The local Musqueam people lived here in the ancient village of Ee’yullmough and the earliest modern immigrants were attracted to the site as well. Spaniard Jose Narvaez and his crew rediscovered it in 1791 and named it Langara Point. The next year, Captains Galiano and Valdez ran into Captain Vancouver off the same shore. This meeting led to the naming of two local areas: Spanish Banks and English Bay. In 1865 Jeremiah Rogers set up the first logging camp and cut down the giant fir trees for use as “the best spars in the world.” In the 1870s others set up a whaling station here.
By 1897, the area’s outstanding recreational potential was evident; yet only 54 property owners had set up homes. They were soon joined by the Government Reserves, which recognized the area’s strategic location and set up a post at the Point and along Jericho (now the site of UBC, Jericho Park, the former School for the Deaf and Blind, and the Jericho army base). In the 1920s, its strategic location made it an ideal air station site from which flying boats would chase rumrunners, map the coastline, and track illegal immigrants. During war years, anti-submarine reconnaissance was performed from the site.
In 1908, the Municipality of Point Grey was established by breaking away from the Municipality of South Vancouver. The newly elected Council moved quickly to improve access and services to the area. In that first year of incorporation, water service reached West Point Grey, construction began on the scenic Northwest Marine Drive, and the Jericho Golf and Country Club opened.
In 1909, a one-room schoolhouse was built for the area’s 24 children. The wooden structure still stands on the bluffs overlooking Spanish Banks, dwarfed by the newer Queen Mary School.
Despite the municipality’s investment in roads, sewers and parks, development lagged. To spur new development, a tax was levied on all unimproved land. That year, 1912, $250,000 worth of building permits were issued and the boom began. Commercial development followed and by 1924, 40 shops lined 10th Avenue between Tolmie and Trimble Streets.
In 1921, construction began on the Pacific Coast Station of the Royal Canadian Air Force at Jericho Beach. When the federal government decided to move the station in 1967, the future of the Jericho lands became an issue. Far-sighted citizens and politicians finally agreed that the area should be a park, and in the early 1970s an additional 54 hectares (133 acres) of recreational land was made available to the public.
West Point Grey retains most of its original homes, and features some older mansions, notably two 1913 Tudor revival mansions designed by well-known local architect Samuel Maclure. Rear House is now the Aberthau Cultural Centre while Brock House, on Jericho Beach, is a senior’s activity centre and a restaurant.
The Old Hastings Mill Store Museum, in Pioneer Park at the foot of Alma, was the general store for the Hastings Mill, the first industrial building in Vancouver. Built in 1865, it is the oldest building in Vancouver and was moved to this site in 1930. The building was also Vancouver’s first post office, first library, and first community centre. Today, the store is a museum, owned and operated by the Native Daughters of B.C.
*The above History and Heritage information has been taken from the City of Vancouver Community Profiles webpage.
The History of West Point Grey Community Centre
Aberthau’s history has been long and varied. The house was built originally for Vancouver businessman Mr. J.S. Rear during the years 1910 to 1913. Mr. Rear had commissioned the noted architect Samuel MacLure in 1909 to design the building. In 1928, the Rear family moved to California and the home was sold to Colonel Victor Spencer, son of David Spencer, founder of the Vancouver department store. It was Colonel Spencer who gave “Aberthau” its’ Welsh name, which means “a place filled with light”. Under Colonel Spencer’s direction, several major renovations were carried out, giving the house its present form.
The Federal Government began expropriation procedures to acquire Aberthau for use as an officers’ mess in 1938. Eventually, the house of 22 rooms, together with 5.86 acres of land, was turned over to the Federal Government for the sum of $94,446.00. The Armed Forces vacated the building in the spring of 1972, and it was then turned over to the City of Vancouver and assigned to the Board of Parks and Recreation in order to provide interim space for the West Point Grey Recreation Project.
In 1967 the West Point Grey Community Association was formed to promote the educational, social, cultural, recreational and athletic endeavours of the community. A permanent facility was necessary to fulfill these goals.
The Park Board saw great potential in Aberthau as a cultural and recreational centre, and in October 1973, Vancouver City Council was persuaded to set aside $75,000.00 towards the renovation of the building. The Provincial Government assumed $25,000.00 of the cost through the Recreation Facilities Fund. The alterations were completed on time for programming, which began in September 1974.
In February 1983, the West Point Grey Gymnasium was opened. Funding for this facility was made available through the Provincial Government, City of Vancouver, Vancouver Park Board, and the West Point Grey Association. A weight room has been added, located on the mezzanine floor of the Gymnasium. Currently, West Point Grey Community Centre presides over Aberthau, the West Point Grey Gym and Fitness Centre, the Jericho Arts Centre (with resident theatre group United Players), Lord Byng Pool on 14th Avenue, and Jericho Hill Centre and Jericho Hill Gym & Pool on 4th Avenue. The Jericho Arts Centre was, in 2009, separated from the WPGCA and has its own operating agreement with Parks Board.
Other amenities of the community centre include tennis courts, Trimble and Jericho Parks and the fields at Jericho Hill Centre (including the disc golf course) -all maintained by the Board of Parks and Recreation.
Aberthau is currently home to the main office of the West Point Grey Community Centre, offering a wide range of programming to meet community needs. WPGCC offers fitness, sports, arts, outdoor, and special interest programs for all ages. WPGCC is operated year-round, jointly by the West Point Grey Community Association and the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.
A history of Aberthau House is provided in an attachment entitled “Aberthau House”.