Vancouver’s 100 Centennial Plaques

I want to acknowledge that this project is looking at sites located within the unceded and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

I’ve always loved reading any plaque I can find – they’re a great way to get a little snapshot of history. When I started looking into these yellow ovals I’d found around town, I realized 100 plaques were installed to celebrate Vancouver’s centennial in 1986 and thought they’d make a great 100DaysProject!

 

My goal is to find all the centennial plaques (or at least get an idea of where they used to be), write up a little bit about the place, event or person commemorated, and draw something too. At the end of the project, I hope it’s like a little guidebook to the city’s history.

As the plaques were installed in 1986, there probably won’t be much focus on Vancouver’s diversity and different cultural experiences. Probably very few women too. It’ll be interesting to see what the Vancouver Centennial Commission chose and if there are any surprises.

The List
# Title Neighbourhood
1 City Payroll Stolen Downtown (Chinatown)
2 Shanghai Alley Downtown (Chinatown)
3 Arrival of the First Train Downtown
4 The North Arm Road Mount Pleasant
5 BC Electric Head Office and Depot Downtown (Gastown)
6 BC Electric Depot Downtown
7 The Great Fire Downtown
8 Houdini's Great Escape Downtown (Victory Square)
9 The False Creek Trail Mount Pleasant
10 The Oldest Building in Chinatown Downtown (Chinatown)
11 Reading of the Riot Act Downtown (Victory Square)
12 The Hotel Vancouver Downtown
13 The Vancouver Opera House Downtown
14 End Of The Road Hastings-Sunrise
15 Hastings Mill  Strathcona
16 First City Council Meeting Downtown (Gastown)
17 Young Men's Christian Association Downtown (Victory Square)
18 Deadman's Island Stanley Park
19 The Avalon Dairy Killarney
20 The Hotel Vancouver Bandstand Downtown
21 Hastings Park Hastings-Sunrise
22 Cedar Cottage Kensington-Cedar Cottage
23 Tilley's Bookstore Downtown (Gastown)
24 The Anti-Oriental Riots Downtown
25 Stevens' Folly Grandview-Woodland
26 Jeremiah Rogers West Point Grey [not in file]
27 Whoi-Whoi Stanley Park
28 Denman Arena Downtown
29 The Komagata Maru Downtown
30 The First Newspaper Downtown (Gastown)
31 The Oppenheimers Downtown (Gastown)
32 Kanaka Ranch Downtown
33 Fairview Shacks Fairview 
34 Memorial Park South Sunset
35 Pantages Theatre Downtown (DTES)
36 Brockton Graveyard Stanley Park
37 The First Ukrainian Church Mount Pleasant
38 Con Jones Park Hastings-Sunrise
39 False Creek Reclamation Strathcona
40 Percy Williams Stanley Park
41 Papal Visit Downtown [not in file]
42 The First Synagogue Strathcona
43 Denman Auditorium Downtown
44 Cambie Street Grounds Downtown
45 Historian of His People Kitsilano
46 Wreck Beach UBC
47 Brewery Creek Mount Pleasant
48 Theatre Under The Stars Stanley Park
49 LD Taylor Downtown (Victory Square)
50 Stained Glass Pioneers Mount Pleasant
51 Sam Stands Firm Kitsilano
52 The First Mail Delivery Downtown
53 False Creek Industry Downtown
54 Waterworks Downtown
55 The Hollow Tree Stanley Park
56 Coal Harbour Industry Downtown [not in file]
57 Athletic Park / VAC Gym  Fairview 
58 Polar Bear Club West End
59 Japanese Internment Hastings-Sunrise
60 South Vancouver Sunset
61 Point Grey Kerrisdale
62 VanDusen Botanical Display Gardens Shaughnessy
63 Pioneer Businesses Downtown (Victory Square)
64 Lord's Day Act [not in file] Unknown [not in file]
65 Left to Right Unknown [not in file]
66 Sun Yat Sen Downtown (Chinatown)
67 Sadie Marks Strathcona (DTES)
68 CPR Tunnel Downtown
69 The Chain Gang Strike Unknown [not in file]
70 Sam Kee Building Downtown (Chinatown)
71 St Paul's Hospital West End
72 Council of Women Downtown
73 First Labour Temple Downtown
74 The MacKenzie-Papineau Battalion Downtown
75 Andrew Roddan [not in file] Strathcona (DTES)
76 Crystal Pool West End
77 Father of BC Archaeology West Point Grey
78 Union Steamships Downtown (Gastown)
79 In the Line of Duty Strathcona
80 From Buckets to Aerial Trucks West End
81 Hastings Mill Store West Point Grey
82 The Old Post Office Downtown
83 Carnegie Centre Downtown (DTES)
84 Labour Strife Downtown (Gastown)
85 Lucklucky Downtown (Gastown)
86 Gun Emplacements Stanley Park
87 Malcolm Alexander MacLean Strathcona (DTES)
88 Greenpeace Kitsilano
89 Ackery's Alley Downtown
90 St Mary's Arbutus-Ridge
91 Sikh Temple Kitsilano
92 Land Speculation [not in file] Mount Pleasant
93 Carleton School Renfrew-Collingwood
94 First Baptist Church Downtown
95 Lemon Squash Marpole
96 False Creek South Fairview 
97 English Bay West End
98 Vancouver Rowing Club Stanley Park
99 Hart's Opera House Downtown (Chinatown)
100 Jericho Military Base West Point Grey

Credit: Vancouver Centennial Commission, Historic Plaque Program – final list (June 18, 1986). Courtesy of Vancouver Archives

Note: The neighbourhoods are the City of Vancouver’s local planning areas from the City Social Indicators Profile 2020, plus the sub-areas from the Downtown Eastside Local Area Plan (April 2023).

 

Background

If you’ve ever wandered around Vancouver, you’ve probably spotted a bunch of historical plaques. The most common type is the Heritage Building sign – a bronze rectangle with a blue triangle at the top. These designate a building that has historic significance and they’re pretty formal.

You may have also seen a Places That Matter plaque – a blue oval. The PTM program was started in 2011 to celebrate 125 years since Vancouver was incorporated. These signs are much more community-minded and commemorate some of the lesser-known places, events and people that make Vancouver.

However, in between these two types, there was another plaque program – in 1986, 100 plaques were installed to celebrate 100 years – and those are the ones I’m looking for!

It's really important to acknowledge that this project is looking at sites located within the unceded and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. People have been living in this area for 8-10,000 years.

The first non-Indigenous settlements in the area only began in the late 1800s, with the first “official” townsite surveyed in 1870. The Canadian Pacific Railway selected the town as the terminus of their transcontinental railway and Vancouver was incorporated as a city on April 6, 1886 (then promptly burnt to the ground two months later).

100 years later, Vancouver celebrated its centennial. This evolved into Expo 86 with all its huge developments, but there were also lots of little events and programs to celebrate the city’s history. And one of those was the installation of 100 plaques:

“The Vancouver Centennial Commission will be erecting 100 historical plaques during 1986. We welcome suggestions that highlight all aspects of Vancouver’s history (social, political, labour, native, multicultural, neighbourhood, religious, sports etc). The Centennial Plaques should commemorate historically significant and representative people and events in Vancouver’s past.”
Credit: Vancouver Centennial Commission, Suggestion Form (Courtesy of Vancouver Archives)

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