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5 things you (probably) didn't know about Coal Harbour

Fishing with dynamite, a Boeing factory, and the Kanaka Rancherie are all part of the Vancouver neighbourhood's history.
From left to right: a Squamish dwelling on the shores of Coal Harbour in 1868 (one of the first photographs taken in what would become Vancouver), Spratt's Oilery, the Boeing Factory in Coal Harbour.

Coal Harbour is famous now for its towering towers, towering real estate values, and towering...seawall.

Well, the seawall doesn't tower that much, unless you're a seal.

Now one of Vancouver's swankiest neighbourhoods, its history is fairly industrial, especially in Vancouver's earliest and youthful days.

It was also home to the legendary Denman Arena, but that's a story for another day (in the past, because it's already been in a "5 Things").

But for five all-new old facts, read on.

1. Coal Harbour was named after coal was discovered there, but coal has never been mined there

Coal was "discovered" at Coal Harbour on June 13, 1859 by settlers, but despite the need for the fuel at the time, it was determined it wasn't worth trying to mine the area.

In fact, the land was considered relatively worthless in the early days of European settlement of the area, as it was remote compared to the communities of New West Minster and Port Moody, and Gastown (aka Granville) was still small.

2. Boeing had a seaplane factory there

While Boeing is an iconic company of Seattle, it had a fairly notable factory in Vancouver in 1929 after buying out a local company. It was also where the company's founder, William Boeing, had his personal yacht built (the Tanconite).

It expanded during WW2, but after the war the factory slowed production (including a new factory on Sea Island) and eventually closed.

3. Kanaka Rancherie

One of the first non-Indigenous residents of Coal Harbour was a community of Kanaka (Indigenous people from Hawaii) living at a small ranch; it would become known as Kanaka Rancherie or Kanaka Ranch.

The community was active in the area until the 1920s.

Eihu Lane in Coal Harbour is named after one of the Kanaka.

4. They used to fish with dynamite there

Spratt's Oilery (aka Spratt's Ark), a fish rendering plant on Coal Harbour's seashore near the foot of what is Burrard Street now, was a well-known business in the earliest days of Vancouver.

Fishermen there had an unusual way of catching herring; they dropped dynamite into the water and collected what floated to the top.

It burned down on Aug. 12, 1886.

5. It's one of the busiest water aerodromes in the world

The Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre is pretty small when compared to Vancouver International Airport, but when compared to other seaplane airports, it's a giant.

With tens of thousands of flights a year, it's the busiest of its kind in Canada, and one of the busiest in the world. Harbour Air, which flies out of the airport is the biggest seaplane company in North America, and the route between the harbours of Vancouver and Victoria is one of the busiest routes (by number of flights per year) in the world.

It's also home to an all-electric seaplane used for commercial flights. And, oddly, throws off the convention of Canadian airports using airport codes that start with a Y (as in YVR or YYZ).