Marpole, an area steeped in history and teeming with residential charm, is situated on the southern edge of the bustling city of Vancouver, British Columbia. With a population of 23,832 recorded in 2011, Marpole rests northeast of the Vancouver International Airport. The neighbourhood is broadly framed by Angus Drive to the west, 57th Avenue to the north, Ontario Street to the east, and the Fraser River’s sweeping course to the south.
The 20th century brought a wave of transformations to Marpole, punctuated by increased traffic and development that came hand-in-hand with the construction of key infrastructure. The Oak Street Bridge, leading to Highway 99 and offering access to southern suburbs, and the Arthur Laing Bridge, the primary route to Vancouver International Airport, are significant landmarks that reshaped the area’s landscape.
Marpole proudly holds the title as one of Vancouver’s oldest communities, with roots tracing back to the ancient Musqueam village named c̓əsnaʔəm. The area houses the Great Marpole Midden, a Musqueam village and burial site that ranks among North America’s largest village sites. This significant archaeological treasure, dubbed “one of the largest pre-contact middens on the Pacific coast of Canada,” received National Historic Site recognition in 1933. According to Musqueam historical records, it dates back a staggering 4,000 years. Further evidence of its ancient past is the presence of a longhouse, dated to 5 AD, belonging to the Ancient Marpole First Nation, situated near today’s Marine Drive.
The arrival of non-native settlers in the 1860s initiated a significant shift in the region’s population dynamics. Originally known as Eburne Station, this small town found itself secluded from the city, with miles of forest creating a natural partition. The turn of the 20th century marked a milestone in Marpole’s growth trajectory when the Vancouver Lulu Island Railway of the British Columbia Electric Railway interurban train was built. This development was a catalyst for a flourishing industrial scene, giving rise to sawmills, shingle mills, and gravel companies. Renamed after Richard Marpole in 1916, the area became a significant industrial hub by 1929, when it was formally incorporated into Vancouver.
The completion of the Oak Street Bridge in 1957 caused a shift in the business landscape. The once-thriving Marine and Hudson areas saw a downturn as traffic moved eastward. However, the 1975 inauguration of the Arthur Laing Bridge balanced the scales, pulling businesses back west along Granville Street.
The neighborhood, due to the Oak and Arthur Laing Bridges, often grapples with traffic congestion, particularly during peak hours. Nevertheless, it enjoys excellent connectivity courtesy of a well-structured public transit system run by TransLink and operated by Coast Mountain Bus Company. The introduction of the Canada Line in September 2009 further augmented this, replacing most suburban routes and the 98 B-Line. It runs beneath Cambie Street, featuring a connecting surface station at Marine Drive, with a future station planned at 57th Avenue.
One cannot mention Marpole without acknowledging its proximity to Vancouver International Airport, located directly across the Fraser River on Sea Island in Richmond. The airport, second busiest in Canada, enhances the neighborhood’s strategic importance.
In essence, Marpole’s rich history, diverse residential makeup, and convenient location paint a vibrant picture of a community embracing its past while eagerly shaping its future.