CENTURY 21 In Town Realty
The Downtown Eastside has achieved a certain renown across the country. It's been described as the poorest postal code in Canada, and its problems with crime, homelessness, and substance misuse have been topics of national discussion. But the Downtown Eastside is also a community rich in history, architecture, and diversity.
The area - bound by Burrard Inlet to the north, Clark Drive to the east, Hastings Street to the south, and Main Street to the west - is one of the oldest communities in Vancouver. It is also a community that works hard to maintain its integrity and improve its identity as a vital inner-city neighbourhood.
The Downtown Eastside (DTES) encompassed two distinct areas within its boundaries. The original civic centre, centered around Main and Hastings with City Hall, the City Market, the Carnegie Public Library and numerous theatres, while farther east it was home to much of the original industry of the new city including the Hastings Mill. Along the waterfront of Burrard Inlet was, as today, the port.
With the construction of the new courthouse on Georgia Street in 1906 the focus for the downtown shifted west. The DTES was still the transportation hub for the city with the B.C. Electric interurban station at Hastings and Carrall, the North Shore Ferries at the foot of Columbia and the coastal steamship piers between Carrall and Main Street. All of this activity put thousands of people per day onto the streets of the DTES, they in turn supported a vibrant shopping district along Hastings Street.
The numerous hotels that remain in the area were originally built for commercial travellers and tourists brought in by the coastal steamship fleets. Later they would become the permanent home to the many single men who had worked as loggers and miners. Along Powell Street the Japanese community settled close to the port and fish processing plants. At one time they made up the majority of the school population at the nearby Strathcona Elementary School. In 1942, Vancouver's residents of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed to the interior of B.C. following the bombing of Pearl Harbour.
In 1958 street car service was discontinued and the interurban station was closed, the following year the North Shore ferries ceased operation. These two events took the thousands of people per day away from the streets and the area never fully recovered. The cycle of closures was completed when the Woodward's department store closed its doors in 1992 leading the area into further decline. By the early 1970s the Downtown Eastside was home to a disproportionate number of single, middle-aged men living on fixed incomes. The DTES experienced further change when a lack of public funding led to the de-institutionalization of thousands of psychiatric patients, many of whom found the Downtown Eastside an affordable and welcoming community.
On the positive side, a number of new housing projects funded by the province and the city have substantially improved the rental housing situation, while the various initiatives of the Downtown Eastside Residents Association (DERA) have done much to make life better for low income people.
DTES Revitalization Program website also features a Community History section, as well as an overview of the neighbourhoods within the DTES: Chinatown; Gastown; Victory Square; Strathcona; Oppenheimer.
Industry has made up a significant portion of the DTES and the eastern portion of the area has small scale industrial uses mixed in with the remaining homes and rooming houses along Alexander, Powell and Cordova Streets. These houses are some of the oldest in the city.
There are some noteworthy industrial buildings such as the 1925 American Can Company building, one of the largest reinforced concrete factories built in the city. In 1988 it was renovated into offices and a large steel and glass elevator tower added to the outside.
The Flying Angel Seaman's Club at the foot of Dunlevy is the former head office of the B.C. Mills Timber and Trading Company, informally known as the Hastings Mill. This large 1905 prefabricated building was built by the mill to promote its prefabricated building system produced by the mill from 1904 until 1911.
On the west side of Oppenheimer Park is the 1913 New World Hotel at 396 Powell Street. Originally named the "Tamura Building" by its owner, a Japanese banker and importer, this brick building features extensive use of sheet metal ornamentation and granite block foundation stones. It was restored in 1991. Across the street and facing the park is the Marr Hotel which opened its doors in 1890 as the Stanley Hotel.
For detailed information on heritage buildings in this area, and in Vancouver generally, visit City of Vancouver Heritage.
Additional information is available through the City of Vancouver Archives.
Each year, as more and more cars make their way to, from, and through Vancouver neighbourhoods, concern about safety and livability increases. Traffic calming solutions such as stop signs, traffic circles, speed humps, corner bulges, and diverters - are tools used to reduce traffic speed and volume. The City of Vancouver's Engineering Services Transportation Division works with residents interested in reclaiming their streets and introducing traffic calming.
To learn more about current special projects, ongoing programs, and safety improvement initiatives in Vancouver, check our Transportation Highlights webpage to find out what's happening.
For information about how the City of Vancouver plans transportation solutions and land use in relation to those solutions, while maintaining a livable and workable city, visit our Planning Department's Insights into Transportation webpage to learn more.
To find out what mode of travel residents of your community choose to go to/from work, check the 'Statistics' link, located in the link menu to the left under the 'Profile' section.
Source: City of Vancouver
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