Shipbuilders’ Square

From the Dakeryn office here in North Vancouver, we often wander to the foot of Lonsdale Avenue for lunch, near the Burrard Dry Dock Pier. This site once housed the largest shipyard in Western Canada. Originally opened in 1906 as Wallace Shipyard, it was renamed Burrard Dry Dock in 1921. Tugs and barges for the lumber industry, ships for the war effort, ferries for coastal travel, and icebreakers to aid in developing the North, all reportedly set sail from this historic location (Source).

John Bryson & Partners was the structural consultant for the entire restoration project; a good friend was the engineer in charge. After learning from him that Phase Two of the project was recently completed, I took my camera along for a closer look earlier this week. It’s an impressive site. Many heritage items for the city have been preserved. While there are no tenants yet, the shipbuilding facilities (with red roofs) have now been restored to accommodate retail and commercial space. The exteriors of these two buildings are all new, while the interiors continue to feature all of the original, beautiful wood posts and beams. The cost alone of painting/restoring the signature piece – a spectacular crane – was $500,000! A heavy duty, industrial-looking stage was designed in keeping with the shipbuilding theme. What a space – and what a tribute – to the city’s rich history of shipbuilding.

During the war years, men and women worked in three round-the-clock shifts, and the noisy thud of riveting echoed throughout North Vancouver at all hours. Each ship required 383,000 rivets to hold it together.The number of Shipyard employees increased exponentially during the World War II shipbuilding period. To keep track of the huge workforce, each Burrard Dry Dock employee was given a numbered brass badge which was linked to his or her pay packet and employment record. Thousands of these badges were found in the company’s office after the Shipyard closed in 1992.The Burrard Dry Dock Pier was built in 1940 for the wartime shipbuilding effort, once extended much further into Burrard Inlet.
– City of North Vancouver

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