English Bay:  Fountains & Memorials

The dancing fountain at the Eugenia.

Story & Photos by Dianne Maguire
(click on images to enlarge)

This is the time of year when people stroll along the seawall and the beach, or set up for a picnic while they wait for the fireworks shows at English Bay. Take the opportunity to explore the other side of Beach Avenue, the water fountains and monuments that reflect the culture and history of Canada. 

Concrete and floral homage to bygone forest giants?

Perhaps the most unusual building on Beach Avenue is the Eugenia Place apartment block at  Beach Avenue and Gilford. The entrance is shaped like a very large ice cream cone. Best viewed from across the road, you should step back and look up to the top of the building to see the famous tree growing in 18 tonnes of soil. 

To the left of this building is a large rusted metal shape that takes only a moment to recognize as a giant acorn. Around the corner of Gilford Street, to the right of the building, is a shallow pool surrounded by tropical plants. At the far end of the pool, under the trees is a steel tubing bent into a shape that twirls like a dancing figure. The fountain splashes up around this image.  As you step back out on to Gilford you’ll stumble across a tree stump, so realistic that you’ll probably touch it only to find out if it’s not a wooden pot full of well-tended foliage.

The Inukshuk at English Bay.

There is a subtle atmosphere of the tropics here. The Eugenia was designed by architect Richard Henriquez, who came originally from Annotto Bay, Jamaica. He was also the architect for the nearby Sylvia Tower.

There is another hat tip to a West Indian set on the edge of the Alexandra Park, facing Beach Avenue between Bidwell and Denman Streets. Here you can stop for a sip at the Joe Fortes water fountain. Joe was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, and jumped ship in Vancouver in 1885. He was the unofficial lifeguard on English Bay, teaching children and adults how to swim. He lived in a tent on the beach in summer, and in a small cottage on Bidwell in winter. His funeral in 1922 was the most attended in Vancouver history. In 1926, the Kiwanis Club erected the bronze on granite fountain in his memory.

The Vancouver AIDS Memorial.

You cannot miss the powerful image of the Inukshuk when you look out at English Bay. It stands on guard in storm and sunset facing the bay on the point at the foot of Bidwell Street. This was the emblem for the 2010 Olympics. The sculpture itself was a gift to the City of Vancouver from the Northwest Territories, and was installed on this spot after doing duty at the NWT pavilion at Expo 86. 

The monument was made of granite by Alvin Kanak of Rankin Inlet. Inukshuk is Inuit for “likeness of  human”, and they are used as landmarks and signposts in the far north. In 2006, sponsors funded the lighting of this Inukshuk so that once the sunset fades, it is still visible through the night. 

The first fountain I discovered on my walks around English Bay is tucked behind hedges on the corner of Beach Avenue and Cardero. The exterior of Douglas House has recently been refurbished, and the splendid patina copper and steel multi-level water feature has been retained.

Take a stroll on the beach side of Beach Avenue, near the foot of Broughton Street. Tucked among trees and sheltered by a slope from the traffic is a special place. The curvilinear wall of metal panels has oblong sitting stones that face the names and words on this gently rusted memorial to those who died from AIDS. It provides a quiet place to contemplate those difficult days at the turn of the last century. The Vancouver AIDS Memorial recorded 996 names by December 2004. The tops of the panels are linked by the words of a poem by Spanish philosopher George Santayana. The last panel ends with words from Dr. Peter, who shared his experience in a broadcasted video diary: “But the energy that is me will not be lost.”  

RIP, Dr. Peter.