Old Photographs from Granville Island (1916-1987)

Granville Island is a bustling waterfront neighbourhood that prides itself on being the artistic and cultural hub of Vancouver. However it wasn’t always a vibrant public space. In fact, Granville Island has a deep industrial history and maritime heritage that we will briefly explore here.

Granville Island
1916 – East half Granville Island before filling.

Where Granville Island now sits there used to be a large sand bar. In 1916 the decision was made to use material dredged from False Creak to create a peninsula on top of that sandbar. Long before that decision was made the Salish people, the original inhabitants of the area, used that sandbar and surrounding areas for hunting and gathering, travel, and cultural activities. The sandbar area was so plentiful the Salish people had a saying, “when the tide went out, the table was set.”

Granville Island
1916 – West half Granville Island before filling.

After the creation of the peninsula it didn’t take long for the first business to open its doors. BC Equipment Ltd opened in 1917 followed soon after by many warehouses, mills, factories, and shops that serviced industries in the surrounding area. The companies on Granville Island manufactured fibre, rope, chain, and various other materials for the logging, mining, and shipping industries. Like much of the rest of the country the Great Depression brought an economic downturn while World War II reinvigorated the entire area. The post-war years brought another decline and in the 1950s a series of major fires all but signaled the end to the once booming island.

Granville Island
1917 – A sawmill.

The Granville area was an industrial wasteland for a number of years until minister Ron Basford spearheaded an initiative to revitalize Granville Island. The Public Market, the centrepiece of the revitalization project, opened its doors in 1978 while many of the other industrial-era buildings were retrofit to host a variety of new tenants like studios, shops, markets, restaurants, community groups etc. Granville Island is booming once again. It is home to more than 300 businesses employing more than 3,000 people and attracts millions of visitors each year from Vancouver and around the world.

Granville Island
1922 – Photograph shows Schaake Co. Machinery Company, Pacific Sheet Metal Works and False Creek Dock and Warehouse Company Limited.
Granville Island
1931 – Photograph shows warehouses and industrial buildings.
Granville Island
1944 – Presentation of Victory flag.
Granville Island
1949 – View of Granville Island.
Granville Island
1951 – Granville St. looking to Granville Island.
Granville Island
1951 – Moving railway tracks.
Granville Island
1953 – Piers on Granville Island.
1953 – Aerial view looking north.
1954 – Old Granville Bridge looking north.
1955 – Old Granville Bridge being demolished.
1974 – Spear and Jackson (B.C.) Ltd., Mill Supplies.
1974 – Row of buildings with West End towers in background.
1976 – Entrance.
1980 – Buildings underneath the Granville Bridge.
1986 or 1987 – View of Granville Street Bridge.
1986 or 1987 – Arts Club Theatre.

For even more collections of historical photos from various Vancouver neighbourhoods please visit these previous posts; Vintage Photographs from Chinatown and Old Photographs from Coal Harbour.

1986 or 1987 – Granville Island.

The photos above were collected from the City of Vancouver Archives. If you’re interested, additional information can be found for each photograph on their website. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from Vancouver, British Columbia, and across Western Canada. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.