On this day 130 years ago, former Gasville or Granville, a town living by the lumber trade, was incorporated as the City of Vancouver (named after the early regional explorer George Vancouver). From now on it could form its own municipal government, pass by-laws, raise taxes, etc. – it had become a city in its own right. A relatively small settlement of about 1,000 inhabitants then, the new municipality registered a celebration of sorts:
The ceremony was delayed when it was discovered no one had thought to bring paper on which to write down the details. Someone had to run down the street to the stationery store! The ceremony was held in Jonathan Miller’s house.
On 3 May, the first municipal election was held, counting 499 votes. The City Council met first on 12 May, when they voted for a petition to lease a former military reserve from the federal government in order to convert it into a city park – today’s Stanley Park. On the whole, the municipal city had had a good start – only to be consumed almost entirely and within less than an hour by a ferocious fire on 13 of June! With the help of impromptu tents (even one for Council meetings) people returned to relative normality in no time.
What looked at first like a total disaster, soon turned out to be beneficial in more than one way: Vancouver’s Fire Department, with a professional fire engine of its own, was established in the same year, proof of a lesson learnt the hard way. The city was rebuilt from scratch, this time already with a modern water system, electricity and provisions for streetcars. The first transcontinental passenger train of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) concluded its maiden journey that year at nearby Port Moody. Within a year, a branch line was laid to Vancouver, which became the main terminal. The Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 helped the city prosper, and when the Panama Canal opened in 1914, Vancouver’s large seaport was a welcome stop for ships voyaging to Europe on an alternative route.
Today the City of Vancouver is the eighth largest Canadian municipality, and Greater Vancouver the third most populous metropolitan area of Canada (2.4 million inhabitants). Its seaport is the busiest and largest in Canada. Surrounded by forests and greenland, the city has maintained a strong forestry industry, while likewise attracting tourists worldwide by its natural beauty. In fact, Vancouver is said to belong to the top five cities worldwide famous for livability and quality of life.