Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Historian at Work

Jul 8, 2018


As mentioned below, I gave an illustrated talk on the history of squatting in Burrard Inlet recently. (If you are interested, Vancouver Sun reporter Kevin Griffin wrote a nice piece about it.)

One of the most organized of the squatter communities was Crabtown, located on the south shore of the Inlet in Burnaby from before World War One until the 1950s. I realized that I had not taken the trouble to visit the site so yesterday found me standing on the TransCanada Trail just to the east of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge reading this plaque, which commemorates the site.

There are several first-hand accounts of the community. One of my favourite was given to me by the late Chuck Davis who arrived in Vancouver as a boy with his father in 1944. Their first home was a shack in Crabtown which his dad bought for $300. "I didn't know what a squatter was," Davis recalled, "but I did know I loved the place. Ours was one of a long row of shacks, linked by a boardwalk, right beside the train tracks. When trains went by the whole shack trembled."

This sign is as close as I could get to the actual site of the community, which is at the bottom of rather a steep slope. That's North Vancouver in the distance, and the plaque displays a photo of Crabtown as it looked in its heyday.