I’ve found a book. It’s called SkyTrain Explorer and it’s written by John Atkin, the co-author of Vancouver Walks.
It’s a very special book because it highlights (with clear directions) heritage walks you can take from every SkyTrain station along the Millennium and Expo Lines from Waterfront to New Westminster.
Atkin quotes comedian Steven Wright, “Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time.” So, guess what? I’m going to take the time and walk the walks!
Too often we are oblivious to what’s all around us. Parks, buildings, history and culture. I know I’m guilty of this on my morning commute on transit.
But I want to know more about what makes this region so interesting and get off that train to go exploring.
This is the first in my series and over the next year I will make sure I do them all (hold me to it, please!) including pictures, any interesting videos and commentary of my experiences.
It’s Sunday. It’s sunny. I’ve got my Chucks on and I’m ready to go! I mosey on over to the bus that takes me to the nearest Canada Line SkyTrain station and I hop on, heading to Waterfront.
I’ve been in Waterfront station countless times. Have I ever, even once, looked up at the architecture in the concourse? Nope. Not once.
I remedy this oversight immediately and spend a good 10 minutes walking around and taking pictures like a complete tourist!
According to the instructions, I head out past the A&W, ignore the calling of a delicious Teen burger and leave the station.
To my right, there’s a great view of the port, West Vancouver and the edge of the cruise ship terminal. To my left is a pedestrian walkway across Cordova St. Wait, was this always here? This is great!
As I cross the bridge, I turn back and grab a shot of the entirety of Waterfront station, built in 1914 for CPR. It really does have a presence with a beautiful backdrop.
The Sinclair Centre is next. It is made up of four buildings, the youngest of which was built in 1935. They were carefully restored in the 1980s and joined in the middle with a covered courtyard.
This block includes the Post Office from 1905, my personal favourite building on this particular walk.
Next time you’re near this area, check out the fish on the Granville St side of the buildings. Sometimes thought of as dolphins, they are actually sturgeon. Apparently, sturgeon are considered royal fish. You learn something new every day!
I see the impressive BIRKS flagship store to my Southeast. An impressive building that was originally the Canadian Bank of Commerce built in 1908.
Walking ever onward, Southwest now, I pass by the original Vancouver Stock Exchange under construction. Office building perhaps or condo? At least they’re keeping the outside.
I turn East and at Pender and Granville. The Rogers building. Built in 1912 and very well kept up since then! Peer up and see some lions keeping watch over the neighbourhood.
North to Hastings on Seymour. What I always thought was just a giant hotel is, in fact, the Conference Plaza (halls, retail, hotel and offices) with buildings dating back to the 1920s.
This includes the former Union Bank Building, now part of Simon Fraser University. Actually, a fair amount of older buildings in this section of town belong to SFU.
I look up and see the Vancouver lookout tower and the Harbour Centre. Any word on how the food is at the revolving restaurant?
I turn East on Hastings. Spencer’s Department Store circa 1928, later Eaton’s and finally Sears is now part of SFU’s downtown campus and on the left. Great library! I may have stopped and explored. I do love me some books!
Now, instead of heading down to Cordova and ending my walk, I continued East to Cambie.
The Dominion building on the Northwest corner cannot be missed. Shades of terracotta, yellows and oranges seem to capture a sunset in architecture that makes you stop and take notice!
I stroll down to Water St. to admire the much adored steam clock. Sorry to dash any heritage hopes for this popular attraction, but it was only built in 1977.
I love Gastown and I loved walking around it and the old financial district. You don’t have to walk far to see a lot in this neighbourhood!
My first heritage walk is done so I grab a drink, sit on a patio and enjoy the sunset.
Things I learned:
* Downtown Vancouver has some amazingly well-preserved heritage buildings
* Remember to look UP or you miss half of everything!
* Being a tourist in your own city is OK. Actually, it’s pretty fun!
* Even if you have directions, sometimes figuring out which building is which can take a few minutes – try to find the date on the building to help guide you.
* Never. Eat. Shredded. Wheat.
See my gallery below with all my pictures of the day. Which buildings are your favourites?
Stay tuned for the next installment in April, SkyTrain Explorer: Burrard Station!
Author: Adrienne Coling