How AJT Taylor Unlocked a $20B Empire from a $120K Land Investment
Orphaned BC dropout builds Canada's most iconic bridge, prosperous community, and prestigious golf club
In 1916, during a cold night in WW1, Sgt-Major Billy Taylor bravely told his men to "Go for 'em" before he died in the trenches. His older brother, AJT Taylor, was inspired by Billy's bravery and became very successful.
AJT was born in 1887 and started working in Vancouver's shipyards for $5 a month when he was a teenager. He didn't give up and had big dreams. He ended up buying the Marine Building in Vancouver, which was built where his old shack used to be. He even lived in its top floor, the highest in the British Empire.
AJT loved Vancouver's ocean, forests, and mountains. In 1927, after doing different jobs, he started British Pacific Properties (BPP) with help from important people like the Guinness family.
In 1931, BPP bought 6,000 acres in West Vancouver for $120k. It was a remote beach area only reached by boat, but close to the city. AJT wanted to build a fancy community and golf course there. He needed the Lions Gate Bridge for his plan. Many people, including the Prime Minister, didn't like the idea. But AJT didn't give up and got the bridge approved in 1936.
Famous designers, the Olmsted brothers who did Central Park in New York, helped AJT. They made a nice community, now called the British Properties. Famous golf designer Stanley Thompson made a beautiful 18-hole golf course, Capilano Golf & Country Club. This made West Vancouver a fancy place to live.
The Lions Gate Bridge was finished early and under budget in 1938. AJT is remembered for the bridge, a road named Taylor Way, and the British Properties.
However, AJT had problems with the Guinness family and left the company. He missed the bridge's opening and the golf club's first day. He went to London in WWII and worked there. Sadly, he died of cancer in Manhattan in 1945 when he was 57.
AJT's investment in the 1930s turned into $20B. Land in Capilano Estates that was $1,500 per acre now costs millions. British Pacific Properties is still growing, and AJT's brave spirit is remembered as a sign of what dreams and hard work can do.
Video: Rare footage of Taylor, Vancouver’s Marine Building, early West Vancouver and Lions Gate Bridge construction, Capilano Golf and Country Club in the 1930s, Kew House, Taylor’s personal residence, 1939 royal visit footage. Some contemporary West Vancouver and Taylor Way videos. Sources: Vancouver Archive & Youtube