The topic for this semester’s term paper is Ebenezer Howard’s garden city movement and how his concepts have influenced urban planners over the past century. I had hoped to write a paper on how planners had intended to monetize early development of the Okanagan Valley, but time constraints and the difficulty associated with using primary sources led to a change in subject matter. However, I would like to still be able to add a little local flavour to my research paper, which is why I’ve continued some of the research into the early planning done in the Okanagan Valley. During this research it came to my attention that one of the driving forces behind early development in the valley was a gentleman from Inverness Scotland named George Grant MacKay.
During the late 1880s, while Ebenezer Howard sought inspiration for his garden city movement in the works of Howard Bellamy and Henry George, another man was also drawn to North America and its abundance of farmland (Howard briefly farmed in Nebraska during the 1870s before returning to England). However, unlike Howard, George Grant MacKay did not concern himself with social issues, such as, the uncontrolled growth of European cities and its resultant urban sprawl. Mackay was a real estate developer and land speculator that learnt of British Columbia’s burgeoning agricultural industry and its potential for development while visiting a Glasgow exhibition. After relocating his family to Vancouver, he founded a real estate company that purchased and then subdivided a large tract of land in North Vancouver. MacKay’s next investment was in the Okanagan Valley. MacKay formed the Okanagan Land and Development Company in 1890. He and a small group of investors began purchasing ranch properties in the Kelowna and Vernon area, which they then subdivided into fruit farming properties and town sites. These properties where then marketed to prospective farmers in British Columbia, as well as, in the United Kingdom. Some of my research suggests that Mackay may have been the first to recognize the developmental potential of the valley. Thereby, making him at least partially responsible for its fruit growing industry.
Ebenezer Howard and George MacKay appear to have few characteristics in common. They might even be considered polar opposites. Howard, the avid social reformist, and Mackay, the profit driven capitalist. However, the two men are not entirely dissimilar. They were both men of vision that knew how to use their connections to help accomplish their goals. Each man founded an organization that were responsible for the planning and creation of town sites. Finally, Howard and MacKay both embraced technology as one of the means by which their plans could be brought to fruition.