Nine crazy facts you never knew about Vancouver

Obviously, Vancouver has a rich and storied history. Here’s a list of nine bewildering facts you never knew about our city.

Obviously, Vancouver has a rich and storied history. What big city doesn't?

Still, as Vancover continues its transformation from minor West Coast utopia to North American cosmopolis – and as century-old buildings and landmarks are bowled over to accomodate –  we’re eroding those pieces of history that make this town fascinating.

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Which, y’know, it is what it is. Still, why not indulge in a few of the quirker bits of Vancouver’s history? Here’s a list of nine bewildering facts you never knew about our city.

Special thanks to local author Jesse Donaldson, who helped pull most of these factoids together. They’re all included in his book, This Day in Vancouver (Anvil Press; 2013)

Much of Stanley Park's 'natural beauty' is man-made

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    (Photo courtesy of Vancouver Archives)

This includes Lost lake, the squirrel population and most of the trees. After insect infestations devastated swaths of the park in the early part of the 20th century, the city replaced swaths of ravaged hemlock and spruce with Douglas fir. Entomologists considered the fir resilient and more aesthetically pleasing. 

Vancouver once had its own official, government-sponsored 'Town Fool'

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 (Image courtesy of thedependent.ca)

In 1968, Joachim Foikis, a 35-year-old former social worker received $3,500 from the Canada Council for the Arts in order to finance and reinvent the Elizabethan tradition. He played the Fool for three years – spending his days at courthouse square promoting discussion, or driving his donkey-drawn carriage up and down Cambie St. in the middle of rush hour – before disappearing as quickly as he came.

Canuck Place was once the headquarters of the West Coast KKK

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(Photo courtesy of Vancouver Archives)

That's right – what's now a child's hospice was once the centre for radical bigots. In the fall of 1925, six years after the house's original owner passes away, the Invisible Empire of the Kanadian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan leased the residence. They didn't last long, however – the house was rented out as a kindergarten school in 1929.

The Clash played their first North American show at The Commodore Ballroom

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(Photo from Wikipedia)

Fans celebrated the Jan. 31, 1979 show by throwing beer cans at the band, prompting frontman Joe Strummer to allegedly tell the audience, "If anybody had any fucking balls, they'd be throwing wine bottles!" Oh, Joe.

Led Zeppelin recorded at a dinky Vancouver studio

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 Led Zeppelin on Keats Island (Photo courtesy of forums.ledzeppelin.com)

Recorded piecemeal during their 1969 tour, Led Zeppelin laid down tracks for their second at some of the most finest studios in London, New York and Los Angeles. And then there was the studio in Vancouver, credited only as "a hut." The exact name of th studio has never been disclosed, but accounts by singer Robert Plant and guitarist Jimmy Page indicate the studio was extremely low budget – it didn't even have proper headphone facilties. Still, Plant recorded harmonica overdubs for "Bring it on Home" there following Zep's Agrodome show on May 10, 1969.

There was briefly a proposal to change the name of Grouse Mountain to "Mt. Vancouver"

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 (Photo courtesy of Vancouver Archives)

After the change was put forward in 1926, city aldermen were sharply divided on the issue. Ald. E.W. Dean suggested, rather than change the name, a "substantial memorial" to Captain Vancouver be erected instead.

The Nine O'Clock Gun was kidnapped and held for ransom

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(Photo courtesy of Vancouver Archives)

Once, in 1969, by the UBC Engineering Students to raise money for Children's Hospital.

In the '50s, Vancouver's mayor worked for only $1 per year

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(Photo courtesy of Vancouver Archives)

Mayor Fred Hume, who was already a millionaire as the head of his own electrical contracting firm, actually earned $7,500 per year. In 1951, council passed a resolution that allowed him to donate the bulk of his mayoral earnings to charities as grants or as social assistance. For the next seven years he served as mayor, Hume took home $1 per year.

Christ Church Cathedral was nearly replaced it with an office tower

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(Photo courtesy of Vancouver Archives)

In May 1971, the congregation of Christ Church Cathedral voted to demolish the historic Georgia St. building – one of very few existing pre-1900s structures – and replacing it with an Arthur Erickson office tower complex known as Cathedral Place. It took two years of protest and a developer's intervention to save it.

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