Places

The Vancouver Seawall

The quintessential Vancouver experience?

Well, you’ll get a lot of debate there. But it’s hard to argue against: a) powering your food and caffeine stores on Denman Street, b) walking over to Stanley Park, c) following the Seawall through downtown, all the way over to Science World, d) then walking or biking your way down to Granville Island to gather supplies for a well-deserved dinner!

Vancouver’s 28 kilometre greenway – which includes the Seawall and stretches all the way to Spanish Banks Park – is said to be the longest uninterrupted waterfront path in the world.

Of all the people who have been involved in building and tending the wall, who gets key creator status? That would be Master Stonemason James Cunningham.

Born in Scotland, Vancouver Park Board employee Cunningham – known as ‘Jimmy’ – started working solo on the wall in 1931, carefully choosing and laying each and every brick. Even in his 80s, well after retirement, Jimmy would come down to see how new sections of the Stanley Park Seawall were faring.

Cunningham was so passionate about the Seawall, his family is said to have buried his ashes inside. As fellow Park Board employee Terri Clarke told the Vancouver Sun in 2013: “His family gave the ashes to us and the guys put it in the wall… It’s kind of cool, he’s in the wall, he’s actually there. He used to come down after he retired, with his coat on, supervising when he was about 85 years old.”

The ~ 10K James Cunningham Seawall race, which winds around Stanley Park, has been running since 1971 in his honour.

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The Passion

James Cunningham. 1962.
Photo: Gordon Sedawie. City of Vancouver Archives

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The Place

Second Beach. Stanley Park. March Weather. Photo: Rosetti Studios
Early 1900s. City of Vancouver Archives

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False Creek Sea Wall. Photo: Major James Skitt Matthews.
City of Vancouver Archives. 1917

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Stanley Park Seawall. Photo: James Crookhall.
City of Vancouver Archives. 1930

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Stanley Park Seawall. Photo: VanDusen Botanical Garden Association
City of Vancouver Archives. 1966

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False Creek Seawall. Official Opening. 
City of Vancouver Archives. 1975

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Dragon boat race spectators at the seawall on the south shore of False Creek. Photo: Paul Yee
City of Vancouver Archives. 1986

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The Now

Stanley Park looks at Downtown
Photo: Alf Palacios

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Coal Harbour
Photo: Mike Benna

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Science World
Photo: Alyzah K

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Granville Island
Photo: Elizabeth Newton

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www.creatorsvancouver.com

Header Photo: Gabriel Santiago

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Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton