Vancouver’s Oldest Building
This two-floor wooden building now sits on a cliff perched above English Bay at the foot of Alma Street on Point Grey. But it wasn’t always there. The rough-sawed cedar plank pioneer store was initially erected on the south shore of Burrard Inlet for British Captain Edward Stamp’s British Columbia and Vancouver Island Spar, Lumber and Sawmill Company, established in 1865.
Its sturdy walls stood for sixty years at the foot of Dunlevy Street, the heart and soul of the logging settlement of Hastings Mill and Granville. The store’s first life as a social and service centre lasted some twenty years until the second general store went up and the old store was relegated to storage in 1887. The old mill store, that had been the City’s first post office, library and community centre, and had played a pivotal role in the Great Fire of 1886 would sit virtually unnoticed for forty years behind a common false front with the ‘new’ store (also rapidly becoming old!), until the 1920s. By 1927, in the name of progress and future development, the Hamber-Hendry family sold the Hastings Mill land to the Harbour Commission, the mill was dismantled and its equipment dispersed to smaller operations across the continent with the mill store facing the risk of demolition in 1929.
This gave Vancouver’s decade-old female historical society, the Native Daughters of B. C. Post No. 1, a new cause: to save the original old mill store. On July 29, 1930 they arranged to have the old store hoisted aboard a large scow, and towed some ten kilometers from Burrard Inlet, through the Lions Gate and across English Bay to its current location. Local woodworkers, carpenters, glaziers and electricians, set about restoring the exterior and refurbishing the distressed interior. The old shelves were ripped out and a stone fireplace was built “to add a homey touch”, but the rest of the building was kept intact with the original main post and beam features.
On a rainy January, 10, 1931, under a sea of black umbrellas the Hon. R. Randolph Bruce, Lieutenant Governor of B.C., opened the building with the unveiling of a bronze plaque. A year later, on January 16, 1932 it was officially dedicated as a “Museum of B.C. Historical Relics in Memory of the Pioneers” by Premier Simon.F. Tolmie.