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Virtual Sightseeing – Granville Island

Written by Library in Library Blog on July 22, 2020

Welcome to AC Library’s virtual sightseeing tour! In this series, the Library will take you to different local sites of interest. We’ll explore these sites using the online resources available to all students and faculty through the Library databases, along with other accessible virtual resources. Join us this week as we explore Granville Island:

The prominent Vancouver destination known as Granville Island was originally two sandbars that faded in and out with the tides, and did not begin to develop industrially until 1916, when the National Harbour Commission built a seawall around the sandbars and created the usable land that Granville Island sits on today. Initially, the manmade island was occupied by factories and mills, and was originally called Industrial Island. The name Granville Island did not rise to prominence until World War II, when defence equipment was being manufactured there. 

In the years afterwards, the island began to fall into a state of neglect as companies chose to move locations rather than fix their buildings that were falling into disrepair, and there was a push to revitalize the island into a place that could be enjoyed recreationally by all people. Starting in the 1970’s, old buildings were reworked into spaces to be occupied by shops, markets, art studios and a variety of other community-based initiatives. Today, Granville Island has been lauded by the architectural community for its green approach to reworking old industrial structures in order to create something new while maintaining the history of the old buildings and contributing less waste in the endeavor. 

Left Image: Vancouver Legacies Program, View of Granville Street Bridge from Granville Island, 1986/7, photograph, City of Vancouver Archives, Granville Island,

Right Image: Vancouver Planning Department, Restaurant patio on Granville Island1982, photograph, City of Vancouver Archives, Granville Island,

The Granville Island of today strives to be a center for arts and culture, and is home to many mediums of art including ceramics, theatre, art studios and galleries, as well as many other creative and exciting endeavors that can be explored on their website. There is also a large array of children’s activities with the addition of the Kids Market, which was created in 1984 by repurposing a train caboose, two annex buildings and a hundred-year-old factory to create a kid-friendly area that today houses various shops and activities, including an arcade and outdoor splash park. 

Looking towards the future, Granville Island has presented Granville Island 2040, a plan that outlines the changes that they would like to make to improve the functionality and growth of the island ensure it thrives in the years to come. 


“Granville Island.” Vancouver Heritage Foundation. Accessed July 20, 2020. 

Li Yanjin, and Fu Fei. 2017. “Conservation and Reuse of Urban Industrial Heritages: A Case Study of Granville Island in Canada.” Journal of Landscape Research 9 (4): 97–101. doi:10.16785/j.issn1943-989x.2017.4.023. 

“See what’s happening on Granville Island.” Sunset, February 2010, 19. Gale OneFile: CPI.Q (accessed June 3, 2020). 

“The Kids Market.” Granville Island. Accessed July 20, 2020. 

van Tol, Luke. 2015. “Granville Island.” Canadian Architect 60 (1): 34. 

Cover Image:

Wes Hicks, Candid shot of blackberries and other produce at the Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver, British Columbia, December 2019, photograph, Unsplash, Granville Island, 

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