Ocean Towers – Morton Avenue

As we noted in the previous post, his 1959 apartment building helped change the appearance of Vancouver. Designed by Rix Reineke with Chow, Nelson and Associates it was originally designed at 21 storeys, but slightly scaled back to 19. There were only 69 units, varying from just over 1,000 square feet to over 1,500. Originally priced at between $25,500 and $32,000, as costs rose, so did the prices, which eventually were selling at $31,000 to $38,000. The building was devloped and built by the Becker Construction Co, and was originally penciled in at $1 million, but eventually cost about double that. The Vancouver Sun reported that site assembly cost about $200,000. 

The design – seen here in the 1960s – represented a dramatic break from the early 1950s zoning of the West End, which allowed 8 storey buildings (many of which were built to meet that limit). Buildings could theoretically go higher if they were thinner, and this tower is very skinny from north to south, but almost a full block east to west. While the ‘Miami modernist’ look was admired by some, the scale of the building and its effect on the buildings behind made it few friends. It was opposed by the Town Planning Commission, the city’s Technical Planning Board, the Vancouver Housing Authority and the Community Arts Council. Council approved it anyway, but the perceived negative impact of this building and a few others built in the same era ensured they would be the last.

Design guidelines required narrower buildings with space between them when later residential areas were planned, and new towers added to the West End. That’s still true today, as the experience of this tower continues to determine tower design not just in the city of Vancouver, but throughout Metro Vancouver. The architect later moved to La Jolla in California.

It wasn’t – and isn’t a condo building. The strata act wasn’t introduced until 1966. It started life as a ‘self owned’ building with each owner having shares in the company that owned the building. Some time in the next decade or so it became an ownership co-op. which it still is today. At the time we were drafting this post there were five units available with the least expensive priced at $1.5 million, and the additional fees were $1,000 a month.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives, Leslie F Sheraton CVA 2009-001.120

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Posted 8 April 2021 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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The West End from above

This is another pairing of an Archives image with Trish Jewison’s helicopter shots. She’s the Global BC traffic reporter. The before shot is from 1969, and shows just how many new towers had been completed in the previous decade in the part of the West End where Denman meets Davie. The after is from Trish’s twitter feed in May 2020.

On the left, on Beach Avenue, the Sylvia Hotel had already been standing for over 50 years, but further east its big slab neighbour had only been standing for 10 years. The skinny, wide Ocean Towers was designed by Rix Reineke. Together with Peter Kaffka’s Imperial Tower (the tallest tower in the picture, just right of centre) they changed the design of the city. Both were fine examples of modernist architecture, but the design of Ocean Towers, completed in 1959, created opposition because of the way it blocked light and views behind it, and Imperial Tower in 1962, almost 120 feet wide and 30 storeys high increased concerns. New zoning rules introduced as a result required towers to avoid being slabs, and spaced apart, and those rules still apply, and can be seen across most of Metro Vancouver.

There are three new towers on the same block of Davie just above Imperial Tower in the picture, and a fourth (with blue balconies) across the street. They’re all spaced out at a minimum of 80 feet apart, and have squarer floorplans, similar to CBK Van Norman’s design for Beach Towers from 1965 on the lower right of the picture. Those four towers are all on lots that previously held retail or parking uses, so the extra 585 rental apartments haven’t displaced any existing residents. Even the Safeway Store was rebuilt, and it’s a much nicer store too.

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Posted 5 April 2021 by ChangingCity in Altered

Chinese Public School – East Pender and Jackson

The Chinese Public School, seen here in 1977, was only the latest use of this early building. From the appearance it’s reasonably obvious that it started life as a church. Looking on the 1912 insurance map, it’s listed as the Baptist Church. However, when it was completed in 1892 it was the Zion Presbyterian Church, with denominations playing musical chairs (or more accurately pews) in a few early years. In 1899 it had become the Zion Baptist Church, with Reverend J G Matthews in charge.

The history of the Presbyterian Church in Vancouver doesn’t mention this building, and it was odd that a congregation should exist so close to the First Presbyterian church which was only three blocks away, and built around 1893. The mystery was solved in a reference to the history of the Presbytery of Seattle. That says that there were 32 churches in the Presbytery of Puget Sound, including Zion Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. So it appears that this was an American arm of the church, founded in the early years of the city. We can find them meeting at first in a commercial building on Main Street, and later in the City Market. The Contract Record said in 1890 “The Zion Presbyterian Church will erect a $10,000 church – Mr. Thos. Hooper, architect for the new Y.M.C.A. building, has been instructed to prepare plans and specifications and call for tenders for the foundations at once.”

The Zion Baptist congregation also got off to a bumpy start. In 1898 the compilers of the street directory seem unsure of which brand of protestant faith to list, and played it safe with ‘church’. That might have been because the minister of the new endeavour was the Rev George Armour Fair. He was from Ontario, and his time in the East End was limited. By July of 1898, Fair “left the church . . . [and] with a portion of his former flock, organized a “non-denomination” group, which apparently held to a “Pentecostal” variety of doctrine.” He moved to a church in the West End, on the corner of Denman and Nelson.

The Baptists had formed a congregation in the area in 1894, and briefly their church was listed on the opposite side of Princess on the southern side of the street, (but also on Jackson). The Presbyterian congregation on Jackson merged in 1898 with the larger Hastings and Gore church, so in 1899 there were two Baptist churches shown on opposite sides of the street. One was the Jackson Avenue Baptist Church, and the other the Zion Baptist Church and Reformed Episcopal, addressed to Princess (which is East Pender today). By 1901 the short-lived Jackson Avenue church was no longer listed. A few years later the church in the picture was known once again as The Jackson Avenue Baptist Church, (although addressed to East Pender). In 1911 the church was altered and an addition was built, costing $6,000. The permit says J Carver was the architect and J G Price the builder. It’s likely that this was accidentally reversed; Mr. Carver was a contractor, and Mr. Price a consulting engineer, although that didn’t prevent him from designing many buildings including several significant ones in Chinatown. The photo on the right is undated, so we don’t know whether it shows the church before or after the 1911 changes.

In 1953 the Chinese Public School purchased and renovated the church. We don’t know how much the building was altered, but the ‘Chinese’ flared eaves in the image were added to the entry porch and tower.

The building was replaced in 1983 with the building designed by Hin Fong Yip that’s there today. It’s the Chinese Social Development Society, who operate a community centre, daycare, and on the second floor the Chinese Public School where Chinese language classes still operate.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-294 and First Baptist Church (Vancouver) Archival Collection.

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Posted 1 April 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Japanese Church – Jackson and Powell

This is the Japanese Buddhist church on the south east corner of Powell Street and Jackson Avenue in 1977. It was designed by Hooper and Watkins in 1905 as the Japanese Methodist Mission Church, part of the western religion’s efforts to convert the Japanese population to Christianity, The Japanese Methodist Mission was established in Vancouver in 1896. What became known as the Powell Street Church opened in 1906, and is seen on the right in 1908. The Powell Street Church began providing medical services at the end of the First World War, when the Spanish influenza hit. Hospitals in Vancouver were filled with Caucasian flu patients, and those who were ill in the Japanese community were unable to receive treatment.

In 1925 it became the Japanese United Church, and  In 1936 the church became independent, but just six years later the Japanese population were rounded up and forced into internment camps, and the church was officially closed and the Board of Home Missions approved a plan to permit First United Church to use the building. They in turn sold it to Welfare Industries, a service society of First United Church, 1953 for $16,000. The Japanese church finally re-established itself in 1978 with the purchase of the former St Luke’s Church in Cedar Cottage, on Victoria Drive. In 2009 the congregation were given an apology for the sale of the property, and in 2018 received a payment to compensate for the building’s sale.

In 1954, the Methodist Church building at 220 Jackson Ave. was purchased by the Buddhist Church, as Japanese returned to the coast after the War Measures Act was lifted in 1949. The renovated building was used until 1978 when a new temple was planned, completed two years later, and still in use today.

Image source; City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-293

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Posted 29 March 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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110 East Cordova Street

After a recent makeover, this 119 year old building now has office space over retail. It started life as a warehouse for the Public Transfer Company, designed by G W Grant and built by E Cook at a cost of $12,000. Despite the Heritage Statement claim, Pacific Transfer weren’t the developers; they were Atkins and Johnson, who were also in the cartage and storage business when it was developed. Robert O. Atkins was from Nova Scotia, and was born in 1868. He had two brothers, Thomas and John who were druggists, who had come to Vancouver in 1889 and 1891. They went on to be partners in the largest drug business in Vancouver, McDowell, Atkins & Watson. A contemporary biography said “Thomas Atkins also had interests in the lumber business and with sawmilling and salmon-packing industries, as well as extensive real-estate operations”.

Robert Atkins joined them in Vancouver around 1890, and by 1892 was running a truck and drayman business with Andrew Johnson. who also appears in the street directory for the first time that year, although he was in the city for the 1891 census. He had arrived from Norway (according to the 1901 census, although the 1891 census said Sweden) in 1884, and he became a Canadian citizen in 1895.

Atkins and Johnson’s first office was on Water Street, but we assume they developed this building with the intention of moving their business here. However, in 1902, the year it was built, it was announced that they had sold their entire operation to a new company, Mainland Transfer, a business with close connections to the Canadian Pacific Railway company. It was reported (somewhat inaccurately when it came to the businesses formation) “Atkins and Johnson have carried on business in Vancouver since the fire in 1886, and have had a large share of the heavy teaming work of the city. Their new stables Just east of Carrall street, and south of Dupont, are amongst the finest in British Columbia. They also have a waterfrontage on False Creek. All this property goes In the sale.”

This building was vacant in 1903, and finally occupied a year later when the Public Transfer Company moved in. The firm was a rival to Mainland Transfer and was run by George Davidson, Hugh McDonald and Howard Campbell.

In the meantime Atkins and Johnson found new interests. They invested in, and ran, a number of the city’s hotels. In 1904 they were shown as proprietors of the Hotel Metropole, on Abbott Street. In 1905 it was announced “Messrs. Atkins and Johnson, who have been running the Hotel Melropole for the last two years, have sold the hotel to Mr. G. L. Howe, of Seattle, who will take possession on Saturday next.” In 1906 they were running the Maple Leaf Livery Stables on Seymour Street.  In December 1905, Atkins, Johnson and Stewart had taken over the Commercial Hotel on Cambie Street, but Thomas Stewart retired from the partnership in 1908 leaving Atkins and Johnson to run the hotel.

In 1909 “A real estate deal was put through this morning by Mandervillle & Milne whereby the Wellington block, located on the north side of Hastings streets between Carrall street and Columbia avenue, changed hands at the figure of $100,000. The property has a frontage of 50 feet on Hastings street and is improved to the extent of a two-story store and rooming-house block. The sale was made for Messrs. Atkins and Johnson, the purchaser being Mr. A. E. Tulk.” In 1910 they owned the Burrard Hotel, and in both 1912 and 1913 ‘Andy Johnson’ obtained a permit to alter it – possibly adding an additional floor. They sold up in 1914, and Robert moved to Chilliwack. Andrew Johnson and his wife Margaret had moved to Burnaby to a new Arts and Crafts style house they had commissioned in 1911.

Robert Oliphant Atkins had married Eliza McAlister from New Mills, New Brunswick in 1892, quite soon after he arrived in British Columbia, but she tragically died in 1894, and their only child died a year earlier. Robert married again in 1904, to Jessie Clemitson, and they had four children. His sister, Sarah married Thomas Clemitson, Jessie’s brother. Robert died in 1929 at the age of 61.

Andrew M. Johnson was also a major landowner in Burnaby, at one time owning each of the four corners of Royal Oak and Kingsway and many of the adjacent properties. In 1910 he bought Burnaby’s Royal Oak Hotel and soon acquired the property on the opposite corner to build a family home named ‘Glenedward,’ after his son. He owned and operated the Royal Oak Hotel until his death in 1934. He was married to Margaret Sloane, (listed in 1901 as Maggie) who was Irish, and they had two sons, Edward, who died in 1901, the year of his birth, and Andrew Sloane Johnson, born in 1906.

We’re used to tracing constant changes to the businesses associated with buildings – but this is an exception. Pacific Transfer Co continued to use these premises into the early 1930s. They were replaced by Burke and Wood, another goods transfer business. By the end of the war this had become the Police Garage, replaced in the early 1950s by Sam Rothstein’s sack dealership. By the time our picture was taken, Spilsbury and Tindall had taken over the building. The Archives think the image is from the mid 1980s, but we place it earlier. Spilsbury and Tindall manufactured radio equipment, but the name was not used after 1972, although Jim Spilsbury continued in business until 1984. Our guess is this is the early 1970s around the time the business ceased operating.

The building was completely renovated in 2009, designed by Gair Williamson, and renamed The Stables. The restoration presented some challenges. “A rare design feature of heavy timber trusses and steel cables at the third level, which supported the second floor below. The function of this original suspended system was to allow for easy passage of horses and carriages on the main floor, without the hindrance of columns. To preserve the open space, the project team decided to retain this unusual element.”

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-2447

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Posted 25 March 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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East Hastings and Columbia Street – se corner

This is the corner of Columbia and East Hastings around 1985, and we’ve looked at the history of some of the buildings in the picture in the past. Right on the corner is a wooden building – one of very few left in the area – that was built in 1893 by H A Jones. Next door, to the east, is a building developed by W Clark in 1911 costing $17,000 and designed by a relatively unknown architect called Kenneth Fraser. We have no way of telling which W Clark was – there were two William Clarks and a Walter Clark in real estate, and another William Clark who was a reasonably wealthy business owner. The development probably involved the 3-storey building on Columbia Street, which only appeared in the street directory in 1912 as the Chateau Rooms. Mr. Clark’s lot was unusually L-shaped, with 50 feet on Columbia as well as 25 feet on Hastings – the corner 25 x 70 foot lot was in different ownership. The Chateau Rooms on Columbia were originally run by Madame Rose E Chenette. Douglas Jung, the first member of a visible minority elected to the Parliament of Canada had his offices there.

As we noted in an earlier post, the building was altered several times (and at some expense) several times in the first couple of years. At the end of 1912 there were alterations to a shooting gallery. This was the Wellington Arcade, run by H G Wickwire. It was possible to open the gallery because a year earlier this was the Wellington Theatre, run by ‘Lathan’ and Saborne, as well as the Wellington Pool Room in the same premises. There were alterations to the pool room in 1912 as well. Initially the World Wide News Co were tenants here, but they disappeared within a year and Mr. Clark spent another $2,000 carrying out alterations at the end of 1911, presumably to create the theatre and pool room. William Latham ran a business called Commercial Transfer as well as the theatre, and his partner was James Saborne, who also owned the Granville Chop House. (He’s probably the same James Saborne who also ran the Wilson Cafe on Yates Street in Victoria until 1913 when the sheriff seized the building contents for non-payment of debt).

William Latham’s household in 1901 also included James Saborn as a lodger. William was 50, and from England, and James was 21 from Ontario. William had a wife and three children at home, including Beatrice, who was 16. In 1911 James Saborne was 33, from Quebec, living with his wife, Beatrice who was 25, born in England, and their two sons, Eugene and James Oswald. He had two brothers sharing their home. Unusually, James was identified as a member of the Brethren denomination. James and Beatrice had married in April 1904.

In 1921 William Latham and his Welsh wife Eliza were living with their daughter, Jesse, her husband, Arthur Curtiss, and their 11-year old grandson. James and Beatrice Saborne were living at 1128 Granville Street, with their sons, and James was working as a ship’s steward.

To the east is a 1982 building, originally built as a retail centre, but more recently converted to artists workshops and a gallery. Next door is Brandiz Hotel, an SRO hotel that started life as the Howard Hotel and then became the Empire Hotel. It built in 1913 for Seabold and Roberts and designed by H A Hodgson.

Beyond the Chateau Rooms on Columbia, across Market Alley, is the Great Northern Hotel. This is almost certainly a 1911 building developed by Sam Kee and designed by R T Perry. The Great Northern station was initially just across the street to the south. A third storey was added when the building reopened in 1981 as a Chinese non-market housing building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 790-1905

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Royal Bank – East Hastings and Main Streets

 

The first phase of the Royal Bank at Main and Hastings was developed in 1910, and we’re seeing it here almost exactly 100 years ago, in 1920. We’re pretty certain this is the oldest continuously used bank in Vancouver – the CIBC a bit further south was developed in 1915. There are older buildings built as banks, but today they’re used for other purposes. This was originally designed by the bank’s Montreal-based architect, Howard Colton Stone, in 1907. Exploring Vancouver describe the style as ‘Edwardian baroque’, featuring Ionic columns. It’s a modest building for an important corner of the city, but it fits a pattern; the corner to the north was redeveloped from three storeys to a single storey Bank of Montreal in 1929, and to the west the Carnegie library wasn’t significantly taller.

The construction used a reinforced concrete frame – one of the earliest in the city. It was extended east along Hastings Street to the lane in 1947, to designs by the Royal Bank’s Montreal-based former chief architect, S.G. Davenport, (Although he didn’t do anything other than replicate the existing design on the outside). Another smaller addition was built to the south along Main Street (on the site of the former Merchants Bank) in 1975.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-1392

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Posted 18 March 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Hawks Avenue – 700 block

This 7-unit row of cottages was built on 2 lots at the end of Harris Street (today’s East Georgia Street) where it meets Hawks Avenue. The developer was house decorator George Elliott, who lived a few blocks to the east, on Harris. They were constructed in 1908, and a year later George built another house on Harris, in the 500 block, where he moved in 1910. He seems to have dabbled in property construction and modest development as a sideline to his painting and paper-hanging business. There are several permits to George Elliott for house alterations and construction through the East End in the early 1900s, including a $2,000 permit for a 1908 Harris Street dwelling (which we think is likely to be this row).

The earliest we find the Elliott family in Vancouver is in 1896, when George was listed living on Gore Avenue, and a year later at 236 Harris Street. In 1901 George and Mary Elliott were shown by the census to have been born in England and arrived in Canada in 1883, and were both aged 42. They had five children at home: Albert, born in 1886 in England, who apparently didn’t come to Canada until 1892, Victor, born in BC in 1888, Violet in 1890, Leonard, 1891, also in BC and Gladys, who was 8, born in Seattle in 1893, and who came to Canada in 1896.

In 1911 George and Mary Elliott were shown by the census still living on Harris Street, with three sons; Charles, George and Robert, daughter Violet, and Mary’s father, Robert Payne. George and Mary were 52, and both born in England. They were both shown arriving in Canada in 1887 with two of their sons. Their younger children had been born in BC, and Mr. Payne had arrived in 1898.

By 1911 George was no longer shown as working; his employment was listed as ‘income’ (we assume from his rental properties). Two sons were paper hangers and so presumably had taken over the family business. One was listed as a press man. The street directory shows five siblings; Albert, Charles, Gladys and Leonard (the pressman with the News-Advertiser) and Victor.

The family were still in the East End before the First World War, (in 1913 George A, paperhanger and Charles A were both at 517 Harris) but by 1914 they had moved to 1905 W13th Avenue. George and Gladys, a bookkeeper were listed there, as well as Leonard, a printer, and Victor, a painter with the Vancouver Paint and Paper Co. There was an Albert Elliott living in South Vancouver, who may have been the other son. In September 1914 Leonard got married. His bride, Catherine Heffring was 22, two years younger, and the marriage licence tells us that he was legally named Robert Leonard Elliott, and he was born in Victoria in 1890. In 1916 George, Gladys and Leonard were all still living on W13th, but Victor was recorded as being on active service. There’s no record of him in Vancouver after this point. Only Gladys was living in Vancouver in 1917, and none of the family were still in the city by the end of the war.

We can track them on to Seattle in 1920, when George and Mary were shown as aged 59 and their daughter Gladys (27) was still living with them. They were renting their home; George was still a painter and decorator and Gladys worked as a telephone operator. They were shown as having immigrated to the US in 1887, (and Gladys had been born there). We’re not sure when Victor died, but we know it was in the US and we think it might have been in 1920 or 1921. When he died he had two brothers, Charles and George, and his sisters were married; Gladys was Mrs. Gladys N Waters and Violet was Mrs. Violet L Wilson. Gladys, who was married to Fred Waters, died on September 11 1921.

Our 1978 image shows the row with a couple of recently planted street trees. The houses were renovated in 1985. The row was bought for $180,000 by seven partners in 1983, initiated by architect Clare McDuff-Oliver. Each partner spent around $60,000 for construction, and worked on the demolition of the existing walls.  Each unit was custom designed, and Denise Olsen was contractor and project manager. The original building had no basement suites, so the houses were raised and a located on new concrete foundations. The upper floor was reconfigured, with the bathroom moved from its original location. Today each of the units is worth more than the entire row cost to buy and renovate.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 786-48.32

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Posted 15 March 2021 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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Arcadian Hall – Main Street

The Arcadian Hall on Main Street burned down in 1993, the victim of arson. It started its life in 1904 as the new hall for the local branch of The Oddfellows, in the rapidly-growing suburb of Mount Pleasant, some way from Downtown, over a bridge, but served with a tramcar that ran up Westminster Avenue. The 1904 permit identified the architect of the $6,000 frame hall as L H McKay, and the builder as ‘day labour’. This is the only building he designed, and we suspect Mr. McKay was almost certainly a member of the Oddfellows, rather than anybody with an architectural background. Nobody with those initials was listed as living in Vancouver. The VPL Image on the right shows the building in 1908.

The IOOF lodge #19 owned the building until  December 1955 when they moved to the Knights of Pythias Hall on East 8th. It was renamed the Arcadian Hall in 1946,and became a venue for music – starting with ‘old time dancing’ three days a week in the late 1940s. The Museum of Vancouver has an early Neon Products script sign for the hall which had a sprung dance floor, making it a popular venue. Downstairs was the Arcadian Coffee Shop. By the 1980s the hall was home to hundreds of all ages gigs by visiting acts as well as local bands like Pointed Sticks and DoA. Our image shows it in 1985. When it burned down it was owned by the Finlandia Club of Vancouver, who used as a social and cultural gathering centre for people of Finnish descent. It was also home to the Main Dance Place, a dance academy for professional and advanced dancers. The venue was also used by the Fringe Festival in the early 1990s.

The site has been vacant since the fire, used for a time as a car dealership. Now there are plans to redevelop the site, and the adjacent building, with a retail and condo building called Main St. Arts.

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Posted 11 March 2021 by ChangingCity in Gone, Mount Pleasant

1033 Davie Street

These days this is The Davie Building, with the popular Fountainhead Pub on the main floor. The offices on the upper floors have a variety of smaller suites, with local professional like lawyers and insurance brokers, and the offices of the West End Business Improvement Association. However, most of the tenants are medical practitioners, either providing local services like chiropractic, or more specialist clinics, thanks to the proximity of St Paul’s Hospital. The brick tower behind the building is part of St Paul’s, due to move from this location in a few years to a new hospital site next to the Canadian Northern Station, where Union Station used to stand.

When it first opened in 1959 this was known as the Metropolitan Medical Centre, and it featured in an advertisement in the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Journal, which helpfully identifies the architect. That was Gerald Hamilton and Associates, a practice responsible for several of the city’s best modernist buildings. The ad says it was an attractive functionally planned medical centre, but the most obvious design element was the lattice screen that completely obscured the south-west facing facade of the building. Our 2005 image shows the curved plastic awning roof on the Fountainhead pub in those days. In 2013 a comprehensive building renovation replaced the screen, and the glazing behind.

The illustration shows that when it was built, the lower floor was also office space, with a classic 1950s / early 1960s frieze in front of the entrance. The introduction of the pub saw the addition of a curved canopy, now replaced with a brick screen and large window openings and a patio that has a glazed awning added in winter.

Next door there has been a cleared site (with a temporary community garden) that replaced a gas station and retail building. There are now plans for a 47-storey mixed-use tower, designed by Merrick Architecture.

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Posted 8 March 2021 by ChangingCity in Still Standing, West End

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