Mr. James Cowan bought land in Burnaby in 1919, after serving overseas in World War I. The property on Gilpin Street is not far from the theatre that now bears his name. The theatre was previously known as the James Cowan Memorial Hall until 1971, when it became the James Cowan Theatre.
The Cowans lived on Gilpin Street between 1923 and 1955. Mr. James Cowan took an active interest in community affairs. He was a founding member of the Valley View Ratepayers Association, and was a member of its Council. He also helped present many briefs to Council concerning the development of the community.
In 1955, the Cowans moved to 4449 Percival Street. Mayor Emmott was so impressed with the length and consistent contribution Mr. Cowan made to the community, that he had the new hall named for Mr. Cowan a few days before he died in 1967.