Vancouver for history buffs – Must-visit Historical Sites in Vancouver

Be inspired by the rich history and heritage of Vancouver!

Backed by the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountain Range, Vancouver is a metropolis with cultural diversity. It is also a city with a rich history and heritage worth discovering. As a walkable city with a good public transportation system, seeing the historical places around Vancouver will be a joy for most historians.

History of Vancouver

Vancouver is situated in the traditional territory of the Coast Salish First Nations, including, Squamish, Tsleli-Waututh and Musqueam. The ancestors of these First Nations had settled in Vancouver over 8000 years ago.

These indigenous people of the Coast Salish Group had been living, building, and tending to the land in this area for many millennia before the arrival of the European settlers. Areas such as Stanley Park, Kitsilano, False Creek, the mouth of the Fraser River and Burrard Inlet Area have been inhabited by them. They used marine resources from the surrounding water bodies and greens from the forest with complex practices of gathering food and sustaining themselves. They also had rich social and spiritual practices for that era.

Before the Europeans did settle in Vancouver there were random explorers like Jose Maria Navarez, a Spanish naval officer who was the first European to venture up the Strait of Georgia in 1791, whilst George Vancouver, A British Naval Officer explored this area with two Spanish explorers in 1792.

The first permanent European Settlement happened in 1827 and the location was Fort Langley near the mouth of Fraser River. 3 years later in 1830 Langley Fort became a major port handling salted salmon and red cedar exports. By 1858 the Colony of British Columbia (BC) was formed with Vancouver becoming the capital city of the same. In 1860 the Gold Rush commenced with the discovery of gold on the banks of Fraser River and miners from California coming up north to work in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest changing as a result.

It will be interesting to discover more of this history and artefacts by visiting some of the historic sites in Vancouver.

Uncover the history of Stanley Park

At present this massive 405-hectare park is one of the famous landmarks of Vancouver drawing scores of visitors including those using waterfront hotels in Vancouver to enjoy its array of attractions. 

This Park is endowed with a long history. Stanley Park was opened on the 27th of September 1888, at Prospect Point with a special ceremony and so named after the Governor General of the Colony of British Columbia at that time (The 6th Governor General) Lord Frederick Stanley. Much different to other famous parks, Stanley Park is not a landscaped park but rather an evolution of the forest and the dense spaces over many millennia.

Look out for the carved red cedar portals created by a Coast Salish artist which are placed beside totem poles display as you go about this park. These serve as a reminder to visitors of the long-standing presence of the indigenous people of Coast Salish.

Stanley Park was the location of the traditional territory of these First Nations and artefacts dated more than 3,200 years have been discovered by archaeologists on the grounds of this park.

Explore a charming Village Museum

Step into a village of the early 20th century at Barnaby Village Museum with no entrance fee charged. An entire Victorian village setting has been recreated with a general store, an ice cream parlour, a blacksmith shop and even a school with village folk in Victorian costumes making it a charming setting evoking nostalgia in visitors.

An antique streetcar, a couple of historic-looking homes and a vintage carousel (restored and operational) complete the village picture and ambience.

Whilst you enjoy the setting don’t fail to look for the artefacts on display and enjoy a ride on the carousel. This museum operates seasonally hence check out their opening times before visiting.

Enjoy Gastown

Combining modern with ancient this exciting neighbourhood has a long history. Situated downtown, easily walkable from hotels such as Pan Pacific Vancouver, a visit here offers excitement and entertainment. With a hip fashion scene, upscale boutiques and an exciting wining and dining scene visitors love the eclectic vibes around Gastown.

Take a walk on Water Street to witness the olden day Gastown which began with a single tavern founded by John Deighton (also referred to as gassy Jack), admire the architecture of the old buildings, cobblestoned paths, the prominent steam clock, the quaint lamp posts and stop by to take in the statue of the man who was instrumental in setting up the first tavern in Gastown in 1867 making it become the social hub it is today.

Walking tours in Gastown are possible for further exploration. While in Gastown, the Vancouver Lookout, a great viewing point close by can be easily visited to get a spectacular view of the entire city.

Discovering Gold at Britannia Mine Museum

Situated at Britannia Beach close to the dwelling area of Squamish Coast Salish Group this huge award-winning museum (operating as a non-profit entity) is also a National Historic site that offers an insightful and interactive historical experience for visitors and history enthusiasts.

The underground mining train ride is modelled similarly to the experience of the miners in the early 1900s. It includes rock and mineral activities, interactive displays, and a gold panning pavilion, which are activities suitable for all ages. The temperatures underground can be cooler so go prepared for the same. Additionally, tours of the site can be taken at this historic mine.

With mining tunnels stretching for over 200 km, Brittania Mine was the largest copper mine during its century of operations in the entire British Commonwealth. When ore was discovered in 1888 the mine opened in 1904. During its peak performance, this mine produced a staggering 7000 tonnes of ore per day and went on to produce 650,000 tonnes of copper during its span of operation. 

Though this mine was famous for copper, apart from that lead, zinc, cadmium, silver, and gold were also produced. The photos, stories, and exhibits spell out the life of miners and their families which are quite moving.

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