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Vancouver's history, such as it is, remains visible to the naked eye at every corner: eras are layered east to west along the waterfront, from the origins in late-Victorian Gastown to the shiny, postmodern glass cathedrals of commerce that spread north and west.
The history of Vancouver is integrally linked with the taming of western Canada: the trappers working for the Hudson's Bay Company (the oldest retail store still operating in North America) explored the area; then the Canadian Pacific Railway, which crossed the country, chose the ramshackle site of Granville as its Pacific terminus. The coming of the railway inspired the loggers and saloon owners of Granville to incorporate as a city: on April 6, 1886, Granville Townsite, with a population of about 400, became the City of Vancouver, named after the British explorer who had toured the inlet here in 1792.
The railway, along with Canadian Pacific's fleet of clipper ships, gave Vancouver a full week's edge over the California ports in shipping tea and silk from the Orient to New York. Lumber, fish, and coal from British Columbia's hinterland—resources that are still the backbone of the provincial economy, also flowed through the port to world markets. The same ships and trains brought immigrants from all corners of the earth, helping the population grow exponentially to today's 2.5 million.
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