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Developed by the Canadian Pacific Railway in an effort to put a fledgling new city on the cultural map, Granville has always been known as Vancouver’s entertainment district.
The CPR built Granville’s first and now-defunct opera house at Granville and Georgia in 1881. The longstanding existence of theatres, nightclubs, and restaurants on Granville is owed to the grand designs and initial property entitlements of the CPR.
The creation of Granville Street followed an 1885 decision to extend the Canadian Pacific rail line from Port Moody to English Bay. To ensure the completion of the rail line by a company facing massive debt, the provincial government gave the beleaguered CPR a 485-acre land grant between Cambie and Burrard streets, key pillars of Vancouver’s downtown core.
The CPR bookended Granville Street with its train station on the north end and its opera house, plus a new hotel—the original Hotel Vancouver—to the south.
In the decades following the CPR’s initial activities on Granville, the street was shaped and dominated by a long tradition of enterprise.
"If you were going downtown, you weren’t going anywhere else. If you came downtown, you were going to Granville Street."
— Norman Young, Orpheum historian
In the late 1920s, Granville secured prominence over Hastings as the city’s entertainment core when entertainment trends shifted from vaudeville to film. Then, in the 1950s, businesses joined the westward migration by moving their headquarters from the east side of downtown to the Granville area.
From the late ‘50s onward, Granville continued to establish and assert itself as the dynamic heart of downtown. The exciting combination of commercial and entertainment activity that defined the street told local patrons Granville, not Hastings, was the place to be.