Vancouver, British Columbia Overview
Vancouver is nestled around the eastern end of Burrard Inlet, a natural
deepwater harbour, and the mouth of the huge Fraser River. Vancouver became the
base for exploration into BC's interior, and became the head office for
companies that exploited the province's timber and mineral resources. The
city's British heritage still pervades the downtown area, as well as
the holder established neighbourhoods.
Vancouver forms the core for the 1.6 million people that live in the "Lower
Mainland" of British Columbia. Because of the constraints of
mountains to the north, water to the west and the US border on the south, the city has
experienced growth in the only two directions left: east and up!
The core communities in the Vancouver area are Vancouver, with Burnaby and New Westminster to the immediate east, Surrey and White Rock to the southeast, and Richmond, and Delta (with the communities of Ladner and Tsawwassen) to the south.
The city has, over the last decade experienced phenomenal population growth and
expansion into its eastern suburbs including Surrey, Langley and Pitt Meadows, for which commuters use the Trans-Canada Highway (#1) south of the Fraser and the Lougheed Highway (#7)north of the Fraser.
Vancouver has a several scenic North Shore comunities including North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Horseshoe Bay (the BC Ferries terminus) and Lion's Bay. These have access to the waterfront and to the North Shore Mountains, with ski hills, summer & winter recreational trails, and of course faster access to Whistler and various venues of the 2010 Winter Olymic Games.
SkyTrain was built prior to the Expo 86 world's fair, connecting downtown to Burnaby and New Westminster. A recently added SkyTrain Light Rail Transit system through northern Burnaby to Surrey has eased commuter traffic. The Canada Line is a new southern route (opened fall 2009) into Richmond and to Vancouver International Airport, and further routes are planned east to Port Moody and Coquitlam. Commuters as far east as Mission have access to the West Coast Express, which connects to the Waterfront Station, with transfers to bus, SkyTrain and SeaBus service.
Vancouver is an ethnically and culturally diverse community. About 50% of Greater Vancouver residents do not speak English as their first language. The two largest enthic/lingustic groups (other than English-speakers) are the Chinese and the East Indians. Vancouver is also a very gay-friendly city.
Vancouver combines the cultural sophistication of Los Angeles with the rainy-foggy charm of San Fransisco, with the added plus of having mountains RIGHT THERE! Its the only city in Canada where you can snow-ski and go sailing on the same day, almost year-round. The city's moist climate gives the city its year-round green color. The fine weather has also attracted several new audiences: the leisurely and recreation-oriented youth, those of retirement age who no longer want to deal with harsh Canadian winters, and Asians looking for a North American base. In fact half of Vancouver's population is now non-white and very Asian. It has Canada's biggest Chinatown, and very strong communities of those of Korean, Vietnamese, Philipine or Japanese descent.
History of Vancouver
In 1778 James Cook, the famous British captain, first landed at Friendly Cove in Nootka Sound on the western side of Vancouver Island. He was followed by Alexander Mackenzie, working for the fur-trading Northwest Company, who in 1793 managed to reach the Pacific from the eastern side of the Rockies. He first traveled up the Peace River and then down 400 kilometres of the Fraser River, portaging, and used the lower stretch of the Bella Coola River arriving about halfway between Vancouver and the southern tip of Alaska. In 1808, Simon Fraser, also with the North West Company, navigated 35 days to the Pacific all the way down the river since named after him, passing through many uncharted rapids. Fur trading posts were established along all of these rivers and began a period of white settlement in the interior of BC. When the North West and Hudson's Bay companies merged in 1821, the province already had significant agricultural interests centred around the forts, supplying the travelers, traders and the Royal Navy.
In 1849 the settlement around Victoria officially became a British Colony, the same year as the California Gold Rush. In 1858, gold was discovered in the lower Fraser River, bringing more than 25,000 prospectors (including many who gave up after the California Gold Rush of '49) who managed to find over $500,000 in gold. Those diggings were then in 1859 and then worked by Chinese immigrants. Gold in the Caribou attracted many to that area, but was too deep and expensive to recover. In 1865 more gold was found on the Columbia River's Big Bend, near Revelstoke, but this gold rush fizzled out in a year.
By 1866, the BC and the Vancouver Island colonies were united, but an economy based on just fur trading and mining was not stable enough to grow a colony. In 1871, four years after Canada was given its independence by Britain, BC joined Canadian confederation. The BC provincial government began encouraging the agriculture and forestry industries, to begin economic diversification.
To entice it to join Canada, BC was promised a railroad linking it to the eastern part of the country. While one crew was building from the east, across the Prairies and then through the Roger's Pass. Another crew was laying track from the West, up the Fraser River canyon and into the Thompson River valley. On November 7, 1885 the Canadian Pacific Railway set the last spike in its construction at Craigellachie, just east of Shushwap Lake. The first trans-continental railway train arrived in Port Moody on July 4, 1886. The following year, the railway was extended the last 20 kilometres into Vancouver. Since then, BC has shipped much of its natural resources east to the rest of Canada, and become the country’s gateway to the Pacific nations. In 1904, the Great Northern Railway connects the city to Seattle. The 1914 opening of the Panama Canal makes Vancouver an important west coast port. In 1908 the University of British Columbia is founded. In 1909 Ferry service begins to West Vancouver. In 1912, the "Vancouver Sun" begins publication. In 1915, a fishing sandbar used by the Squamish becomes Granville Island, built up with silt dredged from False Creek. In 1922, Vancouver switches to driving on the right-hand side from the British left-hand side. In 1925 the first Second Narrows Bridge is built, connecting the North Shore for the first time. In 1937, the Guiness Family begins construction of the Lions Gate Bridge, which opened as a toll bridge until the city bought it in 1963. In 1939, the present-day Hotel Vancouver opens up. In 1958, the current Second Narrow Bridge is built, though nineteen workers died in its construction.
Vancouver began as a little log cabin city amongst the tall trees (when the whole city looked like Stanley Park’s forest). In 1886 a fire destroyed much of Vancouver, helped along with a strong westerly squall, razing over 1,000 buildings in 20 minutes and left 3,000 people homeless. From this initial setback, Vancouver rebuilt itself and prospered. The city grew as the western endpoint of the railways, either for Canadian resources being shipped to the US or to Asia, or goods from around the Pacfic being landed there and transferred to the railway for shipment to the rest of Canada.
Vancouver is on the lee (downwind) side of Vancouver Island, providing both wide deep harbors and a sheltered location. Its first export shipment of wooden pickets to Australia in 1864. Vancouver's harbors now have 25 specialized terminals for goods like cars, coal, forest products, minerals and petroleum. More than 3,000 ships trading with over 90 nations visit Vancouver's harbors every year.
Vancouver has grown over the years, and the metro area has over 1.5 million people. Many Canadians have moved here from other parts of the country because of its mild climate and lush, green vegetation. The ability to windsurf in the morning and ski on Grouse Mountain the same afternoon attracts the recreation and leisure crowd.
Moving to Vancouver
Vancouver's recent real estate boom (its home prices run neck-in-neck with Toronto's) was fueled substantially (though not exclusively) by the influx of Asian immigrants. Those from Vietnam left their homeland in the 70s after the communist victory after the war in Vietnam. The Japanese continue to move to Vancouver because the cost of living is so much lower here than in Japan. Those from Hong Kong have moved here in anticipation of China taking over the British colony in 1997.
The recent "Asian Flu" has reduced Asian economic prosperity, reducing its ability to import BC’s resources for its manufacturing, reducing the income levels of those to regularly visit British Columbia, and finally their ability to emigrate to BC.
Because of high real estate prices in Vancouver, the surrounding municipalities have had extensive development and growth.
This, however, is constrained by the protection of agricultural land in the Lower Mainland area (expecially in Richmond and Delta south of Vancouver, and Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge and Langley to the east), not just to protect the farmers but to preserve the quality of life, maintaining access to fresh & locally-grown produce, and the favourable impact of open green spaces have on the area's ecology.
Greater Vancouver Neighbourhoods & Communities Map