Coaster Enthusiasts of Canada

Closed Canadian Parks




Stanley Park
(1888 - Turn of the Century - ? - Present)

    Originally home to the Musqueam and Squamish native peoples, Stanley Park was Vancouver's first, and presently oldest, nature park. In 1886, Vancouver City Council leased from the federal government a 400-hectare peninsula on the city's north side, bordered by English Bay on the southwest, Burrard Inlet on the northeast, north, & northeast, and Coal Harbour on the southeast, for the purpose of establishing a recreational park. It was named for Lord Stanley, whom was Governor General of Canada in 1888 when the park first opened. (It was actually dedicated by Lord Stanley himself the following year.)

    Little has surfaced on the park's early days, but the area began to be built up and by the turn of the century there were apparently large flower gardens, picnic areas, and swimming at places that became known as the "Second" and "Third" beaches. There were picnicking, nature walks, carriage rides, etc. available One of the latter was called The "Tally-Ho". It was a large, open, white carriage drawn by four horses. It sat about 20 passengers.

The Tally-Ho Carriage Ride
circa 1908

(Image: A Park Carriage Ride)

    Amusements started to appear and in 1913, John Miller built a "Dips" roller coaster there. He also supposedly built another coaster in this park called "The Greyhound". However, an identical date is shown for both rides, so they may be one in the same; but I find it odd that two coasters in the same park would both be designed by Miller *and* open in exactly the same year. I doubt the park was large enough or so popular that two coasters would go up in the same year, so I believe they are different. Since there are also apparently two separate blueprints, I suspect that The "Greyhound" replaced The "Dips", perhaps in 1923, with the `2' being mistaken for a `1' on the printed (and now faded) blueprint date.

    There is no word yet on other amusements, but no Canadian park with a roller coaster did not also have at least some other rides. In most cases this means that the park was likely to have had at least swings and a carousel. Research continues on the amusement aspect.

    By the early 1920's it was decided that a seawall should be built to protect the peninsula against erosion. I don't have a start date but over the following 60 years, the wall was gradually completed until it ran almost 9 kilometers around the perimeter of the park's water frontage. The wall was able to be travelled upon and still exists today.

    Another project in that decade was the construction of a causeway. Formerly, there was some sort of a narrow bridge. It shows up on a 1910 map of the area. The construction of the causeway cut off a tidal pond located at the western end of Coal Harbour. It had become known as the "Lost Lagoon" because it would disappear when the tide went out. Once this basin was cut off from the rest of the harbour, it filled with fresh water. This body of water lies on the western side of the causeway, is still called The Lost Lagoon, and is now a bird sanctuary.

    On the property is The Lost Lagoon Nature House which provides information on the park's flora and fauna. Route 1A/99 now crosses this causeway and divides Stanley almost into two equal halves. The highway traverses the city's west end, goes through the park, and then crosses the water via Lions Gate bridge over a small strait called "The Narrows" into North Vancouver. This is near Prospect Point on the park's northern most tip.

    At some point there were two "draw & fill" ocean-side pools which filled with salt water at high tide, when upon valves were closed to capture the water. The pool on the English Bay side was at Second Beach, while the one on Burrard Inlet was known as The "Lumbermen's Arch Pool". After new health standards were instituted, these were replaced with a heated fresh water pool at Second Beach and a water- park spray facility at The Arch Pool.

    In 1936, the Vancouver celebrated its 50th anniversary. A fountain was installed in Stanley Park to commemorate this and on the city's 100th birthday in 1986 the fountain was revitalized through a special Legacies Program.

    The time line is currently vague or non existent for other attractions, so there are no dates available on the following, except where noted: The Vancouver Rowing Club and a marina were built on Coal Harbour east of the causeway. Also established were an Aquarium, greenhouses to nurture flowers for this and other parks in the city (1930's), a zoo (closed in 1993, but there is still a petting zoo with domesticated animals), and a miniature railway that runs along a 12-minute route through towering cedars and douglas firs. It uses a replica of steam locomotive #374, which pulled the first transcontinental passenger train into Vancouver in the late 1880s. It still runs.

    Today, the peninsula is essentially a nature park. Central to the area is The Rose Garden surrounded by multitudes of flowers and other plantings. This grew out of the original greenhouses of which the operation was moved, perhaps in the 1950's, to elsewhere in the city. Other such areas grace the park including the Ted and Mary Greig Rhododendron Garden. There is the petting zoo (Children's Farmyard), the Miniature Railway, tennis courts, bathing beaches, a children's water park, the heated ocean-side swimming pool, Theatre Under the Stars, HMCS Discovery (ship), and the Vancouver Aquarium.

    There are still a number of activities and attractions available: an 18 Hole, Par 3 "Pitch and Putt" Golf Course, 20 Tennis Courts in two locations, Lawn Bowling, the Cricket Clubhouse, 3 Restaurants (Fish House, Prospect Point Cafe, and Stanley Park Pavilion), several Snack Bars, the Ferguson Point Tea House, Dancing (near Second Beach), the Seawall Walk/Cycle Path and Horse & Carriage Rides.

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