunification, officials in the City continue to believe the financial disadvantages outweigh any possible advantages. Long-time City mayor Jack Loucks put it succinctly in 1995: “We figure the city could only be a real loser in amalgamation.”18

> Man with a Kind Heart

Diversifying the Population

One of the most important events to shape the modern character of North Vancouver did not take place on the North Shore at all. During the 1970s, far away on the other side of the world, opposition was gathering against the Pahlavi dynasty, which had ruled Iran for five decades. Demonstrations against the ruling shah paralyzed the country until finally he was forced into exile early in 1979 and Iran became an Islamic republic led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. During this turbulent period, many Iranians left the country to live abroad, whether they were supporters of the old regime or belonged to religious or ethnic minority groups and feared persecution by the new. During the 1980s the war between Iran and Iraq led others to seek a more stable life overseas. Many of these exiles were attracted to the Lower Mainland, and in particular to the North Shore, which resembles the mountainous area around Tehran. The initially small community of newcomers attracted others who desired to settle among friends and relatives, until by 2012, there were close to eleven thousand Farsi-speaking people living on the North Shore. Their community is very diverse both religiously and ethnically, and includes Muslims, Christians, Sufis, Zoroastrians, Baha’is, Kurds, Turks and Armenians. Their presence is reflected in the variety of Persian-oriented merchants on Lonsdale Avenue, the celebration of Persian festivals and the proliferation of Farsi media.

Iranians are just one immigrant group among many that contributed to the diversification and the growth of the North Vancouver population from the 1970s onward. In 1972 the dictator Idi Amin expelled people of Asian descent from Uganda. Among the eighty thousand exiles were many Ismaili Muslims. For the first time Canada agreed to accept a substantial number of refugees from a non-European country. Of the 5,700 who came, most were Ismailis, many of whom settled on the North Shore. Despite being allowed to bring almost nothing when they left Uganda, they quickly adapted to life in their new home. In 1992 the community opened the Headquarters-Lion’s Gate Jamatkhana, a spiritual and social centre located near Murdo Frazer Park, designed by noted Ismaili architect Farouk Noormohamed. All these newcomers—Iranian, Ismaili and others—faced many of the same challenges encountered by most immigrants to a new country. Accommodations in North Vancouver were expensive and not all the newcomers were well off. Jobs were hard to come by, especially for those lacking a proficiency in English. Professional people—lawyers, doctors, engineers—often did not have their qualifications recognized. Yet despite these impediments, most immigrants were able to make a successful transition to life in their new home.

According to the Canadian census, the population of the District had become 22 percent visible minority by 2011, slightly less than the provincial level of 24 percent but considerably more diversified than it had been even twenty years earlier. In the same year the City population was 29 percent visible minority.

> 2011 Visible Minority Population: City and District

> The Jeromes, North Vancouver’s Record Setters

First Nations Revival

As North Vancouver welcomed more immigrants, the original inhabitants experienced a renewal of their culture and economic prospects. First Nations’ reserve lands were supposed to be inviolable, but for years, local governments had hoped to get their hands on at least some of the land for their own purposes. Prior to World War I, for example, North Vancouver asked the federal government if it could buy the Capilano and Mission reserves so that the land could be used for port-related industry. Small pieces of the reserves were hacked off, usually without consultation with the First Nations, to accommodate the construction of Marine Drive and the Lions Gate Bridge, as well as railway rights-of-way close to the waterfront.

In the spring of 1939, King George VI and his wife, Elizabeth, paid a six-week visit to Canada, during which they spent a day in Vancouver. After touring the city in a convertible limousine and attending a luncheon at the Hotel Vancouver, the royal couple got back in their car and set off for the North Shore. They crossed the Second Narrows Bridge and drove westward through both the City and the District, acknowledging the cheers of tens of thousands of people, many of them schoolchildren, who lined the route. On their way to the Lions Gate Bridge the royals passed by the Capilano Reserve, where the Squamish people had asked to meet them. But the procession was running late and the car did not stop. Mary Agnes Capilano, then one hundred years old, was sorely disappointed not to be able to speak to the queen. Later, an official of the royal visit committee wrote to the Band: “We are assured that Their Majesties took particular pains to acknowledge the homage of their Indian subjects, and that in passing them the rate of speed was considerably lowered.”19 The disappointment of the royal visit seemed to symbolize the indifference 
with which officialdom then treated the local First Nations.

In 1899 the Oblate brothers, Catholic missionaries who had great influence amongst the Squamish people, opened a residential school on Keith Road, just north of the Mission Reserve. The school, St. Paul’s, staffed by a French religious order named the Sisters of the Child Jesus, was one of many boarding schools for Native children across Canada. Their sad legacy was the subject of a damning report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) in 2015. These schools—the last one closed in 1996—were sponsored by the federal government and operated by different religious denominations, both Catholic and Protestant. It was the intention of the schools to assimilate the Aboriginal students into mainstream society, an intention which the TRC called “cultural genocide.” Aboriginal languages and cultural practices were not allowed. “There is a lot of feeling of hate about the days when people were controlled by the church and by the school,” recalled Chief Simon Baker of the Mission Reserve. “At the school, they were forbidden, like at a lot of other schools, to speak the Squamish language.”20 Students, who were between the ages of three and sixteen, endured a strict routine, including regular corporal punishment and abundant religious instruction. St. Paul’s, one of eighteen residential schools in British Columbia, closed in June 1959 and was demolished. In 2014 former students installed a memorial statue at the site, which is now occupied by St. Thomas Aquinas Regional Secondary School. First Nations students now attend the local public schools. As well, the Squamish Nation operates a primary school on the Capilano Reserve. Xwemelch’stn Etsimxwawtxw (Capilano Little Ones School), offers kindergarten to Grade 2 education to young members of the Nation.


When we went to school, really there wasn’t a sense of family in that school. We all had numbers. We weren’t referred to by name. And things were done on that basis because those in the school were nuns and unfortunately they never had any parenting skills. They never knew about those things that were important for us as young children growing up in that environment. I didn’t sense it was family, but at nine, ten years old, something dramatic happened to me with the sisters. Two nuns had taken me out of bed and gave me one hundred on my bottom with a leather strap. One hundred. Some of my older brothers were there and they counted. And so, you know, the nuns weren’t really mothers and fathers. They didn’t know what it was about; it was a religious institution there, a lot of time was spent in religious instruction and praying. Unfortunately, I found out later, the sisters in that school, a number of them did not come with teaching certificates. They were learning on the job as they were going . . . So, you know, that school wasn’t a real place to grow up . . .”

—William Nahanee of Mission Reserve, former student of St. Paul’s Indian Residential School21


Over the years, the Squamish and the Tsleil-Waututh resisted attempts to expropriate their lands and destroy their culture. In 1923, sixteen Squamish chiefs signed an amalgamation agreement that created the Squamish Nation and established an elected council. (The Tsleil-Waututh did not join the partnership, asserting their own identity as a separate First Nation.) With time, this council took control of its own affairs from the appointed Indian agents. Many prominent leaders emerged from the North Shore reserves to defend Aboriginal rights. Dan George (Geswanouth Slahoot), chief of the Tsleil-Waututh during the 1950s and originally a longshoreman, used his position as an award-winning actor to promote the status of First Nations people. At a celebration of Canada’s hundredth birthday in 1967, he stunned the crowd at Vancouver’s Empire Stadium with his “Lament for Confederation,” in which he rebuked Canadians for their mistreatment of Aboriginal people. Andy Paull, a former student at St. Paul’s, worked in a Vancouver law office, and though First Nations were not allowed to become lawyers at the time, he was a leading spokesman on Aboriginal law and rights until his death in 1959, respected across the country for his knowledge and eloquence. Joe Mathias, who grew up on the Capilano Reserve, was a grandson of Joe Capilano. After attending law school at UBC, he served as chief of his people for many years, and was a leading Aboriginal politician with the Assembly of First Nations and other organizations.


For many years, the First Nations on the North Shore have been engaged in economic development projects to improve life in their communities. In 1992 the Tsleil-Waututh partnered with private investors to create Takaya Developments Ltd. as a vehicle for promoting economic growth. Since that time, the Nation has built several condominium and townhouse complexes on reserve land. As well, it operates a golf driving range and a canoe and kayak touring company, all under the auspices of the Takaya brand. The Squamish own the land on which part of the Park Royal Shopping Centre in West Vancouver sits, as well as a variety of other businesses.

In 1992, after many years of refusing to acknowledge Aboriginal treaty rights, the provincial government agreed to enter treaty negotiations with the First Nations, and the BC Treaty Commission was established. Both the Tsleil-Waututh and the Squamish entered the lengthy treaty process. Meanwhile, other outstanding issues were resolved. For example, in 2000 the federal government agreed to pay the Squamish Nation twenty million dollars as part of the so-called “Kitsilano Agreement.” This agreement stemmed from the shameful eviction of Squamish families from their village of Snauq (the Kitsilano Indian Reserve) on Vancouver’s Vanier Point in 1913. Some of these sixty to seventy people came to settle on the North Shore reserves. When restitution finally was paid in 2000, it also included lands on the North Shore that had been alienated from the Capilano and Mission reserves.

A panoramic view of the Mission Reserve in 1902. VPL 5642

Treaty agreements are one example of how the First Nations are reasserting their rights. Another is a revival of the Squamish language, which was nearly eradicated by the residential school program. A team of elders, linguists and researchers toiled for eighteen years to produce, in 2011, the Squamish-English Dictionary, a landmark publication containing the English equivalents for about eight thousand words in the Squamish language. The dictionary is a visible sign of the efforts the people are making to strengthen their language and culture.


When I fought to protect my land and my home, I was called a savage. When I neither understood nor welcomed his way of life, I was called lazy. When I tried to rule my people, I was stripped of my authority . .

Oh God! Like the thunderbird of old I shall rise again out of the sea; I shall grab the instruments of the white man’s success—his education, his skills—and with these new tools I shall build my race into the proudest segment of your society.”

—Chief Dan George, “Lament for Confederation”22


> Activist and Collector

Arts and Culture

At the same time as North Vancouver has become more ethnically diverse, it has also seen a proliferation of cultural institutions that reflect the maturity of the community. In 1972, for example, the North Vancouver Museum and Archives opened in the former PGE railway station, which had been moved to Mahon Park and converted for the purpose. The facility was managed by the City until 1996, when the District came on board. After four years in the cramped quarters of the railway station, the Museum and Archives moved to the Presentation House Arts Centre, a repurposed building in Lower Lonsdale that was built in 1902 as a school and then served as City Hall for sixty years. The three-storey Arts Centre also came to house the community arts council, the Presentation House Theatre and an art gallery, the Presentation House Gallery. Over the years, the venerable structure began to show its age and all three of its cultural tenants saw the need to plan for new beginnings. In 2006, the Archives moved to a new home at the Community History Centre, a renovated heritage building in Lynn Valley, while the museum continues to search for a new location. The Presentation House Gallery intends to relocate to a new facility on the waterfront next door to Lonsdale Quay, where it will contribute to the ongoing revitalization of the former shipyard lands.

Presentation House is not the only art gallery in North Vancouver. The Seymour Art Gallery has been operating in the heart of Deep Cove since 1985. Then, in 2001, the community arts council opened the CityScape Community Art Space in Lower Lonsdale as a public exhibition venue for the visual arts. It was joined in 2012 by the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art, also located on Lonsdale Avenue. In a unique collaboration, this gallery occupies the main floor of the North Vancouver School District’s headquarters building, where it hosts the innovative Artists for Kids program, offering students of all ages the opportunity to appreciate the work of leading artists and to develop their own artistic skills. More recently, in 2015 Brigitte and Henning Freybe, art collectors and philanthropists from the North Shore, opened the Griffin Art Projects near lower Pemberton Avenue as a showcase for contemporary art.

During the 1960s the provincial government invested heavily in post-secondary education. As part of this expansion, almost a dozen two-year community colleges opened around the province. One of these was Capilano College, which began classes in temporary quarters on the grounds of West Vancouver Secondary School in September 1968. A permanent site was subsequently set aside in the Lynnmour area of the District of North Vancouver, where construction got underway in 1970. When it opened in 1973, Capilano College had a student population of 1,965. Over the years, more buildings were added, and in 1990, the college offered its first four-year bachelor degree. Since 2008, Capilano has been an accredited university.

Capilano University is known for its School of Motion Picture Arts, so it is appropriate that North Vancouver has become a major film production centre. The story begins with, of all things, a distillery. In 1957, Canadian Park and Tilford Distilleries opened an operation on a 24-acre (9.7-ha) site west of the north end of the Second Narrows Bridge. A few years later the company took an unused corner of the property and transformed it into a public garden as a gift to the community. Park and Tilford Gardens officially opened in January 1969 and has been a feature attraction ever since. When the distillery closed in 1983, its then-owner, Schenley Canada, planned to sell the entire site for redevelopment. After much controversy, the gardens were saved, while the rest of the property became a shopping centre and, to the north, a film studio: North Shore Studios, built by Hollywood producer Stephen J. Cannell. Cannell had already been filming his hit television series 21 Jump Street, featuring a young Johnny Depp, at Carson Graham Secondary. Jump Street, which debuted in 1987, was one of the first major television shows to film on location in the Lower Mainland.

North Shore Studios continued its production of hit television series with the enormously successful science fiction conspiracy thriller The X-Files. Filmed largely at the studios and at locations around the Lower Mainland, it began airing in 1993 and its first five seasons were made on the North Shore before production moved to Los Angeles. North Shore Studios was purchased and renamed “Lionsgate Studios” in 1997, but returned to its original name in 2006 when property developer Nat Bosa bought it. Other locations around North Vancouver have featured in a variety of television series and motion pictures. Highlights include the escape drama The Fugitive, partly shot at Cleveland Dam; the mystery Double Jeopardy, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Ashley Judd, with scenes shot in Edgemont Village; and the long-running sci-fi television series Stargate SG-1. Not forgetting one of the earliest films shot on the North Shore, Robert Altman’s classic hippie western, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, featuring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie and released in 1971. The film was shot in West Vancouver and Squamish, but many of the sets were built by residents of the squatter community at Maplewood. In a sense, McCabe was North Vancouver’s initiation into the film industry.

The Lynn Valley library. Today’s modern facilities have come a long way from the District’s first purpose-built library, an unheated shack on Edgemont Boulevard that opened at the beginning of 1953. Scott Robarts photo

Looking to the Future

The District of North Vancouver is a sprawling municipality covering a lot of territory, which makes it a challenge for local government to provide services to such a dispersed population; this was one reason the City and District separated in the first place. In response to this challenge, the District has adopted a “network of centres” model for future development. This model attempts to manage growth by creating concentrations of residential and commercial development linked by efficient transportation corridors. According to the Official Community Plan (OCP) adopted in 2011, the District will feature eight distinct neighbourhoods (along with the First Nations reserves). Two will be so-called “Town Centres” (Lynn Valley and Lynn Creek), while the remaining six will be “Village Centres” (Lions Gate, Edgemont, Queensdale, Maplewood, Parkgate and Deep Cove). The Town Centres will be transportation hubs containing significant commercial enterprises and major public facilities such as libraries and community centres. Village centres will provide a focus for a surrounding neighbourhood, with local shopping and a more intimate “urban village” atmosphere. By focusing as much as 90 percent of future development in these compact “centres,” planners hope to improve transportation, reduce the community’s environmental footprint and make it more economical to provide public services.

Another challenge facing the District is the “graying” of its population. A quarter of all residents are now over fifty-five years of age. At the same time, the percentage of young adults has declined, as has the number of jobs available locally, raising questions about the economic future of the community. (Another indicator is the decline in the number of school-age children, resulting in the closure of several schools.) If there isn’t a healthy number of jobs available locally, it means that residents must commute to work, with the environmental downside that implies. Seventy percent of housing in the District is in the form of detached homes, which has implications for transportation, efficiency of public services and ecological footprint. As part of its OCP, the District is encouraging a wider variety of housing types in the hopes of providing affordable housing opportunities for lower-income residents.

By contrast, the focus of commercial and residential development in North Vancouver City is in Lower and Central Lonsdale Avenue and along the Marine Drive corridor. At the moment, Central and Lower Lonsdale contain a little more than 60 percent of the City’s population, and a majority of new immigrants to the community are choosing to live there. Like the District, the City plans to focus future development in high-density urban areas and along transportation corridors in order to reap the benefits that densification produces.

If managing growth is one of the challenges facing local governments on the North Shore, preserving the natural environment is another. From the beginning of the District in 1891, people have been attracted to North Vancouver because it is the gateway to the local mountains and the recreational opportunities they provide. Few other communities are so defined by their natural setting.

This map shows the village and town centres where the District intends to focus growth in the future.


1 North Shore Express, April 14, 1911, p.4.

2 Kathleen Woodward-Reynolds, A History of the City and District of North Vancouver (Vancouver: UBC, MA thesis, 1943), 81.

3 North Vancouver News, August 19, 1955, p.12.

4 Sean Kheraj, Inventing Stanley Park (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2013), 139.

5 James W. Morton, Capilano: The Story of a River (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1970), 77.

6 Draycott, op. cit., 30.

7 Woodward-Reynolds, op. cit., 78.

8 Dawn Sparks and Martha Border, Echoes Across the Inlet (District of North Vancouver: Deep Cove and Area Heritage Association, 1989), 22.

9 Ibid., 74.

10 Interview transcript, North Vancouver Museum & Archives.

11 Ibid.

12 Donald Luxton, The Modern Architecture of North Vancouver, 1930–1965 (North Vancouver: District of North Vancouver, 1997), 6.

13 Interview transcript, North Vancouver Museum & Archives.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid.

16 Ibid.

17 Karl Newholm, “North Vancouver City and District: The Amalgamation Issue,” unpublished paper, North Vancouver Museum & Archives, Item 672, 1987, p.2.

18 Warren Sommer, The Ambitious City (Madeira Park, BC: Harbour Publishing, 2007), 302.

19 Lilia D’Acres and Donald Luxton, Lions Gate (Vancouver: Talonbooks, 1999), 141.

20 Baker, op. cit., 10.

21 Interview transcript, North Vancouver Museum & Archives.

22 Vancouver Sun, July 2, 2015.


Next: Chapter 3: On Nature’s Edge

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