Had a marvelous time last night, wandering (certainly not aimlessly) around the Georgia Viaduct and neighbouring areas under the guidance of historian John Atkin and former Councilor Gordon Price. The pair of them presented a walk for the Vancouver Heritage Foundation and about sixteen or so of us heard John tell some fascinating stories about the history of the viaducts, while Gordon filled in with semi-political, semi-urbanist context.
I had absolutely no idea, for example, that the car park on Georgia on the west side of Main, is the very last surviving half-block section of what was once the original Georgia Street Viaduct from the 1910s. And that the half-arches you can see when looking east from the lower part of the car park were part of the City’s water system.
This is the last masonry remnant of that old viaduct and, as someone on the tour said, it is almost like our version of Roman ruins.
There was much talk of the pros and cons of demolishing the “new” Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts, of whether of not they should be replaced with the new Pacific Street “highway”; and much discussion about the aesthetics of the viaducts, their landscaping (with lodgepole pines — vert unusual for Vancouver) and their relationship to the history of the automobile.
There was even more talk when, after two hours of walking, we headed to a Chinatown pub. Gordon Price apparently drew the short straw and had to endure an hour of argument with me about ward systems, eastside development, and the (dis)functioning of the municipal party system,
It was a grand night and I thank the Vancouver Heritage Foundation for setting it up.
A lot of Gordon Price’s pieces last night were to put the Viaducts into the context of post-war Motordom as he likes to describe it. That is fair enough, but there was an earlier attempt to link autos across Vancouver in the mid-1930s as I describe at “The First Avenue Viaduct“. Just as the 1960s push left us with free-standing viaducts, so to did Smith’s Grand Plan in 1938.