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