Original Sin, Original Sinner

by Zbigniew

The selection of the Western terminus of Canada’s first transcontinental railway promised boom times for the lucky host community: a port, jobs, bars, whores, growth. New Westminster was an obvious candidate, Victoria and Nanaimo strong contenders. Lowly Granville -that “aggregation of filth” formerly known as Gastown- was dismissed early on due to, apparently, uncooperative First Narrows high tides. The Canadian Pacific Railway looked favourably on Port Moody; land speculators waxed their mustaches.

Tidal currents notwithstanding, CPR President William Cornelius Van Horne chose Granville after all, impoverishing the nascent Port Moody land barons now rendered peripheral to the real action down the inlet but enriching the railway a windfall of 6,000 acres of prime real estate, including all of the Granville Townsite Reserve and most of Point Grey, with existing landowners required to acknowledge improvements by turning over a third of their property to the railway.

Granville? Sounds small, insignificant, lacking in ambition. Van Horne himself chose the new name, piggybacking on the realm’s familiarity with the general coordinates of Vancouver’s Island.

And in a civic-minded gesture ensuring that the terminal host would not drift too far off course, the CPR secured two appointee positions to the new Council.

Land speculation and shell games, direct management of civic institutions, duplicity, upward wealth transfer, and a predilection for marketing: the sins of the father visited, still, on the sons.