North Van History Highlights
North Van History Highlights presents significant developments on the waterfront, in the community and in the parks and mountains that make North Vancouver a special place. At the bottom of this page, see our Did You Know? section and learn about some North Van high achievers!
Click away and enjoy your voyage of discovery!
A visit to the Archives and a look at our online exhibits will add more to the stories. A sampling of artifacts that help tell some of the stories may be found in the Museum collection. A browse through our Instagram, Twitter and Facebook sites also provides opportunities to explore North Vancouver’s stories.
Section I: At Water’s Edge
Early Days on the Inlet
Before 1792 For millennia the ancestors of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam peoples harvest Burrard Inlet for fish, shellfish, seaweed and plant material. “When the tide goes out the table is set.”
1792 - The First Europeans
On June 13 British Captain George Vancouver meets a group of Squamish from the village of Homulchesan (xwemelch’stn) at the mouth of the Capilano River. Vancouver and his men are the first Europeans to enter Burrard Inlet. A week later Spanish mariners explore the inlet, including Indian Arm.
1860 - First Catholic Mass
First Catholic Mass on Burrard Inlet is celebrated at the Squamish village of Ustlawn (Eslha7a’n) at the mouth of Mosquito Creek.
1863 - Moodyville
In June the first sawmill on the Inlet, Pioneer Mills, opens near the mouth of Lynn Creek. Early in 1865 it is purchased by Sewell Prescott Moody and becomes the focus of a thriving community, Moodyville, with a hotel and the Inlet’s first school.
1868 – St. Paul’s Church
A Catholic Church, St. Paul’s, is erected at Ustlawn (Eslha7a’n), where Squamish families are settling. The original church is replaced with a new building in 1884, which was reconstructed with the twin towers it has today in 1909-10. The church becomes a National Historic Site in 1981. It is the oldest surviving mission church in the Lower Mainland.
1882 – First Electric Lights
Electricity comes to Moodyville; these are the first electric lights north of San Francisco.
1900 – Ferry Across the Inlet
A passenger ferry, the North Vancouver, Ferry No.1, begins running from the foot of Lonsdale to downtown Vancouver. Ferry No.2, the St.George, carried cars and was launched in 1904. Service continues until 1958.
1903 – ‘Lo Lo’ Launched
1903 – Alfred St. George Hamersley buys land to the west of Moodyville, subdivides it and begins selling lots. This area near the foot of Lonsdale Avenue emerges as the heart of the new community.
1906 - Ships on the Ways
Shipbuilder Andy Wallace moves his yard from Vancouver’s False Creek to the North Vancouver waterfront. During World War I, Wallace builds the first deep sea steel-hulled cargo vessels in BC. Wallace Shipyards later becomes Burrard Dry Dock (1925) and then Versatile Pacific (1985).
1908 - Talks with the Prime Minister
Led by Chief Joe Capilano (pictured fifth from left, front row) at North Vancouver Ferry Wharf, this delegation embarks on a journey to undertake talks with Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier. Land claims, fishing and hunting rights, and education are on the agenda.
1917 – Milling at Indian Arm
San Francisco lumber man Robert Dollar opens the Dollar Mill near the mouth of Indian Arm. It becomes the focus of the community at Dollarton. The mill closes in 1942.
1925 – Danger at the Bridge
On November 7 the Second Narrows Bridge opens to road traffic, making North Vancouver accessible to motorists. It opens to rail traffic the following year. Currents make navigation treacherous and vessels routinely smashed into the bridge. The worst incident occurrs in September 1930 when a log-carrier under tow knocks out one of the bridge spans; the bridge does not reopen until November 1934.
1925 - City Grows
In January Moodyville joins the City of North Vancouver.
1928 – First Grain Terminal
The Midland Pacific grain terminal opens on the site of the former Moodyville. It is the first major port installation on the North Shore.
1938 – Bridging the Narrows
On November 14 the Lions Gate Bridge across the First Narrows opens to car traffic. Financed by the Guinness family, through the British Pacific Properties syndicate, it encourages suburban development on the North Shore.
1940-45 – The War Effort at Home
During World War Two Burrard Dry Dock manufactures naval vessels and one third of all the cargo ships produced in Canada. At its peak, the shipyard employs 14,000 people in three round-the-clock shifts. Wartime housing booms to accommodate the workers and their families. North Vancouver’s role in maintaining the war effort is out of all proportion to its size as a community.
1945 – Women in the Shipyards
Women have been employed in the shipyards since 1942, making up about seven percent of the workforce. Burrard Dry Dock is the first shipbuilder in Canada to employ women in significant numbers. At the end of the war they all lose their jobs to men returning from the armed services.
1958 - Bridge Collapse
On June 17, 1958 one of the worst engineering disasters in BC history occurrs when the partially-constructed Second Narrows Bridge collapses into Burrard Inlet. Eighteen workers lost their lives (a nineteenth victim, a diver searching for bodies, died a few days later).
1960 – Iron Workers Memorial Bridge
On August 25 the new Second Narrows Bridge opens to traffic. It is later renamed the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge.
1970 - Traditions Continue
First Nations peoples work to retain their traditions through language, arts and cultural programs.
1975 – Fire!
An explosion and fire at the Burrard grain terminal (formerly the Midland Pacific) kills five workers. It is the largest fire in the history of the City. The facility is rebuilt and expanded by owner James Richardson and Sons.
1977 – Seabus Launched
The Seabus goes into operation, linking the North Shore once again by ferry with downtown Vancouver.
1985 – Lonsdale Quay
Lonsdale Quay opens next to the Seabus Terminal on the site of the former North Van Ship Repairs.
1986 - Along the Water’s Edge
North Vancouver’s Waterfront Park features Cathedral. The steel beams echo the ridges of the North Shore mountains. Cathedral invites the public to walk through it, sensing the “spirit inside the work”.
1992 – Versatile Pacific
In December the Versatile Pacific shipyard closes.
2005 – Waterfront Returned
On April 23 the 700-foot long Burrard Dry Dock Pier opens. Along with a waterfront walk, it affords public access to the formerly industrial waterfront for the first time in a century.
2014 – “The Shipyards”
City Council officially rebrands the historic central waterfront area “The Shipyards” and undertakes plans to revitalize the site as a public gathering spot.
2015 - Low Level Road
A new roadway through what was once Moodyville, enhances rail and port operations and addresses community safety and traffic challenges.
Section II: A Community Develops
1891 – District of North Vancouver
The District of North Vancouver incorporates; and stretches from Horseshoe Bay in the west to Indian Arm in the east, excluding Moodyville.
1898 – Residential School
St. Paul’s Indian Residential School opens on Keith Road just north of the Mission Reserve on the site of the present-day St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School. The residential school remains open until 1959.
1902 – Holiday Destination
Peter Larson opens the Hotel North Vancouver on Esplanade. It becomes the focus for the growing community and a holiday resort for Vancouverites. A fire destroys it in 1929.
1905 – The "Express"
The community’s first newspaper, the “Express”, begins publication.
1906 – Transportation Hub
The British Columbia Electric Railway Company initiates streetcar service on track running up Lonsdale Avenue from the waterfront. Eventually the service grows to three lines, connecting the ferry dock to Capilano Canyon on the west, Lynn Canyon on the east, and Upper Lonsdale. The streetcars are replaced by buses in 1947.
1907 – ‘Ambitious City’
On May 13 the City of North Vancouver – christened by the “Express” newspaper as ‘the Ambitious City’ — is created as a separate municipality.
1912 – West Vancouver Secedes
Municipality of West Vancouver is separated from the District of North Vancouver.
1923 – Squamish First Nation
Sixteen Coast Salish chiefs sign an amalgamation document to create the Squamish First Nation and a council of chiefs to conduct Squamish affairs.
1930 – Deep Cove Resort
Deep Cove is developing as a summer resort, site of Corfield’s Dance Hall. The Deep Cove Yacht Club is formed in 1936.
1932 – Receivership
In December, buffeted by the Great Depression, District government is taken over by a commissioner appointed by the province. The District does not regain an elected government until 1951. The City follows the District into receivership in January 1933 and is also managed by a commissioner until 1944 when wartime prosperity allows a return to democratic governance.
1939 – King George VI and Queen Elizabeth
On May 29 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth pay a royal visit to North Vancouver, arriving by limousine via the Second Narrows Bridge and proceeding back to Vancouver across the Lions Gate Bridge.
1947 – A Community of Communities
A post-war population boom opens several new residential neighbourhoods, including Norgate, Capilano Highlands and Edgemont Village.
1950 – RCMP Arrive
RCMP begin policing North Vancouver with the dissolution of the BC Provincial Police.
1957 – Re-amalgamation
City council investigates the possibility of re-amalgamation with the District but the matter dies. The issue is revisited several times during the 1960s but no steps are taken.
1961 – Upper Levels Highway
On March 4 Premier W.A.C. Bennett opens the Upper Levels Highway between the Second Narrows Bridge and Taylor Way in West Vancouver.
1966 – North Vancouver Memorial Community Centre
In March the North Vancouver Memorial Community Centre (now the Harry Jerome Community Recreation Centre) opens at 23rd and Lonsdale. It is a joint City-District project and has been approved by a referendum.
1967 – First Mall
Capilano Mall opens on Marine Drive in the low-lying area known as “Skunk Hollow”, former site of wartime housing.
1968 – Capilano College
Capilano College (now Capilano University) begins offering classes on the grounds of West Vancouver Secondary High School. It moves to its present campus (between Lynn Creek and Seymour River) in 1973.
1972 - North Vancouver Museum and Archives
The North Vancouver Museum and Archives is established (originally as the North Shore Museum & Archives). In 1976 it moves to facilities at Presentation House. In 2006 the Archives moves to the newly-renovated Community History Centre in Lynn Valley.
1977 – Presentation House Theatre
In July the Presentation House Theatre opens.
1980s – Iranian Settlement
Many Iranian immigrants, both before and after the 1979 revolution in Iran, settle in North Vancouver.
1988 – Park & Tilford Shopping Centre
Park and Tilford Shopping Centre opens on the grounds of a former distillery.
1989 – North Shore Studios
North Shore Studios (originally Lions Gate Studios) opens as a film and television production center.
2000 - The Land is a Person
District launches Public Art program. Each art piece is an original, one-of-a-kind work that reflects North Vancouver’s local heritage, culture and environment.
2001 - CityScape Arrives
North Vancouver’s Community Arts Council opens an arts facility on Lonsdale Avenue. Architect: Peter Cardew; Designer: Martha Sturdy
2003 - Energy Smart
The Lonsdale Energy Corporation (LEC) begins. LEC provides dependable, clean, and competitively priced energy to residential and commercial buildings in the Lonsdale area. By heating our community naturally, the demand for energy lessens and support for global and local climate action grows.
2008 – City Library
The new $36-million City library opens on September 20, part of a redeveloped Civic Centre that soon includes a new City Hall.
2012 – Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art
On October 13 the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art, named for the famed North Shore artist, opens in the North Vancouver School District’s new headquarters building on Lonsdale Avenue.
Section III: The Great Outdoors
First Nations ancestors venture into the mountains to hunt, practice spiritual pursuits, and gather local plants and rocks. The ancient campsites are now protected by provincial archaeological legislation.
1888 – Water for Vancouver
A dam is built on the Capilano River to deliver water to Vancouver via a pipe under the First Narrows.
1889 – Footbridge to Destination
George Grant Mackay, with the help of August Jack Khatsahlano, builds a footbridge made of rope and cedar planks across the Capilano Canyon. It is the original Capilano suspension bridge.
1889 - First Climb of Lions
Chief Joe Capilano of the Squamish Nation guides a group of non-Aboriginal hunters to the top of the West Lion peak. It is the first time either of the Lions is known to have been scaled.
1894 – Grouse Mountain Summited
In October the first hikers to climb Grouse Mountain reach the summit. They name it for the blue grouse they see along the way.
1905 – Victoria Park
Groups of community volunteers begin clearing land at 7th and Lonsdale to create Victoria Park. The Park is the first component of a system of boulevards and parks known as North Vancouver’s “Green Necklace.”
1912 – Lynn Canyon Park
Lynn Canyon Park and suspension bridge open and are well-placed as the ‘end-of-the-line’ for the Lynn Canyon streetcar users.
1924 – Mountain Highway
Mountain Highway is completed to the top of Grouse Mountain where the first chalet is built.
1926 – Greater Vancouver Water District
The Greater Vancouver Water District is created, drawing water from the Capilano and Seymour River watersheds.
1935 – Capilano Suspension Bridge
The Capilano Suspension Bridge is purchased by “Mac” MacEachran, its longtime manager.
1936 – Mount Seymour Provincial Park
Mount Seymour Provincial Park is created.
1949 – Grouse Mountain Chairlift
Grouse Mountain chairlift opens at the top of Skyline Drive. It is the world’s first double chairlift and replaces a two- to three-hour hike from the base of the mountain.
1950 – Cates Park
Cates Park (also known as Whey-ah-Wichen Park) is dedicated in memory of Charles H. Cates, founder of the historic Cates Towing Company, and develops over the following decade.
1954 – Cleveland Dam
Cleveland Dam opens, flooding the area above it to create the Capilano Lake Reservoir. The reservoir provides a third of Metro Vancouver’s water supply.
1966 – Grouse Mountain Skyride
On December 15 the Grouse Mountain Skyride opens.
1981 –Lynn Headwaters
Lynn Headwaters becomes a regional park.
1981 – Deep Cove Bike Shop
The Deep Cove Bike Shop brings mountain biking to the North Shore.
1983 – Capilano Suspension Bridge
Nancy Stibbard purchases the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which has been owned for the previous thirty years by her father, Rae Mitchell. The Bridge is the North Shore’s number one attraction for visitors.
2004 - First Nations Snowboard Team
Established in 2004, the First Nations Snowboard Team program works to improve the quality of life and to empower Aboriginal youth across Canada. Squamish artist Xwalacktun depicts Thunderbird and Eagle on this board to provide inspiration for the athletes.
2009 – Filtration Plant
The Seymour-Capilano Filtration Plant, the largest water filtration plant in Canada, begins distributing water to the residents of Metro Vancouver. The plant treats water from the Capilano and Seymour watersheds. Upon completion (May 2015) 1.8 billion litres of drinking water will be treated daily.
2010 – Winter Olympics
During the Winter Olympics hosted by Vancouver/Whistler, the American television network NBC broadcasts its coverage live from Grouse Mountain.
2010 - Turbine Attraction
Grouse Mountain’s Eye of the Wind is BC’s largest energy producing wood turbine; it supplies 25% of Grouse Mountain’s energy needs. It is the world’s only wind turbine that provides visitors a view just three metres from massive, energy-producing rotating blades.
Did You Know?
During a visit to Vancouver in 1892 as part of his round-the-world honeymoon, the English writer Rudyard Kipling was enthusiastic enough about North Vancouver’s future that he bought a piece of land here. As a result, in 1897, the list of ratepayers eligible to vote in the local election included “R. Kipling.” Of course by then he was back in England and never cast a ballot. [image of voters’ list]