Then and Now Stanley Park Seawall

Comments 4 by Rebecca Bollwitt

The Stanley Park Seawall officially opened on September 26, 1971 although it had been under construction for decades — and wouldn’t be declared “officially complete” until 1980. That September though, the loop was 9 kilometers around Stanley Park and it completed James Cunningham’s vision for the Seawall, which he began working on in 1917.

Stanley Park Seawall
View of Brockton Point lighthouse from the Seawall
LEFT: 1938. Photo by James Crookall. Archives# CVA 260-856. RIGHT: 2013.

Lions Gate
View of Lions Gate Bridge from the Seawall. LEFT: 1938-1939. VPL# 39769. RIGHT: 2013.

Seawall at Second Beach
LEFT: 1940s. Archives# CVA 1184-2402. RIGHT: 2010 by rbrtwhite on Flickr.

Cunningham was a stonemason from Scotland who arrived in Vancouver in 1910, serving with the WWI Canadian Expeditionary Force. As a stonemason, he worked on various homes, pools, and hotels around the area until he started the Seawall. In 1931 he was named master stonemason for the Vancouver Park Board, tasked with securing Stanley Park’s shores. Work began at Brockton, building the lighthouse. Even after retiring in 1955, Cunningham supervised the construction until he passed away in 1963.

Seawall at Pipeline Road.
LEFT: 1930. Archives# CVA 260-312. Photographer: James Crookall. RIGHT: Google Maps 2009.

Stanley Park Beaches
Looking toward Second Beach from the Seawall
LEFT: 1960. VPL# 42809. RIGHT: 2013.

LEFT: 1948. Photographer: Walter Edwin Frost. Archives# CVA 447-129. RIGHT: 2010 by Junnn on Flickr.

Read more about the Seawall and its ongoing construction in my mini-series for Tourism Vancouver’s Inside Vancouver Blog Part 1, Part 2.

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4 Comments  —  Comments Are Closed

  1. Julia MurrellThursday, September 19th, 2013 — 9:19pm PDT

    Thanks for the article– James Cunningham is my grandfather. His ashes and my grandmother’s ashes are behind the commemorative plaque at Siwash Rock. He was a wonderful soul, who always spoke to me in Gaelic, some of which I never understood!. He also worked on the railway station, and at Queen Elizabeth park. Grandad came from Rothsay Bay on the Isle of Bute in Scotland , where he apprenticed on the Rothsay seawall. When my husband and I visited Rothsay, where Grandad learned his trade, we found the Stanley Park seawall to be exactly the same as the Rothsay seawall.

  2. SomiFriday, September 20th, 2013 — 12:24am PDT

    wow this is awesome!

  3. TrevorWednesday, September 25th, 2013 — 2:04pm PDT

    Amazing! Would love to see the Seawall extended to connect Kits to Jericho.

  4. Frank StebnerThursday, March 19th, 2015 — 8:05am PDT

    In November 1971, Lions Gate Road Runners created the James Cunningham Seawall Race around the Stanley Park Seawall. 2015 is the 45th annual run around the seawall. The race will be held on Saturday, Oct 24, 2015.

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