Vancouver Was Awesome: The Fight for Greer’s Beach

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A Vancouver time travelogue brought to you by Past Tense.

Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach was originally called Greer’s Beach after Sam Greer, a homesteader who set up a seven-acre farm at English Bay in June 1884. When the Canadian Pacific Railway came to town, Greer was one of the numerous “squatters” it had to evict from the 6000 acres the company had been granted as part of the deal to locate its western terminus at Burrard Inlet.

Greer spent years fighting the CPR to keep his land, in court and mano-a-mano. Once he used an axe to chase off the officials who came to evict him and another time he was successfully evicted but managed to get an injunction allowing him to reoccupy the land and have the CPR’s crew and equipment removed. Greer fortified the property with barricades and weapons to prevent CPR construction crews on his property.

The final showdown came in 1891, when the deputy sheriff and a gang of CPR men came to kick Greer and his family out and demolish his home and barn. Greer ran into the house and slammed the door, through which he fired a round of buckshot that wounded the deputy sheriff. A jury found that Greer had discharged his weapon accidentally. However, Judge Begbie browbeat the juryinto finding him guilty of assault, and he was sent to prison.

As a final insult, the CPR changed the beach’s name to Kitsilano but left it undeveloped for years. In the meantime, it became an informal summer resort called “Tent Town” that got more popular each year, especially after a new streetcar line made it accessible in 1905. The campground was finally shut down in 1908 due to a lack of sanitation facilities, and the CPR opened it up for residential development in 1909.

This and many other stories from Vancouver’s past can be found in Vancouver Was Awesome: A Curious Pictorial History (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2013), available in the finest bookstores.

Source: Photo by Don Coltman, City of Vancouver Archives #677-740

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