Photo LM2007.1000.4707 courtesy of the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

11 of Our Favourite B.C. History Stories of 2023

In 2023 we added six new stories to our series on the hidden history of Vancouver’s neighbourhoods from local writer Kevin Chong, as well as stories on a rough Vancouver childhood that inspired a great American crime novelist, and filmed-in-B.C. movies from awful to amazing. Dig into some of our favourite history stories from the past year.

Vancouver Neighbourhoods

Hogan’s Alley—The Tumultuous History of Vancouver’s Once and Future Black Neighbourhood

Photo courtesy of the Gibson Family Collection.

“Picturing Hogan’s Alley is almost as hard for me, a Chinese Canadian, as imagining either Vancouver without its Chinatown or my childhood in a city where no one looks like me. But for Vancouver’s Black community, this stretch of Strathcona has, until recently, represented a stolen birthright.” Read more.

Grandview⁠-Woodland—The Caffeinated History of a Many-Layered Neighbourhood

Illustration by Bronwyn Schuster.

“It’s apt that the first participants in Vancouver’s Italian Labourers’ Strike were helping to build a sidewalk in Grandview-Woodland, not only because the area is, along with Strathcona, the historic home of the city’s Italian community, but also because its business artery, Commercial Drive, is one of the city’s liveliest and busiest thoroughfares, intersecting with Broadway and East First, the east-west avenues that connect the city to the suburbs. Maybe it’s because of this combination of energy and location that newcomers to Grandview often end up sticking around.” Read more.

Shaughnessy⁠—The Secretive History of a Prestigious Neighbourhood

Illustration by Bronwyn Schuster.

“Outsiders might get the impression Shaughnessy residents are used to doing whatever they want. The area’s winding streets, hedge walls, and keypadded gateways—not to mention its dearth of residential density and commercial space except along its edges—discourage prying eyes. Over the years, the impunity afforded by privilege and privacy has made it the site of intrigue and conflict (and the occasional gang-related murder).” Read more.

Chinatown⁠—The Neon-Lit History of a Resurgent Neighbourhood

Illustration by Bronwyn Schuster.

“Like the endangered koi, the residents of Vancouver’s Chinatown (which is listed by the city as part of Strathcona) sought refuge in a threatening land. Over the decades, the area has evolved from ethnic slum and den of vice to a distressed cultural asset and tourist destination. Now, as always, its survival is not guaranteed.” Read more.

Hastings-Sunrise: The Noisy History of a Playful Neighbourhood

Illustration by Bronwyn Schuster.

“For many Vancouverites, visiting the Pacific National Exhibition is a once-a-year trip to the past—to a simpler, easier time. Even haggling with one of the neighbourhood women who’ll let you angle-park in their front yards for cash has a homespun charm⁠—the throwback vibe of riding a 65-year-old wooden roller coaster, sizing up prize-winning livestock, and eating mini-doughnuts. (The so-called “parking ladies” were a plot point in filmmaker and area resident Mina Shum’s 2018 dramedy Meditation Park.) At other times, folks will trek to the northeasternmost corner of the city to see a horse race or a concert.” Read more.

Riley Park⁠—The Lofty History of Vancouver’s Central Neighbourhood

Illustration by Bronwyn Schuster.

“If Goldilocks were to pick a Vancouver neighbourhood in which to buy property⁠—and she had over $2 million to buy a detached house⁠—the fairy-tale squatter would undoubtedly choose Riley Park. Straddling the east (Fraser Street) and west (Cambie Street) sides of the city, and bordering South Vancouver (41st Avenue) and the city’s original southern boundary (16th Avenue), Riley Park is the most geographically central neighbourhood in Vancouver.” Read more.

Other Local History

The Rum-Running Honeymoon of Emmie-May Binns

Photo Malahat102-2 courtesy of the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

“Emmie May Binns was married aboard a rum-running ship and spent her honeymoon smuggling Canadian liquor down the west coast of the United States—and that was far from the only adventure during her life on the Pacific coast. Her travels took her near Tofino to prospect for gold, to a fish cannery on a remote coastal inlet, into the waters of the Salish Sea to rescue a downed seaplane pilot, and to Vancouver to work as a telephone operator at the British Columbia Telephone exchange.” Read more.

How a Rough Childhood in Vancouver Inspired One of America’s Greatest Crime Novelists

“The happy childhood Millar found in Vancouver was short-lived. Left alone, he was forced to beg for money and food on the streets. This hardscrabble Canadian childhood would shape the quintessential California writer’s fiction for the rest of his life.” Read more.

The Worst Movie Ever Shot in Vancouver

“When Rotten Tomatoes put together its ranking of the 100 worst movies of all time, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever topped the list. The 2002 action film, starring Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu, earned this distinction by receiving the largest number of negative reviews: 119 professional critics panned the film. Roger Ebert called Ballistic ‘an ungainly mess, submerged in mayhem, occasionally surfacing for cliches,’ while Manohla Dargis described it as ‘a generic blur of metallic blue and fireball orange set to the contrapuntal sounds of throbbing techno and eardrum-puncturing noise.’ How did the Vancouver-shot (and Vancouver-set) film become the worst movie ever made?” Read more.

Two Cult Thrillers Reveal What Vancouver Fears About Itself

“Filmed in 1969, Cold Day captures an image Vancouver once held of itself⁠—a charming colonial city, naturally beautiful and resistant to change. Almost 20 years later, another psychological thriller, The Stepfather, would use Vancouver to tell a similar story of violence lurking within a seemingly tranquil city.” Read more.

The Horror Classic That Ushered In a New Era in B.C. Filmmaking

Photo © Associated Film Distribution, courtesy of Everett Collection.

“Shot in Vancouver, directed by Peter Medak, and starring Oscar-winner George C. Scott, The Changeling helped usher in a new period of Hollywood filmmaking using British Columbia locations. The story of the Genie Award-winning film is also the story of how Vancouver became Hollywood North.” Read more.

Read even more stories about local history.


Post Date:

January 18, 2024