Bennettville: A Vancouver Story

False Creek

Today, looking southwest from the dock of Bridges Restaurant, you see commercial wharves, and office and residential buildings. Sixty-three years ago, this area was a tidal flat rising to an elevation of 20 feet at the railway tracks, which were 300 feet from the shore. In 1933, it was known as Bennettville, and it was a collection of shacks and float houses built by squatters and the unemployed who were not on relief.

The name was derived from R.B. Bennett, Canada’s Prime Minister at the time. Needless to say, Bennettville was not recognized by city hall as a district of Vancouver. There were no roads, no services, and garbage and sewage went directly into False Creek. It was also home to small fishermen who caught fish from the Capilano River run, and between the Point Grey bell buoy and the mouth of the north arm of the Fairview slopes and in Kitsilano, in the same way the Musqueam sold theirs in Kerrisdale.

In winter Bennettville inhabitants scavenged Granville Island industries for scrap metal, which had a ready market. Living was at a subsistence level, although most people were moderately self-sufficient. Bennettville was not the best part of town. There was no electricity, it was cold and damp most of the time, and sharing it with a hungry rat population was, at best, uncomfortable. Because of the unsanitary conditions, there were a number of health concerns, including typhoid scares. However, forcing residents to move meant they would likely be put on the city’s relief rolls, so city council ignored the health risks in favour of the economy.

Bennettville, a legacy of the ‘30s, had fairly disappeared by the 1950s, and its demise was guaranteed by the redevelopment of Granville Island and the whole False Creek area.

 

Source: False Creek #3: A Vancouver Story displayed at a lamp post written by Alex Finlayson.

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