Robson Street has a rich history in Vancouver dating back to the late 1800’s and has undergone several transitions throughout the decades, but it has always remained a centre for commerce and social gathering.
Robson Street was one of the first streets in Vancouver, and was named in honour of John Robson, Premier of British Columbia from 1889-1892. Its commercial traditions date from 1895 when train tracks were laid along Robson Street to Jervis St. A wide variety of small specialized shops sprang up to serve Vancouver’s rapidly growing population, and Robson become a street of best homes and social activities.
The 1940’s saw businesses begin to move west towards the 900 block of Robson, which became the market center, and very quickly they crossed Burrard to the huildings in the 1000 block.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, Robson Street became known as Robsonstrasse, as the area became populated by European shopkeepers, most notably Germans, who arrived to Vancouver post World War II. Many European delicatessens, markets, bakeries and high fashion boutiques lined the street. Robson was bustling and becoming international in character, with the inexpensive housing attracting many new Canadians.
In the late 60’s and early 1970’s, Robson Street’s unique retail character became threatened by redevelopment. Many of the older buildings were redeveloped, rents started to increase and several small merchants were forced to close their doors. Shops at this time included Prinz Deli, Michelle’s Boutique, The Card Shop, TD Bank, Molly’s Spice Shop, Peacock’s Children’s Wear and the Blue Horizon Hotel, which still stands tall today.
In the 80’s and especially after Expo, international recognition of Robson Street continued to increase. The street was still home to smaller independent retailers, including Welch’s Candy, Murchie’s Coffee and Tea and a Busy Bee grocery store, to name a few; however, a few national and international chains began to appear like London Drugs and Starbucks, the latter of which infamously occupied the two corner properties kitty corner to one another at Robson and Thurlow.
Robson Street has continued to evolve over the years, and today it is Vancouver’s most iconic shopping and dining destination. With fashion and beauty flagships, lifestyle stores, cafe patios and fine dining, this vibrant and bustling stretch of Vancouver attracts locals and visitors from around the world. Robson Street is also a social gathering place bringing people together for lively events, such as the 2010 Winter Olympics, Canada Day, Pride Parade and many more. It is also proudly home to the Manhattan Building, one of the oldest buildings in the West End.
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