Malcolm A. MacLean
Malcolm A. MacLean

In 1885, 40 year-old Malcolm A. MacLean was at a crossroads in his life. He rode the real estate boom of 1881-82 to dizzying heights, only to lose almost all of the fortune he’d amassed in the subsequent depression. Disillusioned, he set his sights on the sugar beet industry in Hawaii. But after a fateful detour to a burgeoning coastal town, known then as Granville, MacLean had found a home for the rest of his life.

Immediately upon his arrival, he thrust himself into the local political scene. In addition to running a friend’s newly established real estate office, he led a successful petition to incorporate the town and change its name to Vancouver. A few months later, MacLean became the first elected mayor of Vancouver, squeaking gaining office by 15 votes.

MacLean’s legacy would be forged in the coming years. Harsh challenges were met head-on, such as the great fire of 1886 that would virtually wipe out the 1,000 or so wood buildings that made up Vancouver – not to mention all of MacLean’s personal belongings. The city was rebuilt bigger and better, incorporating graded roads, bridges, sewers and sidewalks. And in 1887, Vancouver officially became the terminus for Canadian Pacific Railway.

One year later, he was a charter signatory in the formation of Vancouver’s first Real Estate Board – the very beginning of what we are today.

But his biggest legacy is, to this day, one of the biggest and most beautiful features of this picturesque city – Stanley Park. In 1886, MacLean’s first City Council drafted a petition asking that all of Coal Harbour Peninsula – known then as Government Reserve – be given to the City of Vancouver for Public Park. At the time, there was no real need to preserve such a vast area of green space as the city’s populace was small and densely confined in the Gastown area. With Governor General Lord Stanley on hand, the park was officially named in his honour and opened to the public on September 27, 1888.

Can’t picture Vancouver without Stanley Park? Well, neither could Malcolm A. MacLean some 112 years ago, extraordinary foresight from our first Mayor and a Vancouver real estate pioneer.