Vancouver History: Photographer Philip Timms

Comments 8 by Rebecca Bollwitt

A boy and girl playing with a chained bear in their front yard in Kitsilano, a horse-drawn taxi rolling down Cordova Street, the Hotel Vancouver on the corner of Granville and Georgia. These are all images that I have featured during my weekly history photo series and which have been sourced from the City of Vancouver Archives or the Vancouver Public Library‘s collection. Thanks to the early photographers of Vancouver, we have these snapshots of our city’s last 125 years, and beyond. This week I’d like to feature the work of Philip Timms.

1890s – SS Beaver ran aground off Prospect Point. VPL Accession Number: 2923A.

1900s – 100 block West Hastings. VPL Accession Number: 5208.

“Mr. Timms is a real Vancouver pioneer; handpicked, extra special, double refined and forty over proof.” Mayor J.S. Matthews, City of Vancouver Archivist, perhaps best described Philip Timms.

1900s – CPR station (where Waterfront Station is today). VPL Accession Number: 5256.

1900s – Granville & Hastings. VPL Accession Number: 6673.

1900s – Bathhouse at English Bay. VPL Accession Number: 5393.

1900s – Diving at English Bay. VPL Accession Number: 5470.

Timms’ considered his greatest professional accomplishment to be the photographic record that he created of Vancouver between 1900 and 1910. However, the images that he took during his travels throughout the province of British Columbia during subsequent years are also a tremendous cultural legacy.

1900s – Picnic in Stanley Park. VPL Accession Number: 5397.

(Left) 1900s – 300 block West Hastings. VPL Accession Number: 6678
(Right) 1900s – 400 block West Hastings. VPL Accession Number: 6680.

1900s – Picnic in Stanley Park. VPL Accession Number: 5397.

Philip Timms was a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society; he was also the official photographer for the Vancouver Museum. Of his work, James B. Stanton, Curator of History at the Museum in the early 1970s wrote: “All of Timms’ photographs have a certain recognizable quality about them; much of the kindness and gentleness of the man himself comes through. His shots are candid and uncluttered and capture dramatically the feeling and mood of the time.”

1900s – In front of the Gabriola mansion at Davie & Nicola. VPL Accession Number: 7276.

1900s – Vancouver skyline, False Creek in the back, right. VPL Accession Number: 7616.

1900s – Bridge to Stanley Park (now, the causeway). VPL Accession Number: 7720.

1900s – Sightseeing carriage in Stanley Park. VPL Accession Number: 7275.

When he closed his shop on Commercial Drive in 1968 at the age of 94, after 79 years as a printer and 70 years as a photographer, Philip Timms urged other photographers to continue similar documentation of British Columbia’s history.

1900s – Looking North East at Granville & Georgia. VPL Accession Number: 7743.

1900s – From atop Grouse Mountain. VPL Accession Number: 8128.

Biography source: Vancouver Public Library

Related post: Vancouver History: Photographer: Leonard Frank.

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8 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. hagMonday, September 26th, 2011 — 3:05pm PDT

    Phillip Timms photographs are really evocative of a time in Vancouver, that most Vancouverites are unfamilliar with. A seemingly sophistcated and proper city contrasted with forrested wilderness.

  2. Lauren TetreaultTuesday, September 27th, 2011 — 3:17pm PDT

    I love your Vancouver history posts. I find the photographs so fascinating. Please don’t stop.

  3. MelTuesday, December 6th, 2011 — 1:00pm PST

    I love these pictures. My husband’s grandmother is his niece.

  4. MelTuesday, December 6th, 2011 — 1:01pm PST

    She worked in the print shop as a young women.

  5. Analea StylesMonday, September 24th, 2012 — 5:16pm PDT

    These amazing photos have me smiling and falling in love with Vancouver all over again. History seen through the eyes of real people. Love it.

  6. fotoeins | HenryMonday, September 24th, 2012 — 5:42pm PDT

    Remarkable! I’d seen many of these “then” photos in various places before – I didn’t know that they’d been photographed by Philip Timms. Thanks for your post, B!

  7. VirginiaSunday, January 13th, 2013 — 9:08am PST

    Thanks for your post. I live in Timms’ house. I was just wondering if anyone knows where his print shop was on Commercial Drive.

  8. ZaeliaSunday, July 21st, 2013 — 9:39pm PDT

    @Virginia… I found some detailed information about Philip Timms in the online copy of ‘Philip Timms’ Vancouver 1900-1910′ by Fred Thirkell and Bob Scullion ( – “In 1912 the family moved yet again, this time to 1608 Commercial Drive, where he operated his business from home.”

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