CPR Pier B-C
Midway between CPR Pier A (1911) and Pier D (1914) is CPR Pier B-C. The third CPR pier was constructed between 1924 and 1927 for a reported $4 million. It provided the additional wharf space necessary for the growing Canadian Pacific Navigation Company to serve both coastal (north-south to Seattle, Victoria, and Alaska), and international (east-west to Japan, China, and Hong Kong) routes.
Located steps away from Burrard Street’s Marine Building and Granville Street’s CPR Station, Pier B-C consisted of a 1,100 ft (335 m) long pier structure providing four deep sea berths and two long storage sheds. The two-storey Mission Revival style terminal included First Class lounges for passengers, a four-ton two-lane hydraulic gangway to load passengers, and two (later increased to three) single jib portal cranes to assist with discharging and loading breakbulk cargo. Railway tracks down the sides of the pier connected to the expanding rail yards at the foot of Granville Street while gantries and access ramps allowed cars and foot traffic to cross above the tracks.
The pier was used until 1970 when the CPR sold its marine passenger fleet. The wharf was then gutted, and the Brutalist tower built at 50 Granville Street.
On July 4, 1927, Mayor Louis D. Taylor of Vancouver opened CPR Pier B-C with great fanfare. It was estimated that several thousand people attended the event and later toured the building and pier. Supported by city council, representatives of various cities and towns along the Pacific Coast, Canadian Pacific Railway and shipping companies, the mayor unveiled a magnificent bronze plaque to commemorate the event and Canada’s Diamond Jubilee of Confederation. The afternoon culminated with a harbour tour for the mayor and official visitors onboard the S.S. Princess Louise.[i]
Greenhill Park Explosion
Pier B-C was the site of the March 6, 1945 waterfront explosion of the 10,000-ton freighter S.S. Greenhill Park, laden with barrels of alcohol, lumber and 85 tonnes of sodium chlorate; easily the most spectacular and disastrous event in the port's history. Eight longshoremen were killed in four explosions, 19 other workers were injured, seven firemen ended up in the hospital and hundreds of windows in downtown Vancouver, some as far west as Thurlow and as far north as Dunsmuir, were blown out. Whole office blocks had scarcely a pane of glass intact.
The still-burning ship was towed through the Narrows under the Lions Gate Bridge out to Siwash Rock, where the raging chemical fire could be extinguished.[ii] Two months after the blast, a 1,500-page report concluded the explosion had resulted from “improper stowage of combustible, dangerous and explosive material… and the ignition thereof by a lighted match.” That match ignited some spilled whisky, as it would later be revealed.[iii]
[i] Thousands See Pier Opening (Vancouver, BC: The Province, July 4, 1927) p 4
[ii] Hagelund, William A., Harbour Burning (Surrey, BC: Hancock House Publishers, 2002) pp 140-142
[iii] https://vancouverhistory.ca/events/the-greenhill-park-explosion/ accessed September 11, 2022