British Canadian Securities Building – 402 West Pender

These day the building is just known by its address, 402 West Pender, and it’s almost exactly as built a century ago, and as seen in this 1918 Vancouver Public Library image. It was completed in 1912 by British Canadian Securities Limited, a successful land investment company (and a subsidiary of the Dominion Trust Company). It was designed by H S Griffith, an English-born architect whose practice was based in Victoria. It’s a sophisticated Chicago influenced building, with a contemporary structural design and classical details. The base is stone, the top is terra cotta, and in between the walls are brick. It’s a reinforced concrete frame, built by Norton-Griffiths Steel Construction Company at a cost of $299,000.

An interesting court case from 1917 offers some insight into how projects like this were funded. BC Securities obtained mortgage financing from the Mutual Life Assurance Company, secured by the building itself. After the completion of the building the Dominion Trust Company became tenants for one year, and at the expiration of the lease, bought the building. They then went bankrupt, and the Insurance Company went after them for the building and the safety deposit boxes in the vault. To cut a long set of arguments short, the judge ruled that the 2,800 boxes installed by BC Securities were part of the building, so the Insurance Company got them. But over 300 boxes installed by Dominion Trust a year or so later, placed on top of the rubber floor (which covered the vault’s steel floor) were the property of Dominion Trust, so the insurance company couldn’t have them. Despite this the building was still called the Dominion Trust Building. Today it continues to offer office space in what is now a heritage building.


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