Kistilano’s Early Days
Kistilano is named after the chief of the Squamish Nation, Khatsahlano. The town of Snauq, inhabited by people of the the Squamish Nation, was situated where the HR MacMillan Space Centre (Vancouver Planetarium) sits today. Developing industries, including saw mills, fisheries and transportation such as the CPR railway, attracted immigrants and settlers to the area. When BC joined the Confederation in 1871, Snauq was designated a reserve and called Khatsahlano, meaning “man of the lake” after its famous chief. This name was again changed in 1905 by the CPR to Kitsilano.
One of the first non-native settlers was Sam Greer, an Irishman and former gold prospector in the Cariboo. In 1882 his family lived in a cabin on Kits Beach (presently the Kits Beach bathhouse), and the area became known as “Greer’s Beach”. His daughter Jessie Hall married John Hall, the first notary public in Vancouver, and in 1908 the Hall family built Killarney Manor, a tremendous three storey stone mansion that became the center of Kitsilano’s social circle. The stone wall built to surround the property still stands today.
In the 1890′s as the community of Vancouver grew, the Lulu Island Railway interurban line connected Kitsilano to surrounding areas. Broadway road was developed in the beginning of the 20th Century to meet the needs of an expanding population. The name of the route was changed to simply ‘Broadway’ in 1909. Initially commercial establishments were located around Cambie and Main streets, and the rest of the route consisted of single-family dwellings. The beautiful craftsman style heritage homes we see today in Kitsilano date back to the boom period in 1910–1912.
1920’s – 1960’s
In 1935, in the middle of the Great Depression, the Hollywood Theatre was built on West Broadway by Reginald Farleigh. The theatre operated for 75 years and is a beloved community landmark.
In the 1960′s, Kitsilano was an affordable place to live, and attracted people from the counterculture across Canada and the US, becoming a landmark for hippie culture. In following decades, the area drew urban professionals and continues to this day to be a desirable place to live, work and play.
Greek immigrants and descendants who inhabited Kitsilano nostalgically refer to the area as Ουέστ Μπροντουέι (meaning “West Broadway”). After World War II, and also during the dictatorship in Greece in the 60′s and early 70′s, Greek refugees immigrated to Vancouver, congregating in the Kitsilano area. This led to the creation of Vancouver’s ‘Greektown’ and the development of cultural landmarks in Kitsilano, including St. George’s Orthodox Church, the Athens Social Club, Greek supermarkets, restaurants and many other Greek-related organizations that are still a part of the area today.
In addition to fantastic local Greek merchants, West Broadway is home to Vancouver’s annual Greek Day celebration. Greek Day is part of the month-long Hellenic Cultural Festival, which takes place every June in Kistilano. The festival provides an opportunity to learn about Greek culture, enjoy food, demonstrations, dance, music and more — all in Greektown!