Stylish South Granville
The Business Improvement Area
Established in 1907, the South Granville Business Improvement Area is south of Vancouver’s Downtown and north of the Kitsilano, Fairview, and Shaughnessy neighbourhoods. The area runs along Granville Street from the Granville Street Bridge over False Creek south to 16th Avenue, where the grand residences of Shaughnessy replace the shops, restaurants, and art galleries of South Granville.
When Vancouver as a city was three years old, South Granville already was an exclusive location and desirable destination before the first Granville Street Bridge went up across False Creek in 1889 to connect it to Downtown. Center Street became Granville Street in 1907. In the fall of that year, plans began for development of what would be First Shaughnessy, 423 acres between West 15th and King Edward avenues from Oak Street west to the BC Electric Railway interurban line to Lulu Island. New First Shaughnessy residents shopped on South Granville, establishing standards of high quality still extant today. Galleries and the Stanley Theatre followed, and the area acquired its cultural caché.
The Stanley Theater
The Stanley opened on the street between 11th and 12th avenues in December 1930 with a Lilian Gish movie, One Romantic Night. The Stanley was the only Vancouver theatre where juveniles could see not one but two Saturday matinees for ten cents. Granville Street and the Stanley went into decline during the ’80s, and it closed in 1991. After some talk of tearing it down, it rose again in 1997 as a fully refurbished venue for live performances. Whether for films or plays, the Stanley has been a major neighbourhood attraction, proof that the lively arts contribute much to neighbourhood prosperity and prestige.
The Granville Street Bridge
The present steel and concrete Granville Street Bridge, nearly a mile long and 90 feet high over Granville Island and False Creek, was the only eight-lane bridge on the continent outside New York City when it opened in 1954. The bridge supplanted an earlier structure that in 1909 had replaced the 1886 original.
Before construction began in 1951, politicians had tried to build a new bridge since 1945. A 1948 newspaper editorial complained that of “Vancouver’s obsolete bridges” “the Granville Bridge, because of its slippery surface, its pitted and rotted roadways, its wooden construction, its wooden approaches and the dangerous curve-in at its lift-spans mended with smooth-worn planks, is by far the worst.”
In Vancouver, few would dispute that the highest concentration of art, antiques, painting, sculpture, and unique curiosities are in South Granville’s Gallery Row, the nerve centre of Vancouver’s art community for 40 years. Fourteen galleries cluster along this stretch of Granville Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway.
To list a few, Bau-Xi, the oldest contemporary gallery in Vancouver, exhibits paintings, sculpture, prints, and drawings. Heffel, “Canada’s National Fine Art Auction House” in the historic Heffel Building at 7th Avenue, displays and previews inventory in an expansive 7,500-foot space. Uno Langmann Limited specializes in European and North American paintings from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. The gallery showcases a careful selection of antique furniture, silver, and objets d’art in elegant, neo-classical surroundings. Douglas Reynolds Gallery, founded in 1995 between 7th and 8th avenues, specializes in historic and contemporary Northwest Coast aboriginal art. The gallery exhibits museum-quality artifacts of aluminum, bronze, glass, and resin in bentwood boxes, masks, and totem poles.