The West Vancouver Ferry: Vancouver History Readers’ Choice


Thursday, July 15th, 2010 — 11:11am PST
Comments 7

Yesterday I began a new Readers’ Choice series where I answer questions that my readers or Twitter contacts have about local history. Continuing on today I’ll tackle another question:

TylerIngram: @Miss604 What about the old ferry that used to go from vancouver to dunderave (West Van)?


1920s, West Vancouver Ferry crossing the Burrard Inlet, Archives Item#: SGN 1123

The West Vancouver Ferry began service in 1909 and ran across the Burrard Inlet from Vancouver to Dundarave.

From the West Vancouver Library: “The first ship was a 35-passenger boat called the West Vancouver, which ran between the 17th Street dock and Columbia Street in Vancouver. The ferry fleet was expanded in later years to run between the Vancouver Wharf, English Bay, Hollyburn, the Great Northern Cannery, and Caulfeild. These ferries were directly responsible for the growth in the Hollyburn and Dundarave areas and the development of businesses around the 14th, 17th, and 25th streets.”


1919, West Vancouver Ferry passing Prospect Point, Archives Item#: CVA 1123-7

By 1912 the ferry service had fallen on hard times. VancouverHistory.ca reports that it was then taken over by the municipality and would lose money for another 12 years. By the mid 1920s the ferry service was thriving once again as people along the West Coast were moving about (and the border crossing at the Peace Arch was constructed). The ferry service was eventually replaced entirely by the Lions Gate Bridge crossing, ending service in 1947.


1938, View of Lions Gate Bridge construction from the West Vancouver Ferry dock, Archives Item#: CVA 265-51

In 1988 the former ferry building at 101 14th Street in West Vancouver, built in 1913, was rehabilitated by Howard/Yano Architects to become an art gallery. The ferry terminal is now the Dundarave Pier.

Dundarave pier
Photo credit: jCarlitos on Flickr

I have a few more questions on deck to answer however if you would like to submit a topic or question for the Readers’ Choice history series, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly.

Current contests on Miss604.com

7 comments

  1. Uncle Martin says:

    Thanks for this article. My brother is a collector of all things BCF and really enjoyed the pictures. Looked a bit like the African Queen didn’t it!
    You may have covered this already, but I met “The Mayor of Gastown” once, tipping his hat and chatting by the Steam Clock. Not the official Mayor, but an honorary title bestowed by locals. He was also a close friend of a newspaper man and often “worked” together, on editorials and articles. He was also a ww2 veteran and was very knowledgable about local events. Since his death, years ago, I’ve not seen him mentioned anywhere, but he was an interesting feature of Gastown, and a real character that your readers may want to know more about. His sirname was Aasen.

  2. Nice photos!

    The West Vancouver ferry actually continued running until 1947, 9 years after the Lions Gate Bridge opened. More info here:
    http://archives.westvancouver.ca/destinationstimewalk/routes/ambleside/sites/ambEssay_wvFerries.html

    Wouldn’t a Vancouver-West Vancouver SeaBus be great to have today? Perhaps it’s time to bring it back.

  3. Tyler says:

    They do have a ferry running from Coal harbour to Ambleside. Well there is plans for one anyway. Near the Ambleside beach area, there is a sign that talks about such a passenger ferry (like the False Creek Ferries). It would be cool and a lot of fun to put over there for a day trip! I would definitely pay $10 to take it from Coal Harbour to Ambleside area.

    Thanks Rebecca for posting this! Robyn’s mum told us about the ferry a while ago and this helps fill in some of the blanks.

  4. Nic says:

    Thanks for posting about something that not many Vancouverites probably know about!
    My grandma used to take that ferry to West Van from Vancouver, in the 30’s. That’s where her family used to rent a cabin for a week for summer vacation (my how things have changed).

  5. Ian says:

    Brilliant photos! I think it was the lions gate bridge that eventually put the West Vancouver Ferry out of business. Another commenter suggests 1947 was when it closed and I think that’s what the West Vancouver Historical Society suggests. What I’d love to find is a good picture of Jack ‘Navy’ Thomas who opened the very first ferry service in West Vancouver using his rowboat.

  6. John Hayes says:

    My father George Hayes was on the ferries from 1929 and the last run. Then was a mechanic on the Blue Buses until retirement. My fathers worse fears were when crossing the narrows to Prospect Point in the dense fog which we don’t see these days. Standing at the bow counting the seconds from when the fog horn on the ferry sounded till the echo returned to quest how far they were off shore. Also, my father was on the No.5 as mate with Captain Smith. When it was hit port side by the CPR Ferry. According to my father the woman was wedged in the corner of the bulkhead. The corner opened up she fell back and the corner closed and she couldn’t be saved. The only fatality in 38 years of service. In 1948 the ferries were called into service to transport people to Vancouver once more with the washout of the Capiliano Bridge.

  7. Gary Little says:

    Just a reminder that this year is the 60th anniversary of Black Ball Ferry service to the Sunshine Coast from West Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay). Black Ball was acquired by the BC Government on November 30, 1961 to extend BC Ferries operations to Langdale, Nanaimo, Bowen Island, and also between Earls Cove and Saltery Bay.

    See http://www.garylittle.ca/history/blackball.html

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