Who knew? Rare photographs portray early Vancouver and B.C.
Most Vancouverites have heard of the Great Fire of June 13, 1886, which turned Vancouver to ashes.
Not as many know that there was a Great Fire in New Westminster as well, on Sept. 11, 1898. But a couple of rare, old platinum prints of the fire’s aftermath have turned up for sale in a new catalogue from the Wayfarer’s Bookshop, Vancouver & British Columbia in Early Photographs.
The ghostly images were taken by Stephen Joseph Thomson, and show smoky streets where buildings have been reduced to shells. The people viewing the destruction look like shadows.
Both images are very powerful, and are for sale for $750 for both. But this is much less than what an original of H.T. Devine’s famous Great Fire photo of Vancouver sells for. Alas, there is no Devine Great Fire print in the sale. But there are 30 Devine photos up for grabs, taken from an album that was purchased by Eric and Alisa Waschke of the Wayfarer’s Bookshop.
Still, some of Devine’s lesser-known images are just as interesting. In 1889, for example, he took a photograph of what seems to be two couples and a child posing in an open-air gazebo with a straw, thatched roof. It looks like something from the South Seas. But Devine has etched another location on the negative: Prospect Point, Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C.
The gazebo with the straw roof was known as the “summer house” at Prospect Point, which was sometimes called Observation Point in the 1880s-’90s.
One of the reasons Vancouverites would go to Prospect Point was to watch ships pass through the First Narrows. In early Vancouver, the most famous local vessel was the S.S. Beaver, a steamship that was wrecked on the rocks below Prospect Point on July 26, 1888.