Postcard showing original wood Point Atkinson lighthouse tower, with boat in foreground.
Point Atkinson, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


The land on which the Point Atkinson lighthouse sits is claimed as the traditional territory of a number of First Nations. Tseleil-Waututh (Burrard), Squamish, Musqueam and Sto:lo have all claimed the area as part of ongoing treaty negotiations. All were semi-nomadic people who used what came to be known as Point Atkinson at different times of the year. Archaelogical evidence suggests First Nations people burned scrub to stimulate the growth of berry bushes and provide habitat for foraging deer at the Point.


The Squamish name for Point Atkinson is Sk'Ūwitsut. The name means a turning point, and the Point was known as a hazardous place for travellers because of the water current patterns. However, for those familiar with the timing of the currents, the waters around Sk'Ūwitsut could be used to propel travellers toward their destination, whether it was up Howe Sound, to the Gulf or Vancouver Islands, or to locations along the coast of the Burrard Inlet. As Vanessa Campbell, an educator from Squamish First Nation, points out, the location has long been associated with sea navigation and marine safety.


View to the south from the Point Atkinson Lighthouse tower.
August, 2004
Point Atkinson, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


Mama Baker and some of her children and grandchildren, and her last husband, Squamish Jacob.
Lower Mainland, British Columbia, Canada


Mama Baker and John Baker, Sr., were Squamish members who lived at Sk'Ūwitsut. The Bakers are the ancestors of many current Squamish members, and Baker remains a very common last name among Squamish First Nation members.


4 stage telescope.

Courtesy of the Vancouver Maritime Museum.


Captain George Vancouver is credited with renaming Sk'Ūwitsut Point Atkinson in 1792. Vancouver was surveying the British Columbia coast on behalf of the British government as part of an expedition to confirm the area as British territory against competing claims from Russian and Spanish imperial powers who were also interested in gaining ownership of the coast and wealth from the fur trade.

Vancouver visited what is now known as Burrard Inlet on June 14 and noted that he named the projecting point after a "particular friend," Atkinson. It is unclear which Atkinson he meant when he wrote this. However, like many of Vancouver's names for geographical features along the coast, "Point Atkinson" stuck. The name confirmed Britain's interest in the area.


The eastern view from the Point Atkinson lighthouse
August, 2004
Point Atkinson, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


A little less than a hundred years after Vancouver's visit, the waterway now known as Burrard Inlet had become an important centre of trade. Vancouver was rapidly becoming a prominent commercial centre on the Pacific coast of North America, with ships from as far away as Asia, Russia and Europe docking in the port. The protection of international trade pushed the federal Ministry of Marine to build the lighthouse at the entrance to the Port of Vancouver.


The western view from the Point Atkinson lighthouse
August, 2004
Point Atkinson, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada


The first proposed location for the lighthouse was Passage Island, further west than Point Atkinson at the entrance to Howe Sound. However, the Minister of Marine agreed with a recommendation that Point Atkinson would provide a better vantage point from which to protect ships passing in and out of Burrard Inlet.


The lighthouse building at Point Atkinson was constructed in 1874 but was not officially opened until early 1875 because the arrival of the light was delayed. Construction was contracted to Arthur Finney for $4,250. Finney brought over the necessary workers, supplies and equipment to Point Atkinson by boat from Victoria in May 1874 and building was completed that summer. The lighthouse would have been ready to open in 1874 but the wrong light was sent and another had to be ordered. It arrived and was installed in January 1875. The first light keepers, Edwin and Ann Woodward, took up their post in March 1875.


Postcard of Point Atkinson Lighthouse.
Point Atkinson, West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada