The soul of a city is in its people 

The Archivists unravel the DNA of places, through stories, lore, and visual history.

Discover, explore, and shape the spaces around you.

1780-2016 - Coal Harbour’s Restless Placenames

1780-2016 - Coal Harbour’s Restless Placenames

For thousands of years, part of this shoreline mudflat was known as Ch’elxwá7elch. It was a place where Indigenous Peoples foraged, hunted, and fished until nearby Spratt’s Oilery drove the marine life away. Just inland, an orchard went by Kanaka Ranch, nestled among conifers hundreds of years old. Captain Vancouver sailed into the inlet and spotted a few coal seams, but it was the Royal Engineers Colonel Moody who officially named the place. The forest was completely clear-cut, three Englishmen bought it as Government Lot 185, and their naive endeavour became known colloquially as “The Brickmaker’s Claim.” These ‘Three Greenhorns’ later tried unsuccessfully to market the property as a startup city called New Liverpool. After the Canadian Pacific Railway arrived, this place lived many lives; of ecology, of industry, and of leisure. But the name for the encompassing neighborhood without any coal, Coal Harbour, it stuck to this day.

Read: From Ch’elxwá7elch to Kanaka Ranch: A Cautionary Tale About Lost Narratives in Coal Harbour

Our Research Drawer


Written by: Todd Smith

Researched and Edited by: John Wellwood and Todd Smith

Visual Design and Music: Todd Smith

Pidgin: When the Slate's Wiped Clean

Pidgin: When the Slate's Wiped Clean