Part of the Vancouver Then and Now Series

Kitsilano

October 25, 2014

People sunbathing at the Kitsilano Beach Reserve. In my photo there's a girl from a group doing a beach cleanup.

Kits Beach and Fairview

The Kitsilano area gets its name from a Squamish chief, whose people had lived in the area since at least the 1800s. When Europeans first began settling the area near the end of the 19th Century, the towering Douglas Firs and Cedars of Kitsilano were some of the largest trees on earth. As the city of Vancouver grew people began to flock to Kitsilano's sandy beaches, seeking to escape Vancouver's industrial heartland on the Burrard Inlet. In the 1940s Kitsilano enjoyed a brief stint as a military training ground, and since then has grown into a densely settled and trendy residential area.

A dapper looking young man enjoys the sun on Kits Beach.

Back then Kits Beach was known as Greer's Beach, after the Scottish pioneer and coot Sam Greer who was the first to build a cottage there.

Kits Beach has just been filled in to make it larger. Apparently workers back then did not wear the most practical clothes for manual labour.

Anchored sailboats as seen from the Kitsilano Yacht Club at the foot of Balsam.

Sunbathers at Kits Beach in 1937. It looks like it wasn't any less popular in the 1930s than it is today, though I took my photo on a frosty autumn day so there weren't any sunbathers.

Here we see Canadian troops practicing amphibious landings on Kits Beach a year before D-Day. Since it was Crown Land it was appropriated for military use after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour (just like the Vancouver Hotel was turned into a military barracks). Fears of a Japanese invasion ran very high and the government took the drastic and cruel step of interning all Canadians of Japanese ancestry. Though today the idea of Japanese landings on the Canadian coast seems ridiculous, back then the threat was taken very seriously, especially after a Japanese submarine surfaced off Vancouver Island and tried shelling a lighthouse at Estevan Point.

Powerful military forces were stationed in Vancouver, Prince Rupert and Victoria under the Canadian Army's Pacific Command. The troops seen here are described in the archive caption as "commandos" but Canada had only one commando unit, the joint Canadian-American Devil's Brigade, and it was in the Mediterranean theatre at this time. Probably the men seen here were members of the Royal Rifles of Canada that were stationed in the city.

Bren Gun Carriers disembarking from a Landing Craft Mechanized at Kits Beach. You can see the North Shore was more sparsely populated back then.

Yaletown as seen from Charlton Park in Fairview. Back then it was a purely industrialized area.

Another view of Yaletown from Charlton Park, you can see Stanley Park just over the hill.

False Creek seen looking east from the Burrard Street Bridge. Granville Island is the reference point on the right. Until recently Yaletown was a built up industrial area home to a huge barrel maker (cooper). Now it is some of the most expensive urban real estate in the world.

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