It all started with the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Like many areas of Vancouver, Yaletown’s early days were shaped by the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1887. Yaletown acquired its name when the railway moved its construction equipment and repair shops from Yale in the Fraser Canyon to the railway’s western terminus of Vancouver.

The next 20 years saw many sawmills and shingle mills locate on the north side of False Creek. By the turn of the century, business was booming throughout B.C. and Vancouver had become the wholesaling centre for western Canada.

In 1900, the City laid out streets and planned a new eight-block warehouse district near the original Yaletown. This new Yaletown (the one most commonly recognized today) was bounded by Nelson, Homer, Drake and Pacific streets, and was a convenient and cheap point for the processing, repackaging and warehousing of goods.

In the late 1920s, Vancouver created its first city plan and Yaletown was zoned for commercial and light industrial use. Although the city expected more warehouses to be built, the advent of truck trailer transport prompted many industries to move closer to major highways. By the 1950s, so many homeowners had sold to factories and shops that the Central School at Dunsmuir and Cambie was forced to close.

The area was home to little more than parking space until the late 1970s and 1980s when young urban professionals discovered that Yaletown’s old warehouses were convenient, inexpensive and attractive. And then in 1986, Yaletown was transformed into the festival site for Expo 86—the world’s fair. Post Expo 86, a seawall was built around the neighbourhood’s perimeter, and former industrial buildings, warehouses and working-class houses were converted into offices, restaurants and trendy nightspots, with loft-style residential developments.

The heritage significance of the old Yaletown truck loading docks and their characteristic overhanging canopies has been recognized by City Council as a unique architectural feature identifying the area. Pedestrian traffic, outside seating and other active uses are recommended for these areas.

Once considered the city’s warehouse district, Yaletown is now considered a revitalized, “trendy” place to live, work, and do business, with the area north of Pacific Boulevard—between Nelson and Drake Streets—showcasing a mix of art galleries, retail stores, restaurants, office and residential towers.