The intersection of No. 3 Road and Granville Avenue in 1958 (file number 1988 18 16).
Photo courtesy Richmond Archives
The intersection of No. 3 Road and Granville Avenue in 2012 (file number 2012 30 1).
Photo courtesy Richmond Archives
Reminiscing on Richmond’s history
By Samuel Cheng
Published 1:37 PDT, Thu August 4, 2022
Last Updated: 1:57 PDT, Thu August 4, 2022
Richmond, a coastal city south of Vancouver, is a unique and ethnically diverse urban municipality known for its fishing, agriculture, aviation, and tourism industries.
Richmond is made up of islands including Lulu Island, Sea Island, Mitchell Island, and 14 other smaller islands. The city has a rich and longstanding history that can be dated back to as early as the 1860s.
European farmers were the first settlers to establish their presence in the area due to the convenience of the nearby Fraser River. The river provided early pioneers with easy access to transportation and to the nearby city of New Westminster.
Prior to the arrival of settlers, Coast Salish peoples lived on the land now known as Richmond. A former Musqueam Village site in the northwest corner of Lulu Island was named “spələkʷəqs,” meaning “boiling point.” A school near that area now bears the name “Spul’u’kwuks.”
Although the area proved to be superb for agricultural growth due to its location—with rich soil from the river delta—the land was underdeveloped and work such as clearing, dyking, and draining was needed.
Once the pre-development work was completed, the agriculture industry of Richmond began to blossom. The growth of different crops ensured a diversity of grains, vegetables, and berries. Blueberries and cranberries were amongst the top berries that flourished in central and eastern Lulu Island.
In 1879, early settlers petitioned to the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council to inaugurate Richmond as a municipality in order to build dykes. Richmond was formally introduced as a municipality on Nov. 10, 1879. Following this, public roads, dykes, bridges, and other services began to be developed.
Steveston began building a name for itself as one of the top locations in the country for commercial fishing. The Fraser River and its abundance of fresh seafood were the pinnacle of Steveston’s booming success.
The fishing industry attracted many skilled Japanese fisherman to the community and sparked the popularity of the boat-building industry and fishing canneries. Later, Indigenous and Chinese contract workers who were already here during the establishment of the railways were brought onboard during the fishing craze, making up the majority of the labour force. The culturally diverse population turned Richmond into the multicultural city it is today.
In the early 20th century, Lulu Island was the home to the first airport for Vancouver, originally located near Alexandra and Garden City roads. The original airport was effectively a grass field. The airport was relocated to Sea Island in 1931 and became the Vancouver International Airport.
As the city expanded and its population grew, international corporations and large franchises have opened locations in Richmond. The first McDonald’s in Canada opened at No. 3 Road and Granville Avenue in 1967, and remains there today.
Aberdeen Centre mall was built in 1989 and was the first Asian mall in the Lower Mainland. It featured Asian themed stores, herbal tea shops, restaurants, a cinema, a bowling alley, and more. It was later torn down and rebuilt in 2003 as a larger shopping centre.
“Nearly all of the businesses used to close (their doors) at 4:30 p.m.,” says Richmond resident Kevin Ching. “I wanted to go to out for dinner and there was only one Chinese restaurant on No. 3 Road that was open after (5 p.m.).”
On Dec. 3, 1990, Richmond was officially designated as a city. That same year, Famous Players opened the Richmond Centre 6 Cinema at the heart of Richmond. It was an iconic entertainment destination of its time.
In 2000, the Richmond Night Market was founded, the largest event of its kind in North America. The night market had to relocate many times within Richmond but that did not stop avid fans from attending annually.
Built in 2008, the Richmond Olympic Oval became a prime destination in the city. Not only did the venue host some events at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, it has also continued to serve as a community favourite for indoor sports and community events.
Additionally, Richmond has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world due to its moderate climate, breathtaking scenery, and cultural inclusiveness.