Thursday, March 12, 2015

Vancouver's East End - Diversity and Inspiration

A building wall is just a wall, except when it's ART. . .

Murals of Vancouver, Street Art photo by DG Hudson

When I first moved to Vancouver, I lived in the residential East End of town, near Commercial. At the time, numerous Italian delis and many families of European descent populated the area.  You could smell the fermenting grapes as you walked down the alleyways. It's now considered one of the more culturally diverse areas of the city and a transfer point for Skytrain routes. 

Trout Lake, John Hendry Park, Vanc'r, by Iota 9 at English Wikipedia

Old Italian men used to monopolize the park benches while discussing politics and watching the young girls as they walked by. Trout lake, in nearby John Hendry Park, was a peaceful place, meant more for fishing derbies than actual swimming. I spent many an afternoon there, sketching the elegant birch trees by the edge.

City Murals, Vancouver's East Side, by DG Hudson

East Vancouver goes by several names: East Van, East Side, or the East End. This area is not the same as the 'Downtown Eastside', which is a different area with its own history, not covered in this post. East Van is the sum of its diverse parts defined by family income, ethnicity, life styles and language. There is a vibrant art community, a burgeoning microbrewery enclave, and many vocal gender identity groups in this area.

Interesting artistic events which take place in East Van: the Eastside Culture Crawl, East of Main-community poetry, The Drift - an annual art presentation event centred around Main Street, and the well-known Vancouver East Cultural Centre, a venerable old theatre where I've seen a few special events.


Italian immigrants created the first "Little Italy" in the Main Street area by 1910 and the Commercial Drive area in the 1950s.  In this latter area, Italian businesses and residents are still plentiful.  An Italian Cultural Centre was built on the Grandview Highway in the 1970s.  In later decades, I attended work luncheons at Dario's, a upscale restaurant in the Centre, and attended a reading by the poet Allan Ginsberg in the main hall. Ginsberg was a compatriot of Jack Kerouac.

Further back in the history of this area, there were aboriginal peoples living here around 500 BC. The first European settlement in 1865 was in an area now known as Strathcona. John Hendry Park, which contained the Trout Lake mentioned above, was created in 1926 to prevent it becoming a municipal dump. This happened because of the generosity of a benefactor, Mrs. Aldene Hamber, who donated the property to the city.

Other Facts:

1971 - Chinatown and East Vancouver were protected from proposed massive freeway projects by regulations and public outcry.

1986 - Vancouver hosted a World's Fair - Expo 86, using the old rail yard property at False Creek. Following this event and after the removal of the train yards, the area began to experience a renewal as residential densification began.  Old warehouses were either renovated or replaced with newer buildings.

Commercial Drive, also called The Drive, continues to rank high with the city residents in general, claiming many 'best' titles. A walk down the street reveals many outdoor cafés and eateries, as well as antique stores. This is a walkable community with many skaters/boarders and bicyclists as well.
Vancouver Bistro, WC image

Have you an area similar to this in your town or city? What is it called?  Do you have a community that has undergone 'gentrification' to revive a dilapidated area? Is your town walkable?

 Please leave a comment to let me know you stopped by. I'm wearing several 'hats' at the moment, so I may seem invisible. I'm not, but I am scarce while working on some posts for the venerable A to Z Blog Challenge.


Image of Trout Lake

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license
Attribution: Iota 9 at English Wikipedia