After a month of events and celebrations across the country, Culture Days is coming to an end. The nation-wide initiative has been a great chance to honour and explore Canada’s unique history and the towns and cities which have built it. We at On This Spot have enjoyed featuring a new town or city across the country each day, sharing the history of the places we love. Today, to wrap up Culture Days, we are featuring our last three self-guided historical walking tours in the BC city of Vancouver. All of our tours are available for free online and through the On This Spot app.
Our last three Vancouver tours dive into some interesting characters, stories, and events which have shaped the city. Our first tour examines an issue which is, and has always been, on the forefront of Vancouver life: real estate. From the city’s founding in 1886, Vancouverites have had an almost neurotic obsession with their property values. Many of the defining events in this city’s early history, from the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the establishment of Stanley Park to the city’s layout and the name “Vancouver” itself are connected to the buying and selling of real estate. One of the defining events in Vancouver history, perhaps the most important event that most people today have never heard of, was the real estate bubble of 1905-1913. In this tour, we will learn about how real estate speculation shaped Vancouver’s first years and laid the groundwork for the modern city. Then, we will examine the real estate bubble from 1905 to 1913, learning how it happened and what it was like to live through.
The second tour we are featuring today looks at another major event in Vancouver’s story: the Great Fire. On a quiet Sunday in June of 1886, the newly-incorporated city of Vancouver was completely destroyed. A raging fire, whipped up by relentless winds and fueled by tinder-dry conditions, swept through the city, consuming all but a handful of buildings and killing 28 people. On this tour, we’ll learn about life in Vancouver’s pioneer days, hear the harrowing tales of the people who lived through the fire, and see how Vancouver recovered and prospered, laying the groundwork for the city we know today.
Our last tour examines the life and legacy of the “Vancouverite of the Century”, as designated by the Vancouver Historical Society in 1986. There was no shortage of great pioneers and politicians, innovators and reformers to choose from. Yet when the committee settled on a lifeguard from the Caribbean, it came as a surprise to few. Seraphim “Joe” Fortes was the unlikeliest of heroes, yet his story symbolizes Vancouver at its best. Joe, the gentle giant, embodied the values of service, kindness and modesty that we hold in such high regard. In this tour, we’ll recount Joe’s moving story and learn how he captured the hearts of a generation of Vancouverites. We’ll be using excerpts from Barbara Rogers’s and Lisa Anne Smith’s wonderful and meticulously researched book Our Friend Joe.
We hope you have enjoyed the Culture Days celebrations this year and look forward to continuing to bring you content.