History

Modern Public Library in Yaletown
Vancouver Public Library

Yaletown is one of many scenic and historic areas that comprise Vancouver’s downtown district. Yaletown offers many unique working and living choices and is one of the most sought after places to call home in not only Vancouver, but all of the Lower Mainland. Besides being a great place to work and live, Yaletown also has an interesting and unique history. Here is a brief history of the area and why this corner of downtown Vancouver is called Yaletown.

Geography

Yaletown is an area of Vancouver’s downtown district that is bordered by False Creek, Robson Street and Homer Street. With a great blend of parks, high rise condos, working marinas and converted heritage buildings, Yaletown is one of the largest urban regeneration projects in all of North America. Yaletown’s borders and constriction cause limited space, making it one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the entire city.

History – The Early Years

Before Yaletown became one of the most densely populated and highly coveted places to live in Vancouver, the area was dominated by warehouses and shipyards and was heavily industrialized. As with many parts of the Lower Mainland and especially Vancouver, the Canadian Pacific Railway, or CPR, had a large part in shaping Yaletown’s history.

In the late 1800’s, British Columbia was experiencing a gold rush and Yale, which is located over 200 km away from Vancouver in the Fraser Canyon, was one of the key centres and destinations for the gold rush. Yale was not only a gold rush destination, it was also a major hub for the CPR and housed its repair shops as well as a sizeable population of railway employees. As the CPR extended further south and into Vancouver, it brought with it many of these employees who were looking for new opportunities as the gold rush slowly fizzled out. Many of these employees found housing and employment opportunities close to the newly built railway in Vancouver. As this location began to grow, it quickly became known as Yaletown.

With its close proximity to False Creek, Yaletown quickly grew as not only a railway hub, but also a hub to a number of different heavy industries. From fishing to steel works, many different industries thrived on the shores of False Creek. Many of the warehouses and factories as well as railway workhouses and storage spaces that housed these different industries are all part of the urban regeneration project and are still in use today.

Post Expo 86

Over the next few decades, real estate boom bust cycles as well as other factors saw Yaletown’s industry slowly close, leaving behind many empty warehouses and buildings. Over time, many of these structures fell into disrepair. In 1986, Vancouver welcomed the world exhibition otherwise known as Expo 86 which was built on adjacent industrial land. After seeing the transformation and success of Expo 86 and its regeneration project, Yaletown was next in line for development. Yaletown was sold to a Hong Kong based developer shortly after Expo and thus began the largest and still ongoing urban regeneration project in North America.

Yaletown Today

The development of Yaletown has been a carefully laid out plan by the city of Vancouver that has made public space the priority of the overall development. The most recognizable use of public space is the seawall which connects Yaletown with the rest of the downtown core. The city has also made sure to preserve many of the original buildings of the industrial days transforming these buildings into restaurants, loft apartments as well as retail and community space. The overall planning process of Yaletown which includes its own schools, community centre, waterfront access and green spaces has made this area one of the most coveted places to live in all of Vancouver.

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