Rudyard Kipling, 1889-1892
Rudyard Kipling was one of the most influential cultural figures in the days when the sun was starting to set on the British Empire. Thanks to Disney, he’s best remembered today for the Jungle Book, but a century ago his dozens of poems, novels, and short stories, including The White Man’s Burden and Kim, made him one of the most widely read English language writers of the era. Kipling’s work also inspired the creation of the paramilitary Boy Scouts and Legion of Frontiersmen and their spread throughout the Empire.
Before becoming famous, Kipling visited Vancouver in 1889 and 1892. He said that the city “is not a very gorgeous place as yet,” but felt it was ideally situated and liked that there was no shortage of proper Englishmen.
Kipling didn’t stay long, but dabbled in some real estate speculation while he was here. He purchased a lot on what’s now the southeast corner of Fraser Street and East 11th Avenue. Kipling wrote about his foray into the Vancouver real estate market in a book about his travels entitled From Sea to Sea:
He that sold it to me was a delightful English Boy who, having tried for the Army and failed, had somehow meandered into a real-estate office, where he was doing very well. I couldn’t have bought it from an American. He would have overstated the case and proved me the possessor of the original Eden. All the Boy said was: “I give you my word it isn’t a cliff or under water, and before long the town ought to move out that way. I’d advise you to take it.” And I took it as easily as a man buys a piece of tobacco. Me voice, owner of some four hundred well-developed pines, a few thousand tons of granite scattered in blocks at the roots of the pines, and a sprinkling of earth. That’s a town-lot in Vancouver. You or your agent hold it till property rises, then sell out and buy more land further out of town and repeat the process. I do not quite see how this sort of thing helps the growth of a town, but the English Boy says that it is the “essence of speculation,” so it must be all right. But I wish there were fewer pines and rather less granite on my ground.
Chuck Davis did some digging and found that Kipling paid $500 for the property and sold it in 1928 for $2000, but lost money after paying $60 a year in taxes. Kipling also got soaked on some property he bought in North Vancouver that turned out to belong to someone else.
Source: Photo from Old-Picture.com
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