Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

From the 'mother lode' to 'Albert City': 10 stories from 2023 that explored Vancouver's history

From a timelapse video from space to one of the worst American presidents to buried treasure, here are some of V.I.A's top history stories.
Clockwise from top left: The Warren G. Harding memorial in Stanley Park, settlers in Vancouver (Georgia and Seymour) in 1886, Science World being built, Christian Laub's unusual find.

Vancouver's nowhere near the oldest city around, though Indigenous people have been living on the land now known as Vancouver for thousands upon thousands of years.

Vancouver, the city, was founded in 1886, and essentially everything man-made in the city is younger than that.

Each year Vancouver Is Awesome, while covering the news and culture of the day, also explores the history of the city with stories looking at archival photos and video, historic sites, and parts of the city's past. Often knowing something about the past will help give context to the news of today.

And sometimes they're just fun, odd stories.

Here are 10 of them that we covered this year.

Fascinating historic map shows forgotten and lost names of Vancouver places

This map covers a lot of Vancouver's history because it collects names of places used from the first Spanish explorers to arrive to neighbourhood names used less than 100 years ago.

Some of the names are even getting revived a bit today.

Notable things include the fact Vancouver could have been called Albert City, Spanish explorers called Point Grey Isla de Langara for a while because they thought it was an island and an area in the Southlands was called the Garden of Eden.

Photos: Here's what Vancouver looked like the first year it existed

Vancouver was founded in 1886 and almost immediately burned down.

This photo gallery captures the city in those earliest days, with most taken just after the Great Fire and during the rebuilding phase that carried into 1887.

Vancouver has a memorial to one of the worst American presidents of all time. Here's why

President Warren G. Harding was elected by Americans in 1921 and in 1923 he did something no other sitting American president had done.

He stepped foot in Canada. And oddly it wasn't on a visit to Ottawa, Toronto, or Montreal, but in Vancouver. At the time he was incredibly popular, but since then history hasn't been kind (until Donald Trump he was often ranked last by scholars).

However, his visit to Vancouver went fairly well, but a week later he was dead.

And so locals decided to hire a sculptor and made a monument to him in Stanley Park, which still stands today. It may be the only monument to an American president in Vancouver.

80-year-old pamphlet shows the 'Points of Interest' in Vancouver in 1943

Tourism may not have been the industry that built Vancouver (let's give a wave to lumber, fish, and shipping), but it has long been a factor.

In 1943 the Vancouver Tourist Association published this very green (literally) pamphlet advertising all the sights and sites visitors should visit.

Since many of the city's now iconic buildings and popular spots hadn't been created, the list looks a little different than something produced today. Sure, Stanley Park, the Capilano Suspension Bridge, and Chinatown all show up but salmon canneries and a cricket game are also suggestions.

Here's what 9 Vancouver icons looked like while under construction

Speaking of iconic sites around town, there are lots of photos of them now, and some from before they were built, but what about those awkward teenage years when they were growing from a hole in the ground to a building, bridge, or something else?

This story has photos (and a little video) of some of Vancouver's most famous structures during construction, including the Marine Building, Science World, Lions Gate Bridge, and VPL's Central branch.

'This is the mother lode of silverware': Relic hunter finds buried treasure from a Vancouver icon

Finding a few forks in the forest may not sound particularly interesting, but Christian Laub didn't find just any forks.

The bottle digger (yes, that's a thing) made an unusual discovery in the woods where he and another digger found more than 80 utensils buried, all with a stamp from the Hotel Vancouver.

Laub believes they accidentally found stolen silverware that had been stashed at least 70 years ago.

'It has a mystery to it': Vancouver man finds 160-year-old silver dish at thrift store

Laub was on a hot streak because he also made another find in a totally different spot.

While thrifting at a Metro Vancouver store he looked at some of the dishes on display and an old, tarnished heat tray caught his eye.

Laub bought it and went home to do some research. It turns out it originally belonged to a British man who died 1863, meaning the dish is at least 160 years old, but it's a mystery as to how it ended up here.

How Vancouver came 66 votes from looking radically different

In the mid-1940s politicians in Vancouver were looking at building a civic centre, featuring a collection of important public buildings and services, unlike anything the city had ever seen.

Plans were drawn, editorials were written and a model was even put on display downtown, showing how the huge complex could look and pushing for the revolutionary project.

Because it was so big, it needed to go to multiple plebiscites. Voters supported it in one vote in 1946, but in the following one, in March 1947, the public was split on allowing the city to borrow up to $2.5 million to go towards the project. A 60 per cent majority was needed, but it only got 59.7 per cent. That was a difference of 66 votes.

These archival aerial photos show the staggering changes around False Creek over the last 50 years

For much of Vancouver's modern history, False Creek has been an industrial area.

That may sound unusual, given its role in the city now tourist sites like Granville Island and Science World neighbouring residential towers and marinas. However, with Expo 86 and the 2010 Olympics, a lot of development has happened in the last few decades along the little inlet.

Just before all of that happened, the city took several photos of the area, capturing the end of False Creek's industrial era.

Watch: Timelapse video shows Vancouver from space over 36 years

While Google has been capturing images of Earth for more than a decade, the US Geological Survey has been doing it since the 1980s.

And so someone collected all the shots of Vancouver spanning the years from 1984 to 2020 and created this neat timelapse video.