From under downtown’s Canada Place to the working industrial docks in the east lies East Waterfront Road – a 2km. stretch of flat roadway passing a small park, some vacant lots (for now), a heliport, the Seabus terminal, the Main Street docks, a fish packing company, a terminal operator, access to the container dock, and an old house.
Crab Park is an out of the way waterfront park good for relaxing and enjoying the harbour views. Check out the scene first – it’s a popular place for letting the dogs run free, but being near the downtown east side, can attract a sketchy, colourful clientele, mostly into relaxing and having fun and maybe getting a little drunk and obnoxious.
That’s the Main Street docks next door east, and the container yard cranes beyond that. This is a good spot for watching other people work from a distance.
Portside (2.0 km/1.25 mi):
Riding On: Adjoining Seaside Routes
East: To go further east you have to go over the Main Street overpass and do the Docks bypass. Backtrack to the Main Street overpass and take Alexander, Railway, etc. all the way over to New Brighton Park for another short trip of sea side. Is it worth it? Certainly for the city street ride of often-prewar light industrial blue collar Vancouver. Try to avoid Powell.
West: you can continue west through Coal Harbour and Stanley Park and the remainder of the seawall and seaside routes. Note that the road passes under elevated Canada Place street (even West Cordova to the south is elevated) and to get to Coal Harbour you need to follow signs – taking the first right just as the road turns to the left to go up the ramp to West Cordova and the city.
South (False Creek): Taking the Main Street overpass to get out of the Portside docks section, take Alexander west to Carrall (now you’re at the oldest part of the old pre-Vancouver town of Granville) and then take Carrall all the way south to end up on the seawall in Yaletown with Science World in sight.
The Seafarer’s Mission house is at the location of the pre-settlement 1867 Stamp’s Mill (Hastings Mill in 1870), a sawmill sitting on a small point of land isolated in the wilderness.
The mill on the point stood alone in the wilderness for only a short time before entrepreneur “Gassy Jack” John Deighton came from New Westminster with a barrel of whiskey and talked mill workers into building him a saloon just west of the company’s boundary.
Within a short time a village grew up around the saloon which within a few years became the little town of Granville.
The whole eastern half of this section – from the parking lots at the foot of Cambie to the Seafarer’s Mission building comprises what remains of the shoreline of original Gastown, the first European community here.
The natural shoreline ran up to Water Street around Abbott, and the point of land the Hastings Sawmill was on was known to the natives as Kum-kum-lye, meaning “maple trees.” West of there, following the old crescent shore and about where old Gastown is, was called Lucklucky (Luk-luk-kee), meaning “a grove of beautiful trees.”
The area was low and marshy, especially around today’s Abbott to Columbia Streets – historic Gastown, directly south of Crab Park. The land formed a crescent west of the point that the sawmill was on, and in 1870 was surveyed showing only nine buildings along the crescent between Abbott and Carrall.
When the area was selected to be the terminus of the transcontinental CPR rail and consequently the site of a major new seaport, Granville was overwhelmed in a rush of land speculation, clearing, and building. The new city was named “Vancouver” in 1886 and was almost immediately completely destroyed in a fire a few months later.
The Hastings Mill store originally located here and since relocated near Jericho Beach in Point Grey was one of the few buildings to survive the fire of 1886. The current home of the Mission to Seafarers at the eastern end of the road at the foot of Dunlevy Street was built in 1905 as a show-house for prefabricated houses. Representative BC woods were used for its structure, trimmings and panels.
Just west of there – still east of the overpass, on the other side of the tracks between two buildings, you can see the foot of Gore Street. Before there was a Vancouver, Gore was already there as the shortest route for skidding logs overland from False Creek to the Hastings sawmill. Down Gore came the forests that once stood where south Vancouver does now. That’s why unlike most of the other streets in the Vancouver grid system, Gore Street runs at an angle – it was there before the city planners laid out the street grids (that’s also true of Kingsway further inland – it was the direct route to New Westminster).
While the eventual terminus of the CPR rail was at the western end of East Waterfront at the base of Granville Street, and “downtown” shifted west, this is the germ from which Vancouver grew.
Crab Park was created in the 1980s out of activist’s efforts to have a waterfront park for the downtown east side community. It’s actually on federal land and is leased to the city for 45 years. A memorial boulder there remembers over sixty women (often sex trade workers, addicts and non-white) who went missing and unremarked from the early 80s to 2002 until families and friends forced the police to focus on the evidence that at least one serial killer was preying on women and forced the city as a whole to focus on their plight.