Vancouver Heritage Foundation Weekly: Urban by Nature


Vancouver Heritage Foundation is a registered charity supporting the conservation of heritage buildings and structures in recognition of their contribution to the city’s economy, sustainability and culture.
The Choklit Park Adventure Playground about 1975, when it was newly completed. Photo courtesy of Charles Flavelle.
Choklit Park, July 16th, 2012 Plaque Presentation with Purdy's Chocolates

Vancouver was once a dense forest filled with swamps, creeks, and wildlife . As naturally green as we may imagine our city to be, the spots that are now parks and open spaces were once sites of heavy industry, while  seemingly established areas were streams and vacant  land. The curious nature of our urban green spaces is even more fascinating when you dive right into that vast ocean of history. We’ll be featuring different Places That Matter sites that have urban/green history in 2013, like Canron Shipyards (now the Olympic Village) . First a look back at  Choklit Park, named by children in the neighbourhood, familiar with the Purdy’s Chocolates factory, and spelling it the only way logical to a young child’s mind. Sweet!

Choklit Park, as seen in the above images, has evolved over its 40+ years of  existence. We had an amazing plaque celebration in July of 2012, and had the privilege of meeting many past employees, former owners, and current owner of  Purdy’s Chocolates, a family business since 1963. They recalled the factory to the left of the park, and the beautiful home on the right, used as the office, that is  no longer standing. Purdy’s factory moved in 1982 (now at 2777 Kingsway), and the park became  what it is today after its departure; a steep staircase down the slope, with breathtaking view points, greened over time, but very much an urban lansdcape. Next time you’re walking down 7th, ponder the factory, the neighbourhood and how much has changed from its industrial days…

Read here for the story of how the park came to be, from the Purdy’s Chocolates website:

“The idea of Choklit Park was sparked in 1969 when Purdy’s ran into problems with its awkward loading facilities. Access to the building was by a narrow and steep driveway beside the factory. Truck drivers never liked backing down it because their unsecured loads would often tip over. If only Purdy’s could create a circular driveway, where the trucks could drive down, swing out and back up to the factory loading bays, their problem would be solved.

The area around the factory on West 7th was a bleak mix of industry and residences, with no parks for local kids. Charles felt that the neighborhood children would benefit from a safe play area. If Purdy’s could build a new driveway on the city’s unused street end and add a park to the small wooded area next to the factory, the result would be a winner for all. Charles’s request to lease the undeveloped site was approved by City Council, on condition that “Purdy’s shall be responsible for the creation of a children’s play area”. The park was complete by the end of the summer of 1970 and soon became a huge draw for the neighbourhood and for people from many other parts of the city.”