Vancouver Was Awesome: The first horse racecourse, 1887-1889


A Vancouver time travelogue brought to you by Past Tense.

Horse racing began at Hastings Park a few months before this photo was taken from atop the original Hotel Vancouver in 1889. Previously, the local track was what’s now downtown Vancouver. Businessmen George Black and Sam Brighouse organized horse races on a course that began on Pacific Street in Yaletown and ran north up Howe Street (on the left in this photo) before finishing at the Hotel Vancouver at Granville and Georgia, where a judge’s box had been set up.

The original plan was to use Georgia Street because it was so wide, but with the monster trees just recently cleared and heavy rain in the spring of 1887, Georgia was too mucky. As it was, they rushed to finish clearing Granville south to Yaletown so it would be ready for racing on Dominion Day. Walter Graveley recalled perching on the unfinished walls of the CPR’s new Opera House just to the south of Hotel Vancouver to watch the races. Black and Brighouse’s horse “Lumpy” was one of the star attractions.

The Daily News-Advertiser described one of races in 1888:

South Granville Street was crowded yesterday with lovers of horse flesh, and sporting men generally. A good day’s sport was provided, and the committee are to be congratulated on the success of their endeavours. The first horse race was a three quarter mile flat race, best two heats out of three, and open to any horse that had been in the province six months. Five horses ran.

Horse racing in the area pre-dated the incorporation of Vancouver. The first racehorses on Burrard Inlet were George Black’s “Bryan O’Lynn” and droopy-eyed “Sleepy Dan,” which he raced in Gastown and New West. A Squamish man named Khaytulk, or Supple Jackkept horses in what became Stanley Park. Khaytulk raced his horses against Black’s and the two competed for prize money in Victoria and New Westminster races.

Source: Photo from City of Vancouver Archives #Van Sc P102.1

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