The Hasting Mills Store: Vancouver’s Oldest Surviving Building

Described poetically or dramatically, depending on your personal level of cynicism, as ‘the place where Vancouver began’, the Old Hasting Mill Store is the oldest surviving building in Vancouver.  While it currently sits on Point Grey at the base of Alma Street, it was originally located, at the time of its construction in 1865, on the southern shore of Burrard Inlet.

Image from  searcharchives.vancouver.ca

Image from searcharchives.vancouver.ca

Built for a British captain, Edward Stamp, as the base for his ‘British Columbia and Vancouver Island Spar, Lumber and Sawmill Company’ – evidentially with a title that long and descriptive he also wanted to ensure that there would be no confusion regarding the function of his company – this wooden building stands two stories tall.

During the sixty years that the store stood at its initial location, located in the center of the developing city’s logging settlement, it served both its logical function as a supply store for various materials necessary to the logging industry as well as a more social function of a place for workers could gather and gossip.

Another historical photo of the site; this one from www.hastings-mill-museum.ca

Another historical photo of the site; this one from http://www.hastings-mill-museum.ca

From the time of its construction in the 1860s all the way through the 1920s, the settlement of the area around the Burrard Inlet was closely tied to the existence of the Sawmill.  The people in the area shopped at the store itself and their children as far away as Moodyville on the other side of the inlet attended the Hastings Mill School.  After a second general store was built in the area the original building was first delegated as a storage facility before becoming, in succession, the city’s first post office, library, and community centre.  When the fire of 1886 occurred, this building was one of the few to survive the flames and, as a result, took on yet another role in the community by acting as a hospital and morgue for the victims of this disaster.

A more modern look at the building with it's snazzy colours. Image from www.hastings-mill-museum.ca

A more modern look at the building with it’s snazzy colours. Image from http://www.hastings-mill-museum.ca

Up until the time of the First World War, the mill remained Vancouver’s largest industrial enterprise but by 1927 progress and developments in the field resulted in the mill being dismantled with parts of its equipment being distributed among smaller operations around the continent.

When the mill closed down, the building that had been the Hastings Mill Store was uprooted and moved by barge to its current location at the bottom of Alma Street where it became known as the Old Hastings Mill Store Museum.  Run from that time to this day by the Native Daughters of British Columbia, the museum is still in operation today and contains displays of artifacts belonging to Native American, pioneer, and immigrant groups.

The plaque which declares the building to be a city of Vancouver Heritage Building, Image from www.century21.ca

The plaque which declares the building to be a city of Vancouver Heritage Building, Image from http://www.century21.ca

The Pacific National Exhibition: Since 1910

The annual Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) held at Hastings Park in Vancouver is, for many people in the city, a yearly summer activity as well as an experience had by a huge percentage of the tourists who travel to the province every summer.  In honor of this year’s PNE (which opened last Saturday) today’s post is going to take a quick look at the history of the fair which celebrated its 100 year anniversary back in 2010.  While the exhibition is, these days, known for being a family friendly environment filled with rides, games, shows, and food it was not always used for this purpose.

Inside the Exhibition/Industrial/Women's Building 1910. Image from windsorstar.com

Inside the Exhibition/Industrial/Women’s Building 1910. Image from windsorstar.com

At its inception, the Pacific National Exhibition, opened by British Columbia’s Prime Minister of the time Sir Wilfrid Laurier, was known instead as ‘The Industrial Exhibition’ and it was the second largest event of its kind in North America (behind the New York State Fair) with over 68,000 visitors the first year.

The Coaster. Image from velowbc.ca

The Coaster. Image from velowbc.ca

During its earliest years, the PNE was used predominantly as a showcase for the region’s agricultural and economic sectors but, over the years, it has undergone many alterations to its function as it has grown.  During the period of WWII, the PNE was closed and the area instead served as a military training facility while the PNE barns were used to intern and process Japanese Canadians from all over the province.  In the after-effects of this event, the Momiji Gardens on the PNE grounds became a memorial and a reminder of this unfortunate period in Canadian history.

The PNE has seen many historical events over its run such as the introduction of the first rotary phone in the Pacific Northwest.  It has also allowed for the creation of a number of award-winning shows which were created specifically for the fair. These include:

  • Cirque Pop
  • City Rhythm
  • Bring on the Night

As well as many of the largest consumer shows getting their start as exhibitions at the fair:

  • Vancouver Boat Show
  • BC Home Show
  • Pacific International Auto Show

Around the time of the fair last year (August 2013), two of the features of the PNE, the wooden roller coaster and the Pacific Colliseum, were named heritage sites by the City of Vancouver. In its current form, the fair runs for 17 days in August, during which time it typically admits over 900,000 visitors making it the largest annual ticketed event in the province.

PNE_Logo

 

Promotion for the first PNE. Image from www.theprovince.com

Promotion for the first PNE. Image from http://www.theprovince.com