The city's first theatre was called Blair's Hall and it was here that a social group called the Midnight Adieu Club, held fortnightly dances. Blair's Hall was followed by the more substantial Columbia Hall, which opened on June 5, 1886, with Webster and Stehle, an acrobatic song and dance team.
Unfortunately, eight nights later the two-month-old, mostly wooden city was burned to the ground by the Great Fire, which had been started by some Canadian Pacific Railway workers who were clearing the land near the new Roundhouse site by burning stumps and other forest debris. In less than an hour, 600 to 1,000 buildings were destroyed; of the city's population of 2,000, 11 died.
Despite such tragic set backs, by 1887 the city's population had grown to 5,000, and by 1888 it was over 8,500. An important spur to growth occurred when the Canadian Pacific Railway extended its track 12 miles west of Port Moody to reach Vancouver's Coal Harbour. On May 23, 1887 the first transcontinental train rolled into Canada's new “Terminal City”, and by 1891 a rail link to the United States was established via New Westminster.
With performers able to arrive in Vancouver by rail, as well as by ship, the city could finally catch up with Victoria's older and more established theatre scene. Victoria, which had become the provincial capital in 1868, almost two decades before Vancouver was incorporated, had its first opera house, the Victoria Theatre, by 1885. New Westminster's first opera house, Herring's, had opened in 1887. Vancouver would have to wait until 1891 for the C.P.R. to build its first real opera house. (next page)
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