The Nanaimo Street Foundry

Associated Foundry at 25th and Nanaimo Street. From: The Days Before Yesterday: A History of Cedar Cottage. Produced by the Students of Gladstone Secondary School, 1968. Note: The prominent ‘cone’ atop the foundry seems to be the one which so dramatically blew off in 1965.

The foundry at 4080 Nanaimo Street, shown above, was Vancouver Pipe and Foundry from ca1913-1919, then Anthes-Tait Foundry (1919-1944) and finally Associated Foundry (1944-69). From 1969 until ca1980, the site was City of Vancouver property. I have been unable to find written confirmation of this, but I’m assuming that the Province bought the land from the City sometime in the early 1980s so that the Nanaimo Street Skytrain Station could be built on the site.

Having a foundry at this location was the source of headaches over the years (both literally and figuratively, I suspect) — for nearby residents and for City Council and its officials. The foundry was the only industrial business in the Cedar Cottage area; most of the neighborhood was/is residences and “mom and pop” shops.

From the 1940s through the 1960s, as Cedar Cottage became more densely populated, there were regular calls for the City to rezone the foundry site from industrial to residential (which the City refused to do) or to buy the foundry land outright (which it ultimately did after decades of complaints). Principal concerns were that the foundry was producing too much smoke and noise pollution, especially after the period around 1950 when Associated Foundry moved to a 24-hour production schedule. (News-Herald 31 Aug 1950). When foundry-related noise complaints reached a fevered pitch, the City referred the issue to the City Engineer’s anti-noise pollution committee. Nothing much seemed to come of such referrals.

Two incidents, however, made the Nanaimo Street foundry too hot a political potato to be ignored. In 1965, there was a “shattering explosion” at the plant that “hurled molten metal and pieces of iron from a melting pot . . . and blew a 10-foot diameter cone off the top of a chimney stack above the pot. One piece of metal, weighing about 25 pounds, landed on the roof of a house 200 yards away” (Sun 23 April 1965). There were no injuries, but it was considered a wonder that there weren’t. The other incident was less explosive. A “blaze broke out in a tank used for painting pipes, and spread to a shipping office and pattern shop” (Province 3 May 1967). Nobody was hurt in the fire, but on top of the explosion two years before, this added weight to rezoning calls, and the City asked its officials to begin quiet negotiations with Associated Foundry.

A week before the fire, the City officials reported back to Council, but Council believed that they couldn’t afford the purchase price negotiated — pending Council’s approval — with Associated Foundry ($250,000). This price included the cost of moving the plant to Associated property in Surrey ($116,000) (Sun 3 May 1967).

Presumably, the city was in a position, post-fire, to negotiate a better price with Associated Foundry. The price the city ultimately paid to Associated in 1969 was $149,000 (Sun 29 October 1969).

The Nanaimo Street Skytrain Station. Google Street View. 2022.
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2 Responses to The Nanaimo Street Foundry

  1. Huligansblog Luke says:

    The foundry is also infamous for its bit part in Vancouver’s worst transit disaster on November 9, 1909. That morning an engine travelling east to the foundry was hauling a flatcar heavily loaded with timbers. The coupling broke and the log-laden flatcar rolled back down the hill and smashed into the Sumas BCER car coming up the hill near Lakeview station. Of the 24 passengers, 14 were killed instantly, nine were seriously injured (one later died); only one person escaped injury. More info and photos:

    • mdm says:

      Thanks for including the story about the transit disaster in your post. I had considered including it in mine, but decided that it wasn’t directly pertinent. Good to see it included in your blog, though!

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