Vancouver turns 125 tomorrow, as April 6 marks the anniversary of the city’s incorporation. And way back in 1886, as Canada’s first transcontinental railroad tracks were laid in the area, a Jewish businessman from Germany arrived as well.
Originally settling in Victoria, British Columbia, David Oppenheimer and his brothers used the province capital as headquarters for the general stores they operated in isolated BC mining towns. But after years in Victoria, Oppenheimer moved to Granville – a growing city that would be renamed Vancouver later that year. He certainly left his mark on the young city, aiding in its development through his commercial, political and philanthropic work.
One of his first establishments in the city, a grocery store, still exists and operates as the Oppenheimer Group today. His was the first company to import Japanese mandarin oranges and other produce. He furthered facilitated entrepreneurial activity and spurred economic growth as the first president of the Vancouver Board of Trade.
In addition, he translated his business acumen in to a successful bid for city mayor. Serving between 1888 and 1891, Oppenheimer built up the city’s infrastructure, connecting agricultural land on the periphery with the city of Vancouver via bridges and roads (a move that presumably benefited his grocery business as well). Stanley Park, which remains one of the major tourist attractions in the city, also opened at his behest. So as the city reflects on its history, it is important to note the visionary Jewish leader who played an instrumental role in its development.