Vancouver History: Robson is More than a Street

Comments 8 by Rebecca Bollwitt

robson street“Robson” in Vancouver is synonymous with crowded sidewalks, tour buses, a block of stores that sell nothing but accessories, and a strip of restaurants with waitresses in little black skirts. However there is more history in this town than that when it comes down to the name.

Jim Robson: Much more than simply a broadcast gondola in GM Place, from 1970 until 1999 he was the voice of the Canucks on radio and television. Jim Robson started on CKNW and also did West coast coverage on Hockey Night in Canada. In 1994 he stepped down from radio work and did television – covering our infamous cup run with the Rangers. For Canuck fans over the last three decades, Jim Robson’s voice is as much a part of the team’s legacy as Roger Nielson’s towel waving.

Rob Robson: When CFOX had a home in a small building on the corner of Richards and Nelson it became the birthplace of many Vancouver bands. Chatting with our friend Rod Bruno the other day he said Rob (the program director at the time) was the man who launched your career if you were an artist in Vancouver. “I hear you guys are rehearsing across the street, why don’t you come by afterwards, bring your demo, we’ll chat with you for a bit and spin your tunes,” said Rod in Rob Robson fashion. Without him fan-favourite Vancouver artists like Matthew Good, Holly McNarland, and Bif Naked might have had a much harder time getting airplay (oh and he’s also responsible for Nickelback too but we won’t hold that against him).

In all fairness and to provide full Robson disclosure on this post I must supply some information about the street itself.

Robson Street Named After John Robson

Robson Street: Named after John Robson who was the Premier of BC from 1889-1892. It began its commercial history early on with retail shops and restaurants springing up in 1985.

It also became known as Robsonstrasse which was “a reflection of the European shopkeepers who operated the many small delicatessens, patisseries, and chic boutiques that populated the street.” – [RobsonStreet]

Photo credit: SqueakyMarmot on Flickr

There are many popular and legendary names in this city – some are streets, others have landmarks or events named after them. I think it’s equally important to explore all of these avenues when learning about our city and the great people who have helped form it over the years.

8 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. DaveOFriday, July 11th, 2008 — 12:57pm PDT

    I always advise out of towners to go up the Landmark on Robson for a revolving meal – along with some funky decor and slightly in-need-of-renovation ambiance, rather than even more touristy (and much more noticeable) Harbour Centre.

    Alas the Euro gastro influence is all but gone and now the west end of Robson is laden with Asian bistros, many of which seem to cater mostly to ESL students and adventurous locals, plus plenty of mediocre coffeeshops up and down the stretch.

  2. Mom604Friday, July 11th, 2008 — 1:30pm PDT

    I remember as a little girl back in the ’50’s coming to Robson Strasse with my parents. Mom would order something from the German catalogue “Quelle” at one of the shops. I also recall, when I was about 8 years old that I bought my first mystery book at a little used bookshop on Robson Street. It was a “Trixie Belden”.

  3. JenniferFriday, July 11th, 2008 — 2:23pm PDT

    I learn so much reading your blog!

  4. Ian BellFriday, July 11th, 2008 — 3:53pm PDT

    Nice post, RB. These are great vignettes. One funny (sort of) thing about John Robson is he died (while in office) of blood poisoning while visiting London, after jamming his finger in a carriage door. huh.

    When I was a kid, my mother would take me to Robson Street for European pastries, candies, and so she could get an Italian coffee. It was only a couple of blocks from my father’s office in the Macmillan Bloedel building, so going to see my Dad was also usually on the agenda. It was on Robson St. in the early 1970s that I forged my life long love affair with Haribo Gold Bears.

    There was a wonderful toy store somewhere along Robson where I once spent my allowance on an incredibly detailed imported Matchbox-sized die-cast toy Volkswagen Beetle taxi, which I had for years (and is still in my parents’ attic). Those kinds of stores… those kinds of experiences… just do not exist for children in our world anymore.

    When you ask yourself how it is that we have a generation of kids behind us who are coddled in their vanity, self-centeredness, and superficiality then you need only look to places like Robson Street then and now to understand why.

  5. KarenFriday, July 11th, 2008 — 5:37pm PDT

    Did you check out the Fred Herzog exhibit last year? He had an excellent collection of Robson Strasse photos on display. Fantastic photographer.

  6. fotoeinsFriday, July 11th, 2008 — 6:50pm PDT

    To Mom604 : Echt ?!?! I never knew one could get Quelle from one of the shops on the `Strasse. If memory serves (if it’s faithful), I remember entering one of the butcher shops or Metzgerei for the bayerische Weisswürste.

  7. Vancouver History Tidbits: Robson, Fast Ferries, Massey Tunnel and the UBC Steam Tunnels » Vancouver Blog Miss 604 by Rebecca BollwittTuesday, February 10th, 2009 — 11:38am PST

    […] It also became known as Robsonstrasse which was “a reflection of the European shopkeepers who operated the many small delicatessens, patisseries, and chic boutiques that populated the street.” [from Robson, More Than a Street] […]

  8. Vicki FowlerFriday, February 27th, 2009 — 4:01pm PST

    Curious to know if anyone has any information on any of the surviving Robson Family members. (John Robson’s relatives??) May have a family connection and just looking for some recent info on the Robson family!!

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