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March 17, 2014 | by  |  This Day In Vancouver


“The Old Pier Goes” reads a headline in the Vancouver Daily Province as the demolition of the West End’s beloved English Bay Pier enters its final stages.

“English Bay pier is nearly a thing of the past,” the paper laments. “The thirty-year-old structure, rotten with age, becoming a menace to public safety, is on its way out . . . The big square timbers, the planking, has been wrecked and sold for firewood. The piling is being cut up as cordwood. The pillars and rails are stacked awaiting buyers and what a sentimental period they represent.”

The pier, a local landmark since its construction in 1909, has faithfully served the citizens of the West End for decades, both as a promenade and as an accommodation for boats (though a number of collisions with those same boats over the years necessitated
a series of costly repairs). Despite its sentimental value, and a high-profile campaign in the early 1930s to revitalize the pier (a plan that included a lower car deck, cafés, and a glass-domed Palais de Danse), the city has opted instead to demolish the structure, in keeping with its plan to convert the West End’s waterfront back into unspoiled parkland.

Back in February, the choice to demolish the promenade briefly led to talk of several new structures, including a new “breakwater masonry pier,” as part of an unemployment relief scheme. Despite support from the city’s tourist association, and the mayor himself, the plan never came to fruition.

“The pier came to have a sentimental value as a landmark dating back for 30 years,” concludes W.H. Roberts of the English Bay Protective Association. “We were a little shocked to learn it was coming down, but, frankly, it rather spoiled the view and was, in itself, no great asset.”


IMAGE: English Bay Pier, 1905. Image Courtesy of the Vancouver Archives.

Jesse Donaldson is a journalist and historian whose work has appeared in VICE, The Tyee, subTerrain, and SadMag. If you think THIS is neat, an expanded "This Day In Vancouver", is now available in book form, in bookstores everywhere, and online at Anvil Press.


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