Living in Gunter’s World

Metro Vancouver urban planning

We live in a world created by the early surveyors. Where they placed their posts were final. Even mistakes made on the US border remain legally binding. Once established, street systems are resilient; they have survived nuclear bombs and catastrophic fires.

Edmund Gunter standardized the measurement of land

Gunter’s 66 foot Chain became the measure of our urban world. Vancouver roads are 1 or 1 1/2 chains wide. Our blocks are 4 chains wide and 6 or 8 chains long. Our homes often have 1/2 or 1 chain of frontage. An exception is the 100 foot Chain used on CPR properties

Colonel Richard Moody laid out the entire greater Vancouver area

Royal Engineer Colonel Moody anchored our region on the Coast Meridian, where the ocean meets the 49th parallel. He insisted cities be built north of the Fraser River to defend against the US.

Col. Richard Moody wanted cities north of the Fraser River, in case of attack by the United States

Moody built New Westminster as the Capital, then North Road and Kingsway to supply it. He set aside military reserves which became UBC, Stanley Park, Jericho Park, Central Park.

He laid out Hastings Townsite to Nanaimo Street; Fraser Street connected the Fraser River. His Granville Government Reserve became the CPR land grant to entice the railway west and anchor the new Vancouver.

Six square mile townships created Base Lines and Range Lines that form borders of our cities, like North Road and Boundary Road. Colonel Moody laid out the skeleton of the region and was the first of many important Vancouver planners.

Colonel Moody used Gunter’s measurements on Greater Vancouver

Gunter had reconciled the ancient measures based on four, with the newer ones based on 10. In Gunter’s world, each chain has 4 rods, but also 100 links. Ten chains make a furlong, which an ox could plow before resting. Eight furlongs make a mile. An acre is one furlong by one chain, which an ox could plow in one day.

Col. Moody made each Street and Avenue in the Fraser Valley one furlong; every eighth makes one mile. In Richmond, he made the distance between No. 1 Road and No. 2 Road 1 mile.

Distance between No. 1 Road and No 2. Road in Richmond is one mile

Throughout Western Canada, six square mile townships make 36 Sections of 640 acres, four Quarter Sections of 160 acres, 40 acre Legal Subdivisions and 10 acre Quarter Legal Subdivisions creating a street system great for farming but difficult to build a city on.

We live in the world these early measurers created. They both limit and liberate us to live our urban lives.

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