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.
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.
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.
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.