Burrard Dry Dock Company
Wallace Shipyards Co. Ltd.
Versatile Pacific Shipyard
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Burrard Dry Dock Company is a large industrial site, located on the waterfront on the north side of Burrard Inlet, to the east of Lonsdale Avenue. Once a major shipyard, the site is now being converted to other uses. The surviving early industrial features of the site include the structural frames of five large buildings, two piers, a concrete storage building, associated work yards, two historic cranes and other artifacts.
The heritage value of the Burrard Dry Dock Company is associated with its location in Lower Lonsdale, the commercial core of North Vancouver, and the earliest, most historic area of commercial buildings on the North Shore of Burrard Inlet. Lower Lonsdale grew explosively from the turn of the twentieth century until the general financial depression in 1913 halted the ambitious construction of the previous years. The streetcar, ferry to Vancouver and the Pacific Great Eastern railway converged at the south foot of Lonsdale Avenue, the major transportation hub on the North Shore. The area represents a formative period in B.C.'s economy, driven at the time by major industries including logging and shipbuilding.
The Burrard Dry Dock Company is valued for its central role in defining the population growth and expansion of the North Shore. The shipyard, being one of the North Shore's major industries, attracted people to move to the area, many of whom lived in apartments that sprung up in the area of the shipyard and Lower Lonsdale. The industrial waterfront included milling and grain handling which also attracted a large labour base.
The Burrard Dry Dock Company is important for its role in the economic development of North Vancouver and the West Coast. It was established as the Wallace Shipyards in 1906, and during the First World War the shipyard expanded and built vessels for both the Imperial Munitions Board and the Canadian Government. After the war ended, the shipyard undertook a number of prestigious commissions, most notably the "St. Roch" for the RCMP in 1928. Now a National Historic Site, the "St. Roch" was built as a supply ship for isolated Arctic detachments and in 1944 become the first ship to navigate the Northwest Passage in both directions.
The Second World War brought another shipbuilding boom and the yard became the largest employer of shipyard labour in British Columbia, building 109 "Victory" ships - more than any other yard in Canada. The stern of one of its "Victory" ships, "Flamborough Head," - is housed in one of the remaining buildings. Over time the site passed through a variety of ownership and management agencies, and was known as the Burrard Dry Dock Company, Burrard-Yarrows Group, and Versatile-Pacific Shipyards. The yard continued to receive a number of important commissions, such as that for the Canadian Coast Guard ice breaker "George R. Pearkes," launched in 1986. Work also began on the ice breaker "Polar 8", but the contract was cancelled in 1990, delivering the final blow to the company.
The shipyard site is significant for its historical association with the Wallace family. Alfred Wallace founded the Wallace Shipyard Company in 1906. Upon his death in 1929, his son Clarence Wallace (1893-1982) became president of the family business; Clarence later served as Lieutenant-Governor from 1950-55, the first native-born British Columbian to serve in this position. All four of Alfred Wallace's sons served in the Second World War and the playing field at Jericho Air Station, Vancouver, was named Wallace Field in their honour.
This former shipyard has been honoured as the location where west coast shipbuilding will be commemorated as an event of National Historic Significance, as bestowed by the Government of Canada in 2004.
Source: Heritage Planning Files, City of North Vancouver
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Burrard Dry Dock Company site include its:
- location on waterfront property in the heart of the City's working harbour, facing south to downtown Vancouver
- industrial vernacular form and massing of the early industrial buildings, defining large clear span spaces that housed assembly line production
- linear configuration of the industrial structures perpendicular to the water, indicative of their shipbuilding function
- close spatial configuration of the industrial warehouses, forming internal streets between the buildings
- built up shore line including docks and pilings
- industrial palette of materials including concrete work yard, timber and metal frame buildings, and the timber and steel cranes
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.967
1914/01/01 to 1918/01/01
1928/01/01 to 1928/01/01
1939/01/01 to 1945/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Technology and Engineering
Function - Category and Type
- Metal Products Manufacturing Facility
- Engineering Facility
- Dock or Dry Dock
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Heritage Planning Files, City of North Vancouver.
See also: Shipyard artifacts in collection of North Vancouver Museum and Archives
Cross-Reference to Collection