Film of 1907 Vancouver out on DVD
Interesting to see what the city looked like a hundred years ago.
Film of 1907 Vancouver out on DVDAnd historical society retraces old filmmaker's path with new Granville movieLena Sin , The Province Published: Sunday, May 18
Vancouver 101 years ago wasn't nearly the hick town one might have expected.
Sure, the West End was still "a forest," but Downtown Vancouver circa 1907 looks strikingly similar to the 2008 version.
Thanks to an avid group of local history buffs, the earliest surviving footage of the city is being released on DVD, giving the public a
fascinating glimpse into our past.
The original, six-minute, black-and-white film was shot by Seattle filmmaker William Harbeck on
May 7, 1907. He placed his hand-cranked camera loaded with 213 metres of film in the front of a streetcar.
It was a big enough deal that The Province, then known as The Daily Province, sent an intrepid reporter to cover the event. "Many prominent citizens were suddenly stricken with kinetoscopitis yesterday," read the next day's paper. "The attacks became epidemic shortly after noon, but the results so far have not proven serious."
Beginning at the corner of Robson and Granville streets, the streetcar rattled north, capturing primly dressed ladies in long dresses
waving to the camera and cyclists pedalling down the street.
"My first thought was how well-developed Vancouver was. Vancouver was only 21 years old," said Jim McGraw, producer-director of the rereleased film. "You expect ramshackle buildings with false storefronts. You're really not expecting the kinds of significant buildings that you see."
Among the featured buildings still standing today are the Sinclair Centre and the current home of the Vancouver Film School.
McGraw, along with other members of the Vancouver Historical Society, were so taken with Harbeck's film that they decided to retrace his path 101 years later in an effort to document how Vancouver has changed. The resulting film, City Reflections, will be shown at a public screening this Thursday.
In researching the film, some unexpected trivia was discovered.
"One of the interesting things that [historian Chuck Davis] found was he was looking through the city directory on Granville Street just after Dunsmuir Street and found one 'E. Carr, Artist' as being the resident. So it's quite conceivable Emily Carr may have been looking down on Granville Street when this was being filmed," said McGraw.
For years, Harbeck's film was thought to have been shot in Hobart, Australia. The film had been acquired by an Australian film buff, who in the 1980s donated it to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
It wasn't until the 1990s that someone rightly pointed out that the film was not of Hobart, but of some city in North America. The footage eventually made its way to Library and Archives Canada, where it was finally identified as Vancouver.
As for Harbeck, he was making a bit of a name for himself in the early 20th century. Just five years after he filmed Vancouver, it's believed he was commissioned to film the maiden voyage of the Titanic.
Both Harbeck and his mistress went down with the ocean liner. "Both of their bodies were recovered and brought to Halifax," said McGraw. "Now when the real Mrs. Harbeck showed up to claim his body she was a little cheesed off . . . that there was another Mrs. Harbeck."
- City Reflections will be shown at the H.R. Macmillan Space Centre's Planetarium Star Theatre at 8 p.m. Admission is free. For more info, visit www.cityreflections.ca.
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To watch a clip from the historic 1907 film, go to theprovince.com/multimedia
© The Vancouver Province 2008