Vancouver History: Sidewalk Stampsby
The other day I saw Mark Pilon (@atomos) post a photo of an old sidewalk stamp on Instagram. The caption read: “1912, this is the oldest sidewalk stamp I’ve seen to date in Strathcona.” I immediately recognized and identified the concrete marking with one in my neighbourhood — a sidewalk stamp at Robson and Bidwell that marks the year 1906.
After a quick Google search I found a group discussion about these historical markers.
Vancouver is somewhat unique among cities in that when the Works Department builds a sidewalk, they stamp the current year into the wet cement, at the street corner. They have been doing this for about a hundred years. These sidewalk date stamps serve as indicators of the age of various neighbourhoods because, with the exception of the downtown core, most sidewalks remain as they were originally built. Should you wish, you can walk around and read the ages of various street corners by the date stamps on the sidewalks. [Source: City Sidewalks – Contributed by Terry Lowe on August 06, 2006]
In the article that is shared on the discussion board it states that there are a few distinct periods in which the City of Vancouver did sidewalk stamping over the last century:
- Early: From about 1906 to 1918 (with a brief resurgence in 1930 and 1931)
- Middle: Between 1945 and 1965, at which point it abruptly stopped
- Modern: Began again in the early 1980s and continues to this day
There are a few comments stating that a few more old sidewalk stamps have been found, with the year 1906 being the most elusive. There’s a 1908 at 10th and Columbia and another at 10th and Manitoba.
I remember a few years ago when Robson was getting repaved that cobblestone was revealed when they ground up the top layer of asphalt. They paved over it again but some of the curbs are still original. Much of Vancouver has been built up, renovated, resurfaced, and restored over the years but I appreciate the fact that these stamps are out there. While I’m on my way to grocery store along Robson I can take a glance at the ground and think about who else walked that same exact path, 106 years ago.
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Over here in North Vancouver City, we have sidewalk date-stamps too. Around where I live – Central Lonsdale – 1929 is a common date, although there are many houses from before the Great War in the area as well. I like the stamps, it’s a nice idea and does give a sense of continuity, as you say!
I’ve never thought to think about what the numbers on the sidewalk meant! What a great lesson in what you can learn when you pay attention.
[…] reading Rebecca Bollwitt’s blog post, I learned that these stamps are historical markers. Vancouver is somewhat unique among cities in […]