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5 things you (probably) didn't know Vancouver was first in Canada to have

These things all happened in Vancouver before anywhere else in Canada
Clockwise from top left: The first gas station in Canada circa 1911, the Denman Arena burns down in 1936, the first supervised injection site in Canada, and Canada's first Starbucks.

Vancouver's often considered a leader in Canada, with many firsts or seconds happening here.

As with any large city there are a few things that happened here first. Vancouver's SkyTrain was the first driverless transit system. And the first London Fog was made here. And the first baseball game played under electric lights happened here.

And in that theme, here are five more things that happened here first.

1. The first gas station in Canada was in downtown Vancouver

In 1906 there wasn't a single gas station in Canada. That changed in 1907 as the first gas station opened up at Cambie and Smithe streets in Vancouver. The Vancouver archives list the address as 234 Smythe St. (sic), to be precise.

While the first car had arrived on the streets of the city around 1899, there was no rush to build a gas station to serve the new automobiles as only a handful existed at first. In fact, gasoline was more often used for other things at the time, like cleaning women's gloves or dissolving lacquer. 

But by 1907 Imperial Oil employees decided it was time and used a 13-gallon water tank and gravity to set up the contraption. The first attendant was given the job since his coworkers thought it would be good for his health. After it first opened a busy morning would be three cars. However, the word of the new business spread, and up to 60 cars would line up on Friday afternoons before a long weekend.

2. The first female newspaper editor in Canada owned the Vancouver Daily World

Sara Anne McLagan moved to Canada when she was a young child, brought from Ireland to New Westminster where her father worked with the Royal Engineers in 1858.

At a young age she learned telegraphy, the fastest way to send a message at the time. Skilled in the system she got a job as a telegraph operator and moved up at the Western Union Telegraph Company's Victoria office, often among the first to hear news from abroad.

McLagan's life changed in 1884, though, when she married John McLagan, who was nearly 20 years older than she. He had two jobs in Victoria, working in real estate and writing newspaper stories, having managed newspapers back east before moving to the coast.

In 1884 he began working at the Victoria Times (one of the precursors to the Times-Colonist). Four years later the couple co-founded the Vancouver Daily World. A decade on and John's health began to deteriorate. In 1901 he passed and left the business in McLagan's hands.

She took on many roles with the paper, working as its publisher, managing editor, proofreader and editorial writer. 

In 1905 she sold it to LD Taylor, who would go on to become mayor of Vancouver. In 1924 he sold it to the Vancouver Sun.

3. The first artificial ice rink in Canada was in downtown Vancouver

In 1911 Vancouver made hockey history as the city became the first in Canada with an artificial ice rink.

Artificial rinks had been around for a little while, with the technology being exhibited in the 1870s and 1880s. However, in Canada it took a while for the idea to be put into use. It may have something to do with winter in most of Canada.

The Denman Arena was built by the Patrick brothers (Frank and Lester) who went on to be legends of the game.

While it also hosted everything from the opera to boxing matches, its most famous moment (at least, in today's Vancouver) came in 1915 as it was the home ice for the Vancouver Millionaires, who'd win the Stanley Cup that year (pre-NHL) in a five-game series in Vancouver.

Unfortunately, it burned down in 1936.

4. The first Starbucks outside of the US is in downtown Vancouver

Founded in 1971, it took Starbucks a few decades, but they've become one of the dominant coffee/fast-food restaurants in North America with a global reach (they have an estimated 33,800 locations worldwide).

It wasn't until the business was sold by the original owners did expansion become a goal (in 1986 they had six locations). The new owner immediately set about opening new locations, launching one in Chicago and one in Vancouver.

It's still open, too. It's the small location, called SeaBus, at Waterfront Station. It's even got a special little plaque declaring it the first Starbucks in Canada.

5. The first legal supervised drug injection site in North America is in downtown Vancouver

Anyone who's followed the opioid crisis in Vancouver has probably heard of Insite. It's the supervised injection site located in the Downtown Eastside, helping provide a safe space for drug users to use.

Since 2003 it's seen thousands of people use its services. That's when it opened, as the first operation of its kind. While in the US clandestine services have operated, Insite is a legal drug injection site. In the early days, it had a special exemption as a pilot project. After a couple of temporary extensions, the issue went to the Supreme Court of BC and it was allowed.

In its nearly two decades of operation there've been more than 3.6 million visits to Insite. There have been no deaths due to overdoses. 


The first McDonald's in Canada was in Richmond.