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Granville Island is a peninsula and shopping district in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It is located across False Creek from Downtown Vancouver, under the south end of the Granville Street Bridge. The peninsula was once an industrial manufacturing area, but today it is now a hotspot for Vancouver tourism and entertainment. The area has received much acclaim in recent years for its buildings and shopping experience.
The city of Vancouver was once called Granville until it was renamed in 1886, but the former name was kept and given to Granville Street, which spanned the small inlet known as False Creek. False Creek in the late 19th century was more than twice the size it is today, and its tidal flats included a large permanent sandbar over which spanned the original, rickety, wooden Granville Street bridge. This sandbar, which would eventually become Granville Island, was first mapped by Captain George Henry Richards in the British Boundary Commission's naval expedition in 1858-59, and the island today conforms roughly to the size and shape documented at that time. A British Admiralty Chart of 1893 shows the island in greater detail and conforming even more accurately to today's Granville Island.
The first attempt to stabilize the sandbar by driving piles around the perimeter was an unofficial attempt to create some free real estate shortly after the creation of the original Granville Street bridge in 1889. The Federal government put a stop to the work as a menace to navigation, but the piles are still visible in a photo taken in 1891.
In 1915, with the port of Vancouver growing, the newly formed Vancouver Harbour Commission approved a reclamation project in False Creek for an industrial area. A 35 acres (14 ha) island, connected to the mainland by a combined road and rail bridge at its south end, was to be built. Almost 1 million cubic yards (760,000 m³) of fill was dredged from the surrounding waters of False Creek to create the island under the Granville Street Bridge. The total cost for the reclamation was $342,000. It was originally called Industrial Island, but Granville Island was the name that stuck, named after the bridge that ran directly overhead.
The very first tenant, B.C. Equipment Ltd., set the standard by building a wood-framed machine shop, clad on all sides in corrugated tin, at the Island's west end. (Today the same structure houses part of the Granville Island Public Market.) By 1923 virtually every lot on the Island was occupied, mostly by similar corrugated-tin factories. The first tenants of Granville Island tended toward newer, secondary industries serving the forest, mining, construction, and shipping sectors. Factories made roof shingles, chain, barrels, wire rope, nails, saws, paint, cement, rivets, boilers, and many types of industrial machinery. In 1930, 1,200 workers were employed on the island mostly arriving at work by streetcar. There was a special stop in the middle of the Granville Street Bridge where they descended several flights of stairs to the Island below. The only other access to the Island was a pair of road and rail bridges leading to the Creek's south shore.
During the Great Depression, one of Vancouver's several hobo jungles sprang up on the False Creek flats opposite Granville Island's north shore. "Shackers" lived on the island, in town, or in floathouses, and survived by fishing and beachcombing and sold salmon, smelt, and wood door to door or at the public market on Main Street. They were basically self-sufficient and were left alone.
The Depression saw several sawmills around False Creek shut down, yet secondary industries on Granville Island survived. They successfully lobbied the overseers to lower their rents, and withheld civic taxes on the grounds that the city had no jurisdiction over federal property. The ensuing court case went all the way the House of Lords in London (then the highest court of appeal). The tenants lost, but Europe, being at war, depended on the industrial factories on Granville Island. The island was considered so vital to the war effort that in 1942, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, special identification cards were issued to workers to prevent saboteurs from infiltrating it.
In the postwar period, demand for heavy industrial output declined. The sawmills and even the Island's factories were becoming oily, dirty firetraps. Factories routinely discharged waste and other pollutants directly into the surrounding water. To keep its tenants, the overseers charged some of the lowest industrial rents going, which meant the declining businesses hung on, and no newer, tertiary industries took their place.
As business declined, officials began entertaining a new reclamation plan. The idea was to fill in the remainder of the Creek to create more industrial land, remove the water access (on which many of the existing factories still depended), and turn Granville Island into a land-locked plot. The Creek was saved by the hefty $50-million price tag estimated to fulfill the reclamation plan. Just 6 acres (24,000 m2) were reclaimed from the Creek along the Island's south channel. It was technically no longer an island but instead a peninsula.
In 1950, plans also started for the construction of a soaring, new, eight-lane Granville Street Bridge to replace the 1909 swing span that still stopped traffic every time a larger vessel passed underneath.
The island was in serious decline as fire struck factory after factory. Rather than rebuild, owners either relocated or left the industry altogether. Trucks replaced barges and trains as the main means of transportation, and the Island's cramped, inner-city location no longer looked attractive to industry. Slowly, the vacant lots began to outnumber the occupied ones.
In the 1970s, the site was redeveloped by the federal government, spearheaded by Canadian government minister Ron Basford. It transformed the site into a 'people-friendly' place with various uses, from parkland to housing to public exhibition space. Today, the site is still owned and managed by the government through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation agency. The redevelopment originally cost the government $19 million and the site now generates an estimated $35 million per year in taxes.
Granville Island today
Granville Island provides amenities such as a large public market, an extensive marina, a boutique hotel, the Emily Carr University of Art and Design (named in honour of the artist), Arts Umbrella, False Creek Community Centre, various performing arts theatres including Vancouver's only professional improvisational theatre company Vancouver Theatresports League, the Arts Club Theatre Company and Carousel Theatre, fine arts galleries, and variety of shopping areas. There are two zones remaining from the Island's industrial heyday: a machine shop and concrete plant.
Since its redevelopment in the 1970s, Granville Island has maintained a community of craft studios, including: a glassblowing studio, two co-op printmaking studios, a fine-art print studio, a luthier, a master saké maker, various jewellers, the B.C. Potter's Guild Gallery, the Crafthouse Gallery, the Circle Craft shop, art galleries, boatbuilders, a wood co-op shop, woodworkers studios, etc. A daily farmers' market has been ongoing since the early 1990s - this was the first contemporary farmers' market in Vancouver.
Granville Island Brewing Co. is also the name of a beer company which originated on Granville Island in 1984, but whose main base of operations was moved to Kelowna, British Columbia some time later. In 2009 it was purchased by Molson's Brewery and continues to brew small batches of its varieties at the Granville Island brewing original site, and offers beer-tasting and tours of their brewing facilities.
The Granville Island Public Market features a farmers' market, day vendors, and artists offering local Vancouver goods. There are fifty permanent retailers and over one-hundred day vendors in stalls throughout the market selling a variety of artisan cottage-industry foods and handmade crafts on a rotating schedule.
Granville Island plays host to a variety of buskers throughout the year. Busking is encouraged by the Granville Island administration, and a group has been created to oversee the activity. Performers must purchase a licence and are restricted to specific areas of the island. As of 2007, approximately 100 performers are registered to busk, including musicians, jugglers, magicians and other street performers. Buskers can be found most of the day at two main outdoor locations. One being the triangle square in front of the La Baguette Bakery, and the other being the Market Courtyard behind the public market on the waterfront. Unamplified buskers can also be found at various indoor and outdoor locations throughout the island. Performances take place year-round with the majority taking place during the busy tourist season (May–September).
Two companies, False Creek Ferries and Aquabus, provide ferry service from Granville Island to Downtown Vancouver including numerous stops in Yaletown, Downtown South/False Creek, and the West End as well as Vanier Park near Kitsilano Beach. Other water transportation options include a taxi service to Bowen Island provided by English Bay Launch and a number of private tours.
There is also a streetcar route operated by the Vancouver Downtown Historic Railway. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, a free service was offered between Granville Island and SkyTrain's Olympic Village in the SE False Creek neighbourhood. The city is planning to extend this route to SkyTrain's Main Street-Science World station and then eventually to Chinatown, through the historic and Financial districts, to terminate in the Coal Harbour neighbourhood near Stanley Park. This streetcar is now permanently shut down.
- Hayes, Derek. "Historical Atlas of Vancouver and the Lower Fraser Valley False", 2005. p. 30.
- Hayes, Derek. "Historical Atlas of Vancouver and the Lower Fraser Valley False", 2005. p. 104.
- Roddan, Andrew; Todd McCallum (2005) . Vancouver's Hoboes [God in the Jungles]. Vancouver: Subway Books. pp. ii–iii, 83–84. ISBN 0-9687163-9-3.
- Wade, Jill (1 March 1997). "Home or Homelessness? Marginal housing in Vancouver, 1886-1950". Urban History Review (25): 19–29. Retrieved 2007-02-04.
- Granville Island | Day Vendors Association. Gidva.org. Retrieved on 2014-04-12.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Granville Island.|
- Official Granville Island website
- Granville Island Cultural Society Information about busking (street performing) on Granville Island and theatre information
- Satellite image of Granville Island from Google maps.
- Granville Island Day Vendors Association website
- Granville Island Business and Community Association website
- Granville Island Works community website
- The Growing Pains of Vancouver - Internet radio documentary discussing Granville Island from 24'00" till 34'43".