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Travel back in time with this free history app in Vancouver (PHOTOS)

The app features over 650 "then and now" photo sets across Vancouver.

A recently upgraded historical walking tour app allows people to travel back in time as they explore Vancouver. 

While many travel restrictions have been lifted over the summer, the Canadian government continues to advise against international travel. 

The On This Spot historic walking tour app is free and provides the perfect opportunity for locals to get outside without having to pack their suitcases. For trips across B.C. and the country, it includes thousands of mapped-out and precisely restaged then-and-now historic photos in 54 communities across BC and seven other provinces. 

People who used the app are prompted to stand in the "footprints of historic photographers so they can see what they saw from the exact same perspective, creating dramatic comparisons between past and present."  It allows users to compare the old with the new through historic photo cross-fades, learn about the city’s local history and culture, and appreciate long-gone architecture.

New content launched in June 2021 for Castlegar, Cumberland, Courtenay, Sparwood, five communities in the Fraser Valley, and eight cities in the Okanagan. They are joining 12 other BC communities already in the app.

Vancouver: Then and now

Currently, the app features over 650 "then and now" photo sets across Vancouver. There are also 12 informative walking tours, such as Stories of Granville Street: The Street at Centre Stage, The Jewel of Vancouver: Stanley Park's Seawall, and A History of Real Estate Speculation: A City Built on Property Values.

“Now anyone with a smartphone can see BC through the eyes of people a century or more ago, creating an exciting and tangible connection with the past,” said Andrew Farris, CEO of the Vancouver-based company.

“This experience isn’t just for tourists, but for people who have called these communities home their entire lives. Our mission is to make high-quality local history accessible to the widest possible audience, and to make that history engaging and exciting enough for people to get out and explore the places they live.”

Ross Hiebert, the company’s Chief of Business Development, added that the company isn't shying away from "true history," either. He highlighted the significance of teaching the history of "gross injustice in this country to young people in light of the horrifying discoveries of mass graves in Kamloops and Marieval."

On This Spot began in 2013 as Farris’s travel history blog while he was backpacking and creating then and now photo essays of places like Juno Beach, Nagasaki and Berlin. The On This Spot app was launched in Vancouver in 2016 as a partnership between Farris and friends from UVic, Christopher Reid (CTO), and later Sean Edmunds (COO).

Find On This Spot on Instagram and Facebook.

With files from Elisia Seeber.