Historic video shows Vancouver and Victoria in the early 1900s

City of Vancouver archives

A video showing early 1900-era life in Vancouver and Victoria has been making the rounds online.

Posted most recently on LiveLeaks, the black and white film strip takes viewers into downtown Vancouver and Victoria during a period before vehicles and traffic, with ambient sound added for effect.

The user who posted the clip, MR Rusty, says the film is from 1901, however there are some varying guesses about the accurate date.

One shot, for instance, shows the Empress Hotel under construction in Victoria. It wasn’t started until 1904 and was complete by 1908.

One thing the video shows for sure is that somethings never change: Cyclists go every which way between street cars and horse-drawn buggies and there’s also a sign advertising real estate services.

Some tell-tale landmarks give viewers a hint as to where the video is shot.

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The video moves over to Victoria at the 2:20 mark and shows the Empress, B.C. Legislature, and inner harbour. The four-minute mark follows a streetcar down Granville Street toward the Canadian Pacific Railway station located on Cordova and Granville, near where the current Waterfront Station sits. It then appears to makes a 180-degree turn and heads back up Granville.

According to a Vancouver history website written by historian Chuck Davis, this might be the earliest surviving film of Vancouver if it is the 1907 movie he describes online.

Davis says a man named William Harbeck set up a film camera at the front of a BC Electric Railway streetcar on May 7 that year and filmed the city streets.

“Its discovery was something of a miracle: it was found in the basement of an abandoned theatre in Sydney, Australia! It had apparently been dumped there by movie house managers along with other movies no longer wanted,” his description reads.

In 1907, Vancouver had a population of only 70,000, just 3 per cent of what it is now.

Do you recognize any current or past landmarks?


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