Vancouver has a colorful history that is very much alive in today’s modern metropolis. The Salish First Nation people were the first inhabitants of the Vancouver area before Spanish explorers arrived in the late 1500s. Captain George Vancouver first sailed into English Bay and Burrard Inlet in 1792, finding a sheltered deep-water harbour, and writing of innumerable pleasing landscapes. European settlement began in 1862 with discovery of coal in Coal Harbour. By the 1880s major development was already underway. However, the entrepreneur 'Gassy' Jack Deighton who established a saloon in 1867, in what is today known as Gastown, was the real pioneer of Vancouver.
In 1871, four years after Canada was given independence by Britain, British Columbia joined the Canadian confederation. At about this time, the British Columbia provincial government began encouraging economic diversification beyond the agriculture and forestry industries.
The City of Vancouver began as a little log cabin city amongst the tall trees (when the whole city looked like Stanley Park’s forest). In 1886 a fire destroyed much of Vancouver, helped along with a strong westerly squall, razing over 1,000 buildings in 20 minutes, and left 3,000 people homeless. From this initial setback, Vancouver rebuilt and prospered.
To entice it to join Canada, British Columbia was promised a railroad linking it to the eastern part of the country. On November 7, 1885 the Canadian Pacific Railway set the last spike in its construction at Craigellachie, just east of Shushwap Lake. The first trans-continental railway train arrived in Port Moody on July 4, 1886. The following year, the railway was extended the last 20 kilometres into Vancouver. Since then, British Columbia has become the country’s gateway to the Pacific nations. After the railway connected British Columbia’s ports to the rest of Canada, it was only natural to connect Canada to the rest of the world. In 1891, the CPR "Empress of India" was the first CPR ocean liner to arrive from the Orient. In 1904, the Great Northern Railway connected the City to Seattle. The 1914 opening of the Panama Canal made Vancouver an important west coast port. Today, Vancouver's harbors have 25 specialized terminals for goods like cars, coal, forest products, minerals and petroleum. More than 3,000 ships trading with over 90 nations visit Vancouver's harbors every year.
In 1908 the University of British Columbia was founded. In 1915, a fishing sandbar used by the Squamish First Nation became Granville Island, built up with silt dredged from False Creek. In 1925 the original Second Narrows Bridge was built, connecting the North Shore for the first time. In 1937, construction began on the Lions Gate Bridge, and the present-day Hotel Vancouver opened in 1939. The present-day Second Narrows Bridge was built in 1958. Its construction claimed the lives of 19 workers, and the bridge has been renamed the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge for this reason.
Vancouver has hosted many international conferences and events, including the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, UN Habitat I in 1976, Expo ‘86, and the World Police and Fire Games in 1989 and 2009. The city hosted the American Concrete Institute for their 2003 Spring Convention and the American Society of Civil Engineers for the 2008 Structures Congress & Expo. Vancouver hosted the International Bridge, Tunnel & Turnpike Association for their 2013 Annual Meeting & Exhibition. In 2014, following thirty years in California, Vancouver became the indefinite home of the annual TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference. The 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games further showcased the City and region. Canada will host the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup; several matches will be played in Vancouver, including the final at BC Place Stadium.
Vancouver has prospered and grown in size over the years. Many Canadians and foreigners have moved here because of its mild climate, lush vegetation and endless choice of activities.