Back to top

Welcome to Strathcona,

Vancouver's First Neighbourhood

historic Victorian-era row houses, typical of the Strathcona neighbourhood are a reminder of Vancouver and it's mill town heritageStrathcona, Vancouver’s oldest and truly unique neighbourhood, has been called a slum, “home of the working man,” and absolutely charming. Starting out as a collection of shacks and cottages around the Hastings Mill, it developed into a residential area that quickly moved south and east away from the mill. First simply known as the East End, the name came to have a derogatory meaning for some due to its mixture of housing and industry and the fact that it was the entry point to the city for successive waves of immigrants. In the 1950s, despite evidence to the contrary, city planners declared our neighbourhood a slum. From the protests and struggle to save it from insensitive redevelopment schemes and the freeway plans of the 1960s, Strathcona has emerged with a strong sense of community, identity and pride not found in many Vancouver neighbourhoods.

In the beginning, the East End of Vancouver (as it was known until the 1950s, when the city planners began using the name Strathcona) referred to an area that took in everything east of Main Street to Campbell Avenue and from Burrard Inlet to False Creek. At the time, False Creek was four times its present size; at high tide its waters lapped at the pilings of buildings on Pender Street and extended east to Clark Drive. The Strathcona of today contains all of the elements that make a successful community: a varied pattern of development, reasonably high densities, and, most importantly, corner grocery stores which provide for the day-to-day needs of residents and become meeting places and community bulletin boards. Strathcona, with all its infill housing, its mixture of commercial and residential, and its non-conforming houses, could not be planned or built under today’s rules and regulations. Fortunately, it developed before the rules were in place—and is better for it. It is a lesson that Vancouver could still learn. Its inner city location means that Strathcona has its unique share of problems. Some see the onset of gentrification as another problem, as the neighbourhood grows in popularity due to its proximity to downtown Vancouver. The architecture, which accounts for a good deal of Strathcona’s charm, is some of the city oldest and most fragile in the city. Unsympathetic renovation, demolition, and incompatible new construction could endanger the delicate balance that exists in the neighbourhood. So far, Strathcona has been able to absorb both changes in architecture and residents. Those new to the neighbourhood are sometimes surprised to find that instead of the neighbourhood changing to suite them, they adapt to the neighbourhood. Read more about the history of Vancouver and Strathcona here.

Adapted from John Atkin’s Strathcona: Vancouver’s First Neighbourhood (Whitecap Books)