A Jetsons-esque public art piece near the south end of the Cambie Street Bridge holds a secret—not to mention an interesting story.
The sculpture is known as Vancouver's 'Centennial Rocket' and is actually a replica of another rocket ship.
In 1936, a three-metre, 320 kg rocket sculpture was built as part of the Sheet Metal Worker’s Union Local 280's PNE Jubilee Parade float in celebration of Vancouver's 50th anniversary. The float, designed by Lew Parry a former metal worker and art director of Neon Products, won the grand prize and the rocket ship was gifted to the then-city-owned Vancouver International Airport.
It was mounted atop an emergency power station outside the south terminal and welcomed travellers for 36 years until 1972 when the federal government decided to build an anti-skyjacking security fence around the airport perimeter. The rocket was never given a new home and, according to the City of Vancouver Archives, was eventually scrapped due to rust.
The iconic art was sadly lost to time and memory until Expo 86 when the Vancouver Transportation Club and the same Sheet Metal Worker’s Union began soliciting donations to recreate the rocket but "flashier."
The approximately $60,000 replica model rocket ship was on display for the duration of Expo before being given to Vancouver to commemorate the city’s 100-year anniversary.
It was transported by helicopter to its permanent site by the Cambie bridge and erected on an 11-foot stand with a time capsule of memorabilia at the base. The contents supposedly include an Expo 86 passport with stamps of all the pavilions and recorded messages from local celebrities.
It's set to be opened 50 years after Expo, so in 2036.
The union tracked down Parry, who still had his original plans and supervised the replica's construction. The new model was built with more durable materials than the first and a plaque at its base has a quote from Parry that reads: "Presented to the citizens of Vancouver, this rocket is to commemorate the Centennial and the celebration of Expo 86 World's Exposition. This rocket is a symbol of the role played by craftsmanship and transportation in the growth of Vancouver."