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Stanley Park: 5 Cool and Quirky Facts

It's big. It's beautiful. It's the heart of our city. We present five things you may not have known about Stanley Park.

Stanley Park is a 405-hectare park that borders downtown Vancouver. The park has a vast history and is one of the first areas visitors come to explore in the city. In 1886, the land was named Vancouver’s first park after Lord Stanley, the recently-appointed Governor General. Unlike other urban parks, Stanley Park is not the creation of a landscape architect, but rather the evolution of a forest and urban space over many years.

A tree-lined pathway with bright green canopy.

Most of the man-made structures within the park were built between 1911 and 1937. Places like the polar bear exhibit, the aquarium and the miniature train were additions from the post-war period.

Much of the park remains forested, just as it was in the late 1800s — the park has roughly half a million trees, some standing as tall as 76 metres and hundreds of years old. In the past 100 years, there have been three major wind storms that caused damage and loss of many of the trees, the most recent in 2006.

The Vancouver Seawall draws thousands of residents and visitors to the park each day. The park features lush forest trails, relaxing beaches, the Vancouver Aquarium and many more attractions. 

With so much history, Vancouver’s Stanley Park is full of fun facts you may not have known about. Here are five to wrap your head around:

  1. Have you ever seen Stanley Park’s Hollow Tree? This 700 to 800-year-old Western Red Cedar tree stump has an incredibly special place in the memories of many Vancouverites and is one of the most well known and photographed landmarks in the park. Many historic photos have showcased people, cars and even elephants posing inside the tree’s large cavity.

    The tree was planned for removal from being severely damaged in the 2006 windstorm, however, locals stepped forward with a plan to stabilize the tree. The Hollow Tree continues to a new chapter in its long history in Stanley Park.

An elephant stands in a hollow tree.

  1. Not only was Stanley Park named for the Governor General but so is the Stanley Cup, and they have more in common than you would think. Both names originating from Governor General, Lord Frederick Stanley.

    Stanley’s entire family became highly active in ice hockey, so much that his two sons, Arthur and Algernon formed a new team called the ‘Ottawa Rideau Hall Rebels’. Arthur also played a key role in the formation of what later became known as the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA) and later became the founder of ice hockey in Great Britain.

    Arthur and Algernon influenced their father to donate a trophy that could be used to show a visible sign for the hockey championship. The name Stanley Cup was not commissioned until 1892, that means the park is not only much bigger, but it also has prior claim to the name.


A historic photo of the Stanley Cup.

  1. With so many lush towering trees, it's hard to believe at one time Stanley Park was a logging location. Before it was a park, the site was logged from 1860-1880. At the tip of Stanley Park is Brockton Point, here there was to be a sawmill built. The land was cleared for the sawmill, but it was never built. Instead, today you will find the Brockton Point Lighthouse. Many people do not know that the trails throughout Stanley Park were once the original logging skid roads.

A view of the water between a forested park and high-rises in the city.

  1. At 9 PM sharp every evening the sound of cannonfire can be heard ringing through the air, this is the Stanley Park 9 o’clock gun. The gun was originally cast almost 200 years ago in 1816 in England then brought to Canada to be installed in Stanley Park over 70 years later.

    The installation took place in June of 1894 with the assistance of the Department of Marine and Fisheries to warn fishermen of the 18:00 Sunday close of fishing. On October 15, 1898, the gun was fired for the very first time in Stanley Park at noon.

    The 21:00 firing was later established as a time signal for the general population and to allow the chronometers of the ships in port to be accurately set. The Brockton Lighthouse keeper, William D. Jones, originally detonated a stick of dynamite until the cannon was installed.

A view of a lagoon through wildflowers towards downtown Vancouver.

  1. Designer Thomas Mawson, who designed Brockton Point Lighthouse was the same person responsible for Lost Lagoon and the causeway. After three years of construction, the lake was finally completed in 1916.

    The fountain located in the centre of Lost Lagoon was installed thirty years later to commemorate the city’s golden jubilee. The fountain was purchased from Chicago, which was left over from its 1934 World’s Fair.

    The Lost Lagoon adds to the beauty and biodiversity of the park. Acting as a bio-filtration marsh for causeway run-off through a series of holding ponds, the lagoon provides sanctuary to many species of birds. The lagoon is also known for being one of the largest bodies of water within the park, but it was not always this way. In fact, the lagoon is actually a lake. There was once a tidal mud flat connected to the Burrard Inlet through Coal Harbour and was rich with clams and other sea creatures ready for harvesting.

While Stanley Park is not the largest of its kind, it is about one-fifth larger than New York’s Central Park and almost half the size of London’s Richmond Park. With such a vast history there is always something new to learn. See you on the Seawall!

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