The earliest non-native settler was George Wales. In 1878, Wales bought 221 acres (89.4 hectares) of land bounded by Wales Street, Kingsway and 45th Avenue. Today, the street on which his house stood still bears the family name.
In 1891, the inter-urban railway tram brought new people to the area. The electric railway, the first of its kind in Canada, connected Downtown Vancouver and New Westminster. Many of the early houses and stores were built near the Collingwood East Tram Station, at Vanness Avenue and Joyce Street.
By most accounts, the name Collingwood originated with some of the principals from the Tramway company who had previously resided in Collingwood, Ontario. Then, as now, the area was frequently coupled with its neighbour to the north, Renfrew.
After the area was cleared, people settled along Westminster Road (Kingsway) west of Boundary Road. Philip Oben opened the first store in the area near Central Park, and Peter Dubois held the first Collingwood school class in his vacant store in 1895.
In 1896, what is now the oldest school in Vancouver, was built. The two-room Vancouver East School accommodated all 30 Collingwood students. The school was the source of great community pride and many of the area's streets were named after the families of the school's first students. Battison Road is named after the Battison brothers, while Earles Road is named after Florence Earle. Joyce Road is named after the first school board secretary, A. Joyce, while Vivian Road is named in honour of the first child born in the area, Jennie Vivian, born in 1892. In 1908 the name of the school changed to Collingwood Heights. It changed once again in 1911 to Sir Guy Carleton.
By 1913, Collingwood was home to a grocery store, a branch of the Bank of Vancouver, a butcher shop, a Methodist Church, and a doctor (F. J. Buller). Westminster Road was paved and renamed Kingsway, and the streetcar system between Victoria Drive and Earles Street was extended to Joyce Street. This, along with a new bus system eventually led to a decline in the ridership of the inter-urban tram, and encouraged businesses to grow in the district around Kingsway and Joyce. This development, and the amalgamation of the Municipality of South Vancouver with Vancouver in 1929, eventually led the community to change from being semi-agricultural to a residential suburb.
Although the interurban closed in 1954 after 63 years, its legacy lives on. In 1986, construction of the SkyTrain route along the old interurban route spurred the development of lowrise and highrise apartments near station stops, just as the interurban had done so many years before.
Few buildings remain in Renfrew-Collingwood from its early days. One of the oldest is Carleton Elementary School, at the southwest corner of Kingsway and Joyce. The school was part of the heart and soul of Collingwood from 1896. The school site includes Vancouver's only example of a one-room schoolhouse, the earliest existing example of a two-room schoolhouse, a larger two-storey Edwardian style building, as well as the adjacent and much larger, brick-faced Carleton School No. 4.
A building that has undergone successful adaptive reuse is Earles Court, at 4590 Earles Street. Built in 1912, the building was originally an electric substation on the interurban line. In 1990, the building was renovated to provide 12 condominium units with the existing shell.
The 2400 Motel on Kingsway near Nanaimo was one of the first drive-in motels in the area, and is now the last. The motel was built in 1946 and features a tall blue and red neon sign and a cluster of tidy green and white bungalows.
See detailed information on the city's heritage and a complete list of heritage buildings.
Additional information is available through the City of Vancouver Archives.
Did You Know?
The first business in Collingwood was the Collingwood Inn, built around 1890 on Kingsway just east of today's Joyce Street. The roadhouse catered to the stagecoaches travelling along Kingsway between Gastown and New Westminster.
Bus service along Kingsway began in 1925. Drivers defrosted windows with a row of lighted candles along the base of the windshield.
The 1946 2400 Motel on Kingsway near Nanaimo is a popular film location and has been used in an episode of the X-files.