Pidgin: When the Slate's Wiped Clean

When The Archivists walked Vancouver’s Coal Harbour waterfront, we had what we might cheekily call a “Croisette moment.” A disconnect, prompted by the feeling that, while we were in an attractive enough place, it all felt a bit too new and too worked on. Being the story hounds we are, our big question was: “What happened here before the radical makeover?

Trace(s): There’s More than Coal on that Shore

We usually start our location sleuthing with a trip to the City of Vancouver Archives and then, sometimes days later, a walk through the neighbourhood. Last week we finessed everything into one day, kicking off our exploration of Coal Harbour with a morning stop at the Archives, followed by a quick theme lunch and a stroll through the waterfront neighbourhood.

Pidgin: A Shining City upon the Hill

In 1884, the Canadian Pacific Railway finalized a land grant agreement with the Province of British Columbia that pretty much served up the then-named town of Granville on a platter. The potential payoff of the deal was so tantalizing that the legendary head of the CPR, Sir William C. Van Horne, came out west to steer the railway’s side of the negotiations. Rumour has it, that while he was here, Van Horne was rowed around the downtown peninsula, to get a feel for the place.

Trace(s) of History

The response to our time lapse of the Hotel Vancouver III project was great. People saw the 5-second clip and asked us to try other locations, such as the Carnegie Library at Hastings and Main streets and the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) Hotel Vancouver I and II site in the 700-block of Granville Street. 

We had started digging into the 700 block already, so we had ready access to a number of sources. There wasn’t enough material there for another time lapse, but a glance across the street to the South-East corner of Granville and West Georgia yielded gold. In a Vancouver Archives’ cache we found 47 sequential photographs of the Birks tower going up in 1912-1913. It turns out the building project had been well photographed by the contractor, Norton Griffiths Steel Construction Co Ltd. 

Nothing grinds a conversation to a halt faster than someone trying to make a point using unfamiliar language. It’s not long before exotic vocabulary becomes the main issue and painstaking translations and negotiations about meaning are needed before the process can get back on track.