People have inhabited the North Shore of Burrard Inlet for thousands of years, harvesting the rich resources of land and sea. With the arrival of the early explorers, followed by Euro-Canadian settlers, the slopes of the North Shore Mountains with their magnificent stands of tall timber attracted the attention of loggers, sawmillers and shipbuilders. The inlet’s long shoreline and deepwater harbour allowed these industries to thrive and form the basis of the community of North Vancouver, which now partners with Vancouver as Canada’s Pacific gateway.

The Mabel Brown, first of a series of wooden schooners built at Wallace Shipyards on the North Vancouver waterfront during World War I. NVMA 4973

In 2016 the District of North Vancouver celebrates its 125th anniversary. To mark this important milestone, the North Vancouver Museum & Archives decided it was important to produce an up-to-date history of the community. Where Mountains Meet the Sea tells the story of the North Shore from its original First Nations inhabitants to its newest newcomers, from its industrial waterfront to the snow-covered slopes of its mountain resorts. When it was incorporated in 1891, the District of North Vancouver included the north side of Burrard Inlet from Horseshoe Bay on the west to Indian Arm on the east. In 1907 the City of North Vancouver was created as a separate municipality encompassing the central core of the District. Then, in 1912, the community of West Vancouver was created, setting apart the area west of the Capilano River. For many years North Vancouver slumbered. It had many assets. Its mountain slopes attracted hikers and skiers; loggers exploited its rich forests; its shipyards gave jobs to thousands of workers, especially during wartime. But residential settlement was patchy and slow to develop and the community remained a suburb of Vancouver for the first half of its history. Following World War II, however, a new era dawned. With two new bridges providing access to Vancouver across the inlet, North Vancouver emerged as a residential community in its own right. Small, isolated neighbourhoods were joined by new suburban developments until by the 1970s the disparate parts of North Vancouver were coming together to form a growing, prosperous mountainside community.

The ferry St. George, launched in 1904, was named for the real estate developer Alfred St. George Hamersley. It was renamed North Vancouver #2 when the service was taken over by the city. NVMA 10017

The organization of the contents of Where Mountains Meet the Sea requires a word of explanation. Instead of the conventional chronology, the material is divided into three chapters, each dealing with one of three important themes: the waterfront, the growth of the community and the natural environment. Within each chapter the content moves more or less chronologically but overall the content moves geographically from the waterfront up the sides of the mountain slopes. Chapter 1, “On the Waterfront,” focuses on the original First Nations inhabitants, transportation networks around Burrard Inlet and the development of waterfront industries. Chapter 2, “Building Communities,” describes the political, social and cultural evolution of the North Shore and the development of its various neighbourhoods. Finally, Chapter 3, “On Nature’s Edge,” describes North Vancouver’s rich legacy of wilderness and parks.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, North Vancouver entered a period of unprecedented growth, with all the opportunities and challenges that development presents. The 125th anniversary seems an appropriate vantage point from which to look back on the entire history of the community to understand how it arrived at where it is today.

This map shows the municipal boundaries of the City and the District of North Vancouver and many of the major physical features. Map by Roger Handling


Next: Chapter 1: On the Waterfront

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