The Empress Theatre was built on the corner of Gore Street in 1908. It was funded by a real estate and financial partnership known as G A Barrett & Company, and the first operator was the Del S. Lawrence Stock Company, who at various times also played the Avenue Theatre and the Opera House in the city. His company worked the west coast, from his native California to Vancouver, with stops in Seattle, Portland and Victoria. The house was managed by Walter Sandford, another American actor (whose wife was busy running the Hotel Stratford up the road). As far as we can tell the architect was E E Blackmore.
The theatre only lasted until 1940. Between the wars it saw a number of stock theatre companies tour through the city, and it was popular for the size of its stage – one of the largest in the west. It was demolished in 1940 (the year our photos were taken) and from other pictures that exist it appears to have remained a cleared site used for parking for over 40 years until the unremarkable 1987 retail building that stands today was built. The only slightly unusual thing about it is that it appears to have a second storey – a pretence that’s somewhat blown by the two ‘window’ openings where the infill panels have gone, revealing a view through to the sky.
Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N134