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12 Must-Visit Historical Sites in Vancouver

London Heritage Farm | © CathyDaniel / WikiCommons
London Heritage Farm | © CathyDaniel / WikiCommons
Picture of Hayley Simpson
Writer
Updated: 23 December 2017
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Vancouver is a relatively new city, only founded in 1886. So although its historical sites aren’t too ancient, there are still plenty of buildings, museums, and attractions to explore to take a step back in time. These are the city’s must-visit historical sites.

Stanley Park

Stanley Park was originally home to the Musqueam, Squamish, and Burrard First Nations. The park opened on September 27, 1888, and was named after Canada’s Governor General at the time, Lord Frederick Stanley. It was Vancouver’s first green space, and today, Stanley Park is North America’s third largest urban park. In 1911, the Vancouver Rowing Club built its clubhouse, and the heritage building still exists along the Stanley Park seawall today.

The Rowing Clubhouse
© Hayley Simpson

Vancouver Police Museum

The Vancouver Police Museum was opened in 1986 to commemorate the Vancouver Police Department’s centennial. It lies in the heritage building that once housed the city’s Coroner’s Court and autopsy facilities. In 1935, the building was transformed into a makeshift hospital during the Battle of Ballantyne Pier. There are over 20,000 objects on display, including counterfeit money and confiscated firearms. The museum also hosts Movies in the Morgue, which is precisely what it sounds like!

Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden

The Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, constructed in 1986 and named after the father of modern China, was the first Chinese garden built outside of China. There’s a free public park beside the Chinese Garden, which has an entrance fee and guided tours available. The garden includes traditional buildings and plants you would find in similar gardens in China.

Inside the Chinese Garden

Marine Building

The Marine Building is as impressive inside as it is outside. It’s known for its exquisite Art Deco details and the fact that it was the British Empire’s tallest building when it opened in 1930. The nautical name matches the building’s design, as the interior walls and doors feature images of sea snails, brass ships, scallops, turtles, seahorses, crabs, and even seaweed. Today, the Marine Building has been featured on various TV shows and films. It was Daily Planet HQ in Smallville and the Baxter Building in the Fantastic Four franchise.

Gastown

Gastown is Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood and thus the most historic. Its story began with a single tavern, founded by John “Gassy Jack” Deighton in 1867. Today, Gastown is undeniably one of Vancouver’s coolest areas. It is brimming with independent boutiques, contemporary art galleries, and some of the city’s best bars, clubs, and restaurants. You also can’t visit Gastown without seeing the Steam Clock, built in 1977. We recommend visiting this historic site at night.

Gastown's Steam Clock
 © IQ Remix / Flickr

London Heritage Farm

A bit of a hidden historic gem in Richmond, the London family farmhouse at London Heritage Farm first came to be in the 1890s. It overlooks the south arm of the Fraser River. Today, the farmhouse has undergone restoration to depict what rural life was like between the 1880s and 1930s. The house has six rooms that display furniture, London family photographs, and clothing of the era. Along with the farmhouse, there’s also heritage and herb gardens, a restored barn, a hand tool museum, and animals.

Roedde House Museum

The West End is another historic Vancouver neighborhood, filled with some of the city’s oldest buildings, such as Gabriola (1523 Davie Street), St Paul’s Anglican Church (1130 Jervis Street), and the Roedde House Museum, constructed in 1893 in the Queen Anne Revival style for Gustav Roedde and his family. The Roedde House Museum opened in 1990, and it features over 2,700 artifacts, including furniture and clothing. Some of the displays once belonged to the Roedde family.

Roedde House Museum

Pacific Central Station

Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station is the city’s main transport hub. It is where most bus companies and trains, such as Amtrak, VIA Rail, Greyhound Canada, and BoltBus, arrive and depart in the city. Pacific Central Station was built in 1919 and designated as a heritage railway station in 1991. It still features antique fixtures inside and looks impressive lit up at night when the large neon Pacific Central sign glows brightly.

Steveston

Steveston, which lies at the mouth of the Fraser River’s south arm, is a historic seaside village in Richmond founded in 1880. It was originally a salmon canning center and the largest producer of canned salmon in British Columbia. Today, it is home to many historic homes, as well as the historic sites of the Britannia Shipyards and the Gulf of Georgia Cannery. This National Historic Site is now a museum, filled with artifacts that commemorate the west coast’s fishing industry.

Gulf of Georgia Cannery

Vancouver Art Gallery

The Vancouver Art Gallery is the largest art gallery in Western Canada and sits in the city’s former main courthouse building, constructed in 1906 in a neoclassical style by architect Sir Francis Mawson Rattenbury. He was also the man behind the prestigious buildings in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. The art gallery’s exquisite design includes marble from Alaska, Vermont, and Tennessee, as well as a dome, porticos, and ionic columns.

Orpheum Theatre

Located in Vancouver’s entertainment district, the Orpheum Theatre is an elegant theatre and music venue. The National Historic Site, which opened in 1927, was designed by Marcus Priteca, a Scottish architect. It then closed between 1975 and 1977 to undergo renovations by Thomson, Berwick, Pratt, and Partners. The original designer, Tony Heinsbergen, returned for the restoration 50 years later as well. The Orpheum Theatre’s interior includes grand staircases, Romanesque and gothic arches, and an exquisite chandelier.

Inside Orpheum Theatre

Burnaby Village Museum

Burnaby Village Museum, located at Deer Lake Park, is a must-visit historical site in the Greater Vancouver Area. It allows visitors to take a step back in time to a 1920s tram stop community. You can walk past costumed townsfolk giving demonstrations, take a trip on the carousel, check out the restored Interurban tram #1223, and visit the shops. There’s a blacksmith, general store, print shop, classroom, farmhouse, and more. The museum is also a must-visit during the holidays and Halloween.

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