Vancouver History Blog

The Forbidden Vancouver Blog
An elephant in the Hollow Tree at Stanley Park. Undated photo from Frank Gowen's Vancouver, 1914-1931 (Heritage House, 2001) [PNG Merlin Archive]

The Hollow Tree

[by Glenn Tkach]

The Hollow Tree in Stanley Park is one of Vancouver’s most well-known attractions. This photo should give you an idea of how large it is – it has a circumference of about 60 feet. The elephant you see here was visiting Vancouver for a parade in the 1930’s. This hollow tree stump has also encircled many horse-drawn carriages and even automobiles.

A Western Red Cedar, it was anywhere from 600 to 800 years old when it died. This hollowed-out remnant is all that remains. For over a hundred years, thousands of people have succumbed to the irresistible urge to enter its embrace for a photo.

The photographers who earned their living from this tree saved it from destruction in 1910. They lobbied against plans to destroy it in favour of an expanding roadway. Destruction threatened it again in 2006 – this time, at the hands of Mother Nature.

A severe windstorm that year damaged the tree, causing it to lean out at a dangerous angle. The Park Board considered felling it and letting it rot. But there was a huge public outcry, so instead, they worked to preserve it. A metal frame was constructed to hold the tree in place, preserving it for future generations.

This towering tree, and the other trees of Stanley Park, have witnessed a strange and fascinating history, stretching back through the decades, centuries, and millennia. Join us as we wander through nature, and back in time, for the Dark Secrets of Stanley Park Tour.