I remember Expo ‘86 vividly … I was in my teens and having fun. I remember how incredibly cool and outrageous everything seemed … and I remember this undeveloped chunk of land right next to the fair. Well that didn’t take long. Yaletown is one of my favourite destinations in Vancouver with its hundred year old warehouses converted to very cool restaurants and bars where you can sit out on the ‘loading docks’ and have a beer while people watching. Or duck into a neat little café for one of those drinks where the barista make a little flower in your mocha foam.
Yaletown also has numerous shopping destinations where you can buy just about anything. It is this very unique district, compared with New York’s Soho, where you feel like you’re slightly lost in time … until you turn a corner!
1859: False Creek consisted of a small Indian Village of Snauq on what is now Kits Point, with their fish nets and lattice weirs on a large sandbar which is today’s Granville Island. The ‘Creek’ was actually five times the size it is today, stretching all the way to present day Clark Drive. Captain George Richards discovered the new inlet when surveying the coast and examining potential coal deposits on the south shore of Burrard Inlet. He thought he was going up a ‘creek’ on the south side of the deposit but discovered it was in fact an inlet, thus naming it ‘False Creek’.
1885: The Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) decides not to terminate it’s rail line at Port Moody, but continues it to English Bay creating many jobs and bringing more residents to the area.
1886: A fire set to clear the recently logged land gets out of control and burns down the new City of Vancouver leading some residents to relocate to the south shore of False Creek, where many stayed.
1889: Granville Street Bridge is built connecting the south and north shores and industry, mills and manufacturing began to encircle the Creek. The CPR installs massive rail yards centred around the now refurbished Roundhouse, workers began to settle to the north of False Creek close to the yards where they worked. The vast majority of these men working for the CPR came from the Fraser Canyon town of Yale and thus the community became known as Yaletown.
1900: City lays out streets for the new eight-block warehouse district.
1946: So many homeowners in Yaletown had sold to factories and shops that the Central School at Dunsmuir and Cambie was forced to close and Yaletown became virtually all commercial warehousing.
1986: Due to the World’s Fair (Expo ‘86) and the moving of the port traffic to the Port of Vancouver on the north end of the city, the entire neighbourhood was transitioned to residential/commercial property with the condition by the City of Vancouver that certain Historic Buildings be maintained.
1991: The Central Area Plan was implemented by the city which laid out the guidelines for residential areas, office and retail space, parks, and of course the entertainment space … and that began the Yaletown that we know today.
Yaletown is definitely a location that you want to have a full day, if not a weekend, to explore. I opted for the latter. My adventure, and I use that word even though I have lived here all my life, began Saturday morning. I decided to re-visit my favourite neighbourhood with fresh eyes, almost like a tourist you might say.
First destination was for breakfast, brunch to be honest … I was on vacation! So off I went to the Roundhouse to get my bearings and use that as a central point. Housed inside this beautiful historic building, which sits beside the original central train roundhouse built by the CPR, is the magnificently restored 1887 steam train branded 374. Almost across the street is the Urban Fare, which is ever so cool with its great selection of foods, fruits, and treats as well as a quaint bistro where you can get a sandwich or whatever and eat it there. I decided to take my breakfast focaccia sandwich down the road a couple hundred feet and eat it while looking out at the yachts docked in False Creek. Oh yeah, I could get used to this.
After the meal for my stomach and eyes, I started heading up Davie, slowly for a change. I crossed Mainland and noticed how many amazing refurbished brick buildings there were. And parts of roads that were still brick. Hell, even the new establishments designed and decorated their buildings to accommodate that era. When I reached Hamilton on the next block I decided this is where I’m coming back to for dinner and drinks tonight! I walked up another block to Homer and turned right (see left) for to continue west would immediately take me into the heart of downtown with more than a few very modern high rises! At that corner, (you can see in the photo) stood this majestic red brick building that housed the most amazing home decor shop. I took the advice of my friend Chrissy Cottrell (one of the top interior designers in Vancouver) and stopped in. This chic decor & design shop has virtually anything that is cool from furniture to lighting to bedding and more. Walking north on Homer gives you an odd sensation as you have the early 20th century on your right and the early 21st century on your left. Pretty cool I say.
Before leaving Homer I again took the advice of my friend Chrissy and stopped into the Jennifer Kostuik Gallery. Wow, this place displays the most amazing art and photography. I spent an hour in there. Thank-you Chrissy.
As I got near the bottom of Smithe (I have essentially been doing a big circle around where I want to end the day on Mainland or Hamilton at Davie ish – the heart of Yaletown) I saw a very interesting looking red trolley that did tours (seen at right). My feet were getting a little sore so I decided to jump aboard. It was a great break, and I got to see even more, but I do highly suggest attempting to walk around Yaletown as you will get a better chance to see the little things and capture the nuances that make this community so great.
It was now late afternoon so I figured I’d better get a hotel room. I decided to check in to a trendy little hotel called the Moda. It sort of reminded me of the Ace in Seattle, minus the Kama Sutra 🙂 The rooms were reasonable and decorated very cool in bright colours and neat furniture. And most importantly, it was walking distance to my evening port of call. On the way to my final destination for the day I stopped into the Soho Billiards Pub on Hamilton and shot a game of pool with a willing participant/sucker. Very New Yorkish and sort of cool place. Then it was off to the Yaletown Pub (officially called the Yaletown Brewing Company) on Mainland for some craft beers and entertainment. But before leaving for the pub I figured since I was on Hamilton I would drop in on their sister company, the Yaletown Distillery (which is a very cool place where you can buy their liquors or eat dinner or even check out the distillery which has as much brass and copper as the selection of craft beers on the next block). I went into the pub, which was packed, and had a great time.