The explorer and North West Company trader Simon Fraser and his crew became the first-known Europeans to set foot on the site of the present-day city. In , they travelled from the east down the Fraser River , perhaps as far as Point Grey. The Fraser Gold Rush of brought over 25, men, mainly from California, to nearby New Westminster founded February 14, on the Fraser River , on their way to the Fraser Canyon , bypassing what would become Vancouver. A sawmill established at Moodyville now the City of North Vancouver in , began the city's long relationship with logging.
It was quickly followed by mills owned by Captain Edward Stamp on the south shore of the inlet. Stamp, who had begun logging in the Port Alberni area, first attempted to run a mill at Brockton Point , but difficult currents and reefs forced the relocation of the operation in to a point near the foot of Dunlevy Street.
This mill, known as the Hastings Mill , became the nucleus around which Vancouver formed. It nevertheless remained important to the local economy until it closed in the s. The settlement which came to be called Gastown grew quickly around the original makeshift tavern established by "Gassy" Jack Deighton in on the edge of the Hastings Mill property. This site, with its natural harbour, was selected in  as the terminus for the Canadian Pacific Railway, to the disappointment of Port Moody , New Westminster and Victoria , all of which had vied to be the railhead.
A railway was among the inducements for British Columbia to join the Confederation in , but the Pacific Scandal and arguments over the use of Chinese labour delayed construction until the s. The City of Vancouver was incorporated on April 6, , the same year that the first transcontinental train arrived.
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The Vancouver Fire Department was established that year and the city quickly rebuilt. Vancouver merchants outfitted prospectors bound for the Klondike Gold Rush in The economy of early Vancouver was dominated by large companies such as the CPR, which fuelled economic activity and led to the rapid development of the new city;  in fact, the CPR was the main real estate owner and housing developer in the city.
While some manufacturing did develop, including the establishment of the British Columbia Sugar Refinery by Benjamin Tingley Rogers in ,  natural resources became the basis for Vancouver's economy. The resource sector was initially based on logging and later on exports moving through the seaport, where commercial traffic constituted the largest economic sector in Vancouver by the s.
The dominance of the economy by big business was accompanied by an often militant labour movement. The first major sympathy strike was in when railway employees struck against the CPR for union recognition. Labour leader Frank Rogers was killed by CPR police while picketing at the docks, becoming the movement's first martyr in British Columbia.
The workers were arrested near Mission and interned in work camps for the duration of the Depression.
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Other social movements, such as the first-wave feminist , moral reform, and temperance movements were also instrumental in Vancouver's development. Mary Ellen Smith , a Vancouver suffragist and prohibitionist , became the first woman elected to a provincial legislature in Canada in King was sent to investigate damages claims resulting from a riot when the Asiatic Exclusion League led a rampage through Chinatown and Japantown.
Two of the claimants were opium manufacturers, and after further investigation, King found that white women were reportedly frequenting opium dens as well as Chinese men. A federal law banning the manufacture, sale, and importation of opium for non-medicinal purposes was soon passed based on these revelations. These fears were exacerbated by the attack on Pearl Harbor leading to the eventual internment or deportation of all Japanese-Canadians living in the city and the province.
Amalgamation with Point Grey and South Vancouver gave the city its final boundaries not long before it became the third-largest metropolis in the country.
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As of January 1, , the population of the enlarged Vancouver was , Vancouver has one of the largest urban parks in North America, Stanley Park , which covers The vegetation in the Vancouver area was originally temperate rain forest , consisting of conifers with scattered pockets of maple and alder, and large areas of swampland even in upland areas, due to poor drainage.
The largest trees in Vancouver's old-growth forest were in the Gastown area, where the first logging occurred, and on the southern slopes of False Creek and English Bay, especially around Jericho Beach. The forest in Stanley Park was logged between the s and s, and evidence of old-fashioned logging techniques such as springboard notches can still be seen there.
Many plants and trees growing throughout Vancouver and the Lower Mainland were imported from other parts of the continent and from points across the Pacific.
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Examples include the monkey puzzle tree , the Japanese Maple , and various flowering exotics, such as magnolias , azaleas , and rhododendrons. Some species imported from harsher climates in Eastern Canada or Europe have grown to immense sizes. The native Douglas Maple can also attain a tremendous size. Many of the city's streets are lined with flowering varieties of Japanese cherry trees donated from the s onward by the government of Japan. These flower for several weeks in early spring each year, an occasion celebrated by the Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival.
Other streets are lined with flowering chestnut, horse chestnut , and other decorative shade trees. Vancouver is one of Canada's warmest cities in the winter.
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While during summer months the inland temperatures are significantly higher, Vancouver has the coolest summer average high of all major Canadian metropolitan areas. The summer months are typically dry, with an average of only one in five days during July and August receiving precipitation. In contrast, there is some precipitation during nearly half the days from November through March.
Vancouver is also one of the wettest Canadian cities. However, precipitation varies throughout the metropolitan area. The highest temperature ever recorded at the airport was Average yearly snowfall is As of [update] , Vancouver is the most densely populated city in Canada. Vancouver has been ranked one of the most livable cities in the world for more than a decade. Sales in February were Vancouver's characteristic approach to urban planning originated in the late s, when city planners began to encourage the building of high-rise residential towers in Vancouver's West End ,  subject to strict requirements for setbacks and open space to protect sight lines and preserve green space.
The success of these dense but liveable neighbourhoods led to the redevelopment of urban industrial sites, such as North False Creek and Coal Harbour, beginning in the mids. The result is a compact urban core that has gained international recognition for its "high amenity and 'livable' development". The Vancouver Art Gallery is housed downtown in the neoclassical former courthouse built in The courthouse building was designed by Francis Rattenbury , who also designed the British Columbia Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel in Victoria, and the lavishly decorated second Hotel Vancouver.
The Gothic-style Christ Church Cathedral , across from the hotel, opened in and was declared a heritage building in Two modern buildings that define the southern skyline away from the downtown area are City Hall and the Centennial Pavilion of Vancouver General Hospital , both designed by Townley and Matheson in and , respectively.
A collection of Edwardian buildings in the city's old downtown core were, in their day, the tallest commercial buildings in the British Empire. The Sun Tower's cupola was finally exceeded as the Empire's tallest commercial building by the elaborate Art Deco Marine Building in the s. The second-tallest building in Vancouver is the Trump International Hotel and Tower at metres feet , followed by the Private Residences at Hotel Georgia , at metres feet.
The census recorded more than , people in the city, making it the eighth-largest among Canadian cities. Vancouver has been called a "city of neighbourhoods".
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Each neighbourhood in Vancouver has a distinct character and ethnic mix. Germans are the next-largest European ethnic group in Vancouver and were a leading force in the city's society and economy until the rise of anti-German sentiment with the outbreak of World War I in Hogan's Alley , a small area adjacent to Chinatown, just off Main Street at Prior, was once home to a significant black community.
The neighbourhood of Strathcona was the core of the city's Jewish community. Prior to the Hong Kong diaspora of the s, the largest non-British ethnic groups in the city were Irish and German , followed by Scandinavian , Italian , Ukrainian and Chinese. From the mids until the s, many Portuguese immigrants came to Vancouver and the city had the third-largest Portuguese population in Canada in Vancouver also has a significant aboriginal community of about 11, people.
Vancouver has a large LGBT community  focused on the West End neighbourhood lining a certain stretch of Davie Street, recently officially designated as Davie Village ,  though the gay community is omnipresent throughout West End and Yaletown areas. Vancouver is host to one of the country's largest annual LGBT pride parades.
Pie chart of the ethnic breakdown of Vancouver from the census. With its location on the Pacific Rim and at the western terminus of Canada's transcontinental highway and rail routes, Vancouver is one of the nation's largest industrial centres. In recent years, Vancouver has become a centre for software development , biotechnology , aerospace , video game development , animation studios and television production and film industry. Vancouver's scenic location makes it a major tourist destination.
Each year over a million people pass through Vancouver on cruise ship vacations, often bound for Alaska. Vancouver is the most stressed city in the spectrum of affordability of housing in Canada. Since the s, development of high-rise condominia in the downtown peninsula has been financed, in part, by an inflow of capital from Hong Kong immigrants due to the former colony's handover to China. Concern was expressed that Vancouver's increasing homelessness problem would be exacerbated by the Olympics because owners of single room occupancy hotels, which house many of the city's lowest income residents, converted their properties to attract higher income residents and tourists.
Vancouver, unlike other British Columbia municipalities, is incorporated under the Vancouver Charter. Subsequently, North America's only legal safe injection site was opened for the significant number of intravenous heroin users in the city.
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Vancouver is governed by the eleven-member Vancouver City Council , a nine-member School Board, and a seven-member Park Board , all of whom serve four-year terms. Unusually for a city of Vancouver's size, all municipal elections are on an at-large basis. Historically, in all levels of government, the more affluent west side of Vancouver has voted along conservative or liberal lines while the eastern side of the city has voted along left-wing lines.
Though polarized, a political consensus has emerged in Vancouver around a number of issues. Protection of urban parks, a focus on the development of rapid transit as opposed to a freeway system, a harm-reduction approach to illegal drug use, and a general concern about community-based development are examples of policies that have come to have broad support across the political spectrum in Vancouver. Vision Vancouver candidate Gregor Robertson defeated Ladner by a considerable margin, nearing 20, votes.
The balance of power was significantly shifted to Vision Vancouver, which held seven of the 10 spots for councillor. Vancouver's budget consists of a capital and an operating component. Utility fees and other user fees have also been increased, but represent a comparatively small portion of Vancouver's overall budget.