Vancouver History: English Bay and the Bathhouse

Comments 4 by Rebecca Bollwitt

As Vancouver’s most famous beach, English Bay has been a source for views, sunsets, fireworks, and strolls since the dawn of our fair city.

In 2010 I was running a contest to win two tickets to view the Honda Celebration of Light Fireworks from the top of the Bathhouse at English Bay. I had a few people contact me to see if I made a typo asking if I meant “Boathouse” as in the restaurant across the street. It seemed odd to me that people did not know it was the Bathhouse at English Bay however it must be a common misconception based on the responses I received. As such, here’s a bit of information about English Bay and the Bathhouse’s history.

1898, English Bay. Archives Item# Be P90

Also known as First Beach, English Bay was named “Ayyulshun” by the Coast Salish First Nations, meaning “soft under feet”. The name “English Bay” commemorates the meeting of Captain George Vancouver, along with Spanish captains Valdes and Galiano, in 1792. [Tourism Vancouver]

1919, English Bay beach & bathhouse. Photographer: Walter Edwin Frost, Archives Item#CVA 447-18

History Timeline:
1893, The beach was established for recreation

1898, Sand was added to the beach and people began building summer cottages on the shore

1900s, The wooden bathhouse was built along with a long pier (toward the Sylvia) and a dance hall called “The Prom” (which only lasted about 7 years) [English Bay History]

1900s – 1920s, Joe Fortes was teaching the children of Vancouver to swim, English Bay was nicknamed “Joe’s Beach”

1930, English Bay beach & bathhouses. Photographer Stuart Thomson, Archives Item# CVA 99-2118

1931, The English Bay Bathhouse was built out of concrete, prior to this it was a large wood structure

1939, The Bathhouse was converted into Vancouver’s first public aquarium featuring Oscar, the Octopus [Vancouver History]

1946, English Bay beach & bathhouse. Archives Item# CVA 586-4568

1956, The aquarium facility was closed and manager Ivar Haglund moved to Seattle and started up a seafood business (Ivar’s Acres of Clams)

1986, A round of renovations and restorations took place

1990, The first Benson & Hedges Symphony of Fire fireworks events took place in English Bay, the bathhouse being the VIP/prime viewing area

2002, Major restorations (to renovate yet preserve) the Bathhouse took place once again

2004, The City of Vancouver bestowed an Award of Recognition to the Vancouver Park Board for the refurbishment at the English Bay Bathhouse

2010, It was announced that the Cactus Club would be building a new beach-side restaurant at the Bathhouse

1913, English Bay beach. Photographer: WJ Moore, Archives Item# LGN 1030
Vancouver West End - English Bay at Sunset
2010, English Bay. Photo credit: Daniel Peckham on Flickr

2014, English Bay is still home to the world’s largest offshore fireworks competition, the Honda Celebration of Light.

Celebration of Light 2013, Day 1, United Kingdom
Photo credit: Alexis Birkill on Flickr
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4 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Sabrina FrazierThursday, July 22nd, 2010 — 9:37am PDT

    I really love the symphony of fire. I can remember standing in a crowd down at english bay so long ago. people everywhere, oohs and aahs. and then the walk home thru the beautiful city.

  2. Benefits of long term car rental | TravelaniThursday, July 22nd, 2010 — 12:54pm PDT

    […] Vancouver History: English Bay and the Bathhouse » Vancouver Blog … […]

  3. Natalie LapointeFriday, July 23rd, 2010 — 12:44pm PDT

    Have lived at English Bay most of my life and remember the Salmon Festival (Seafest) from when I was about 4 years old, living in the round tower by Burrard St. Bridge. Looking forward to attending Concord Pacific’s hosted night for bbq and fireworks on top of the bathhouse July 31st!

  4. ChrisSaturday, November 13th, 2010 — 1:33pm PST

    Cactus club has no business being there. What a shame

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