The Charming History of Burnaby Heights
Nov 07th, 2018
Walk along Hastings Street in Burnaby Heights and it’s easy to imagine yourself back in time. Charming community energy, family-run businesses, European shops, and even a traditional soda fountain shop make this North Burnaby neighbourhood one of Metro Vancouver’s most loved.
Burnaby Heights was born in 1902 as an extension of Vancouver, when a plank road was built to link the growing city with the hydroelectric plant on Buntzen Lake. A streetcar soon followed in 1908, and Hastings Street became lined with grocers, butchers, bakeries, and hardware shops. But it wasn’t until after World War II that the neighbourhood truly thrived. Merchants banded together to protect and improve their cherished Burnaby Heights. The community prides itself on forming the North Burnaby Business Improvement Association – the only one in Burnaby until 2009. Every year, merchants celebrate their community with Hats Off Day, a colourful summer street festival.
Image: Burnaby Height’s first streetcar in 1908. City of Burnaby Archives.
Tokens from the past are still visible. You’ll recognize the neon sign of the swinging girl, originally crafted in 1956 for Helen’s Children’s Wear. And then there’s Anton’s, which has been a pasta institution since 1983.
Both multi-cultural and multi-generational, the authenticity is unlike anywhere else in Burnaby – or elsewhere in Metro Vancouver. People stop to chat on the street, merchants know you by name, families run errands together, and no one really needs to drive anywhere – just like the “old days”.
This special small-town charm has lasted for over 100 years – and it’s not going anywhere. It’s just getting better.
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