Canron Building


During both world wars the south shore of False Creek east of Cambie Bridge was home to Vancouver's shipbuilding industry. Coughlan's shipyard at the corner of Columbia and 1st manufactured steel ships during the First World War, and its successor, West Coast Shipbuilders, built "Victory" merchant ships during the 1940s. Two large steel-fabrication companies, Dominion Bridge and Western Bridge, filled out the waterfront between Crowe and Manitoba streets from the 1920s until the 1950s.

A successor company, Canron, continued to fabricate structural steel nearby, providing materials for the Alex Fraser Bridge and Canada Place, until the 1990s. Two steel columns from the Canron Building have been re-used in the bridge crossing the wetland.

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Large-scale shipbuilding on False Creek began during the First World War. By 1919, the Coughlan shipyards on the south shore east of Cambie Street had produced ten steel steamers of 8,800 tons each. They were the largest vessels produced for the war effort in British Columbia. Coughlan’s successor, West Coast Shipbuilders, built Victory ships – the merchant vessels launched in great numbers from shipyards up and down both North American coasts during the Second World War – working on up to seven of them at a time. In 1943 alone, West Coast Shipbuilders completed 17 vessels, while other yards in North Vancouver built 48; employment grew to about 25,000 with other machine shops, such as the one at BC Sugar Refinery, building ship components for assembly at the various yards.

West Coast Shipbuilders was one of a group of industries controlled by George Alexander Walkem, an engineer who was the nephew of George Anthony Walkem, the 3rd and 5th premier of British Columbia. In addition to managing shipyards, the Vancouver Iron and Engineering Works and maintaining an interest in marine companies including Gulf of Georgia Towing Co., Walkem found time to be reeve of the Municipality of Point Grey and an MLA. He died in 1946. His stepson James Charles Byrn was chief engineer of the Port of Vancouver and his son-in-law, Raymond Bicknell, operated marine industries on False Creek until the conversion to residential began in the 1980s.

Bridge Building

During the interwar years, the focus shifted to bridge building. In 1935, the Hamilton Bridge Company erected a large steel-fabrication facility adjoining the shipyards that became known as the Canron Building. The Grandview Viaduct connecting Terminal to First Avenue, the Pattullo Bridge and the towers of the Lions Gate Bridge were among the projects completed before the Second World War began in 1939.

Steel production

Shipbuilding continued in North Vancouver after the war, while steel fabrication occupied the Canron factory. It produced structural steel for the Alex Fraser Bridge and Canada Place during the 1980s. Operations ceased in 1990 and the building was demolished in 1998.


  • Michael Kluckner. Vancouver the Way It Was. Whitecap Books, 1984. p. 100
  • J. Lyon. “The History of Engineering in Greater Vancouver.”
  • Chuck Davis. The Greater Vancouver Book, Linkman Press, 1997. p. 769
  • Millennium Water: The Challenge Series
  • Interview with Peter Cherniavsky, 2011

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Community Stories

"I began researching the industrial history of Southeast False Creek with a focus on the Canron site for a report in an upper level history class at UBC. Having lived in Vancouver my entire life, I have spent a lot of time engaging in recreational activities in and around False Creek. However, I was not aware of the area’s incredibly rich history until I began working on my report. I was surprised that an area I had spent so much time in had such a unique past that I did not know about. One particularly remarkable fact that I learned through my research was that J. Coughlan & Sons, a shipbuilding company in Southeast False Creek that was located on the site that the Canron building was later built on, received the largest single order for steel ships in Canada during the First World War—despite not having any past shipbuilding experience...

One photograph [from the Vancouver Archives] depicts thousands of workers engaging in heavy industrial activity near the site during the busiest period of time in False Creek’s history—the Second World War. It is important that the history of Southeast False Creek and the Canron site be shared so that the momentous activities that took place in the area are not forgotten by future generations.”

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Plaque is on the pedestrian bridge

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