Along the Bluff

This photo from the City of Vancouver Archives dates from Sept. 14, 1896 and is called 'Chinese Arch on C.P.R. dock at foot of Howe Street.' The caption reads: "Arch erected in honour of Li Hung Chang. Photograph shows Dr. LeFevre's house on left and H.H. Abbott's house on right. Individuals identified in photograph: Li Hung Chang, H.H. Abbott, Mayor Collins and Chief Constable Ward." from the Major Matthews Collection.


In the 19th and early 20th centuries, this spot was the edge of a bluff overlooking Burrard Inlet, along which, in the 1890s, the young city’s most influential residents built impressive homes. Many were Canadian Pacific Railway officials, including Richard Marpole, Henry Abbott, William Salsbury and Dr. William Lefevre. As the port grew and the city’s commercial area expanded west from Gastown, these residents left their homes behind for new ones in the West End and the “invigorating breezes of English Bay”. The exclusive Vancouver Club and Terminal City Club remain today on Hastings Street, as close to the offices of their members as they were to their homes more than a century ago.

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Blue Blood Alley Along the Bluff: Vancouver’s first elite neighbourhood

As you walk down Hastings street between Burrard and Bute, you’re also walking along the edge of an escarpment that surrounds downtown Vancouver. Before settlement, the escarpment edge and high-tide line had been about a half block north of Hastings.  “We’ve erased the escarpment by development, by pushing streets out over the cliff, by building viaducts, but here on Hastings Street, this section between Burrard and Bute street was known as Blueblood Alley,” says civic historian John Atkin. “This is where those folks with money lived.”

The spot along the bluff overlooking Coal Harbour became the first prestigious residential neighbourhood in Vancouver. It was built on land that the Canadian Pacific Railway acquired from the Three Greenhorns. The city’s most elite men’s clubs, the Vancouver Club and Terminal City Club, were located nearby. Prominent residents included the Bell-Irving brothers, city solicitor Alfred St. George Hamersley, businessman and Liberal power-broker F.C. Wade, and real-estate investor Charles T. Dunbar. CPR superintendent Henry Abbott’s house stood at the corner of Hornby and Hastings; CPR physician and real-estate developer J.M. Lefevre lived at the northwest corner of Hastings and Granville; A.G. Ferguson, the first chair of the Park Board, lived on the site of the Terminal City Club, which he founded; and Thomas O. Townley, registrar of land titles and mayor of Vancouver, lived at 944 West Hastings. Some of these homes survived into the 1940s as rooming houses, long after their influential owners had moved on to the West End, and then Shaughnessy, and the area had become commercialized.

Blue Blood Alley Today

Only one Blueblood Alley mansion remains today, Henry Abbott’s home at 720 Jervis. Until the 1990s and the development of the Coal Harbour shoreline with condos, Hastings Street terminated just past Bute Street and the escarpment above the railway tracks was overgrown with trees and bushes. High-end residential began to return to the area in the 2000s in the form of high-rise luxury condominiums, reflecting the redevelopment of the Coal Harbour shoreline.


Nearby Places That Matter

Media & Photos


Corner of West Hastings St. and Hornby St.


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