By 1900, the first, in a five-ferry fleet, began running regularly back and forth from Vancouver to the foot of Lonsdale creating a vital transportation link and setting off a critical chain of events. A couple years later, Alfred St. George Hamersley purchased and subdivided District Lot 274 which resulted in the rapid development of the Lower Lonsdale area and a new housing market was born. The subsequent population influx led to the beginnings of a small commercial sector and on August 29, 1906, the introduction of a street railway system.
That same year, The Wallace Shipyard opened at the foot of Lonsdale growing into one of the most impressive industrial operations (and employers) in Western Canada. Owned and operated by Alfred Wallace, it reached its peak during World War II, when it was one of the country’s main warship producers having constructed 109 of the 312 “Victory Ships” produced in Canada. Following World War II, ship building activities slowed and the ship repair industry became more prevalent. Ice breakers (including the Terry Fox) and super ferries were constructed during this time. However, the Wallace family ultimately sold the Shipyard in 1971.
Lower Lonsdale, comprised of 18 city blocks bounded by Carrie Cates Court to the south, 4th Street to the north, Forbes Avenue to the west, and St. George’s Avenue to the east, went on to experience industrial decline. Concurrently, it also bore witness to the opening of new types of businesses, the creation of mixed housing, introduction of the SeaBus in 1977 and the opening of Lonsdale Quay for Expo ’86, bringing renewed interest to the area.
Eight historic shipyard buildings and two piers were earmarked for retention or reconstructed as part of a long-term redevelopment plan and future vision for the shipyards and the waterfront.