Archive for January 2012

Burrard Street – 1200 block, north side (1)

Here’s one of the more dramatic changed views that we’ve featured. The only thing that looks as if they’re still standing in both photographs are the street trees. In 1914 Burrard Street was barely paved (it didn’t lead to a bridge, so it wasn’t a major through route). On the right is a $18,000 ‘brick veneered’ apartment, Burrard Court, built and owned by R Y Blackhall and designed by R V Pushaw in 1911. Mr Pushaw seems to have also been a builder, but only has a handful of buildings to his credit.

The rest of the block consists of houses – relatively inexpensive ($1,000) frame dwellings built speculatively around 1902 and 1903 by (among others) J B Cawthron and A M Sharpe. You can see the homes of Reginald Marshall, George Forrest, William A Campbell, Arthur Valentine and Mrs Mary Roddick in the picture. The times were more turbulent than the picture suggests. Mrs Roddick was living with her son George and husband John in the house in 1911, but John had left by 1914 (perhaps for the war?) and George had a job with a Tire and Rubber company – aged only 15.

Further down the hill is the Winnitola Nursing Home. Today you can see the Milano (By Paul Merrick Architects), the Ellington, Carlton Court and Crystallis by Roger Hughes and Partners. And today’s picture will change soon too – a 17-storey tower designed by IBI/HB to be called ‘Modern’ has been approved to be slotted onto Burrard where the small beige Commercial Electronics store can be seen. We’re not going to list the nearly 500 people who now own or rent homes in this view. Traffic is a bit busier as well.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA LGN 1230


Posted January 18, 2012 by ChangingCity in Gone, West End

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Hastings Street Court House (1)

The first Court House at Hastings and Cambie Street was built in 1890, designed by T C Sorby. It sat on an almost triangular lot where the two different grids of the city met – the midway point between the Canadian Pacific’s new city area to the west and the older Gastown to the east. As the city grew rapidly, and criminal activity along with it, the Court House needed and got a significant makeover. Popular and flamboyant (in architectural terms) N S Hoffar was hired to add a classical addition more than double the size whose dome and temple facade made it a grand, but controversial building (at least among the established British born architects). Completed in 1893 it stayed in use only until 1911, so this 1906 image shows it towards the end of its use.

In 1907 a new Court House was started at Georgia Street, designed by Francis Rattenbury – and like this one, that too immediately had to be enlarged by Thomas Hooper. The new building opened in 1911 and the one shown here was torn down. At the end of the Great War the location became the home for the Cenotaph, designed by G L Thornton Sharp, architect and park commissioner. It has been reworked since then, but still offers a welcome green space surrounded by significant buildings that pre-date the creation of the park, including the Dominion Building, the Flack Block and the Province Building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu P524


Posted January 17, 2012 by ChangingCity in Gone, Victory Square

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Carter Cotton Building – 198 West Hastings

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Hotel Europe (1)

The Hotel Europe is one of the city’s most identifiable, and appreciated, buildings. It is undoubtedly the best flatiron building in the city, taking advantage of the meeting of two streets meeting at a sharp angle to create a building with a beautifully curved prow. The man who commissioned the building was hotelier Angelo Calori, who arrived from Italy in Victoria in 1882, and settled in Vancouver in 1886. The building in this postcard image from around 1909, (the year it was completed), is an addition to the original hotel which lies to the east – and is bigger than the first hotel which dates back to 1889 (which Calori owned from at least 1902).

Designed by Parr and Fee (probably Vancouver’s most prolific architects), it displays almost none of their trademark design elements. Instead it borrows from Daniel Burnham’s Flatiron Building in Manhattan, completed in 1902. This is particularly true in the twin column window design on the ‘point’ of the building. It was built by the Ferro-Concrete Construction Company who were brought in from Cincinnati. They had built the first tall reinforced concrete building in 1902, and the hotel is among the first reinforced concrete buildings in the city (and possibly the oldest). There is an earlier design suggest an even more dramatic building – two storeys higher and with a rash of bay windows. The current version is probably more elegant, and practical from a maintainance perspective. It’s quite a bit bigger than the first idea; in 1905 it was reported that “A. Calori, proprietor of the Europe Hotel, has purchased the five fractional lots which comprise the gore at the junction of Powell and Alexander streets and having a frontage of 125 feet on each of the streets mentioned. Mr. Calori intends building on the property a large four-storey tourist hotel, containing elevators and modern equipment.”

Calori developed houses in the East End not long after his arrival in the city and also appears to have owned the Princess Theatre on East Hastings Street in 1910. These days the hotel and its older ‘annex’ provides 84 units of non-market housing.


Posted January 15, 2012 by ChangingCity in Gastown, Still Standing

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Dunsmuir and Granville – ne corner

These days the building here houses a Shoppers Drug Mart, but a few years ago it was a CIBC Bank building – and that’s who developed the site with a McCarter and Nairne designed modernist building from 1957 that’s now so highly thought of architecturally that it’s on the Post 40s Register – the equivalent of heritage recognition. Inside there’s an amazing BC Binning mosaic that covers half the upper back wall – when it was a bank it was hard to see, but the retail conversion created a mezzanine that allows perfect viewing opportunities. Before the CIBC bank building was another bank – built as the flagship Bank of Montreal branch in 1893. (and seen here in a 1905 Vancouver Public Library image shot by Phillip Timms).

Designed in a style called ‘Scottish Baronial’ it created an appropriate partner for the gothic baronial of the CPR station at the bottom of Granville Street. Montreal’s Taylor and Gordon are credited as the architects, but Andrew Taylor, born in Edinburgh, was almost certainly responsible for the design – especially as his architectural partner George Gordon mostly stayed in London where their partnership had been formed. Taylor retired from architecture in 1904, returned to London and became a Conservative politician and was awarded a knighthood in 1926.


Villa Hotel – Howe Street

The Granville Bridge was replaced in 1954 for the second time, (so the third bridge) and the new on and off ramps carved through a neighbourhood of small businesses and houses which dated back to the city’s rapid expansion in the early years of the twentieth century. The area didn’t immediately change and the first investments were a new Travelodge on the east side and then in 1970 a new 4-storey hotel, the Villa Inn Motor Hotel, built on Howe Street right at the point that the street became the on-ramp for the bridge. (Seen here in our 1973 image).

It’s an odd location in some ways – it catches passing traffic leaving the Downtown peninsula. The design (possibly by D Hamer – although we haven’t found anything to confirm this) features a barrel vault design that would have looked good near an airport. The hotel was obviously successful enough for the owners to want to add three more floors. The application was made by Netupsky Engineering – presumably because most of the issues associated with altering the structure in such a radical way were engineering considerations.

The barrel vaults disappeared in the expansion, and about a decade later the hotel (which these days is the Quality Inn, having been the Inn at False Creek in the meantime) is bookended by a hotel tower at one end and a mixed use tower at the other. Although in theory the top floor was intended to be residential, in practice it’s all hotel.


Posted January 13, 2012 by ChangingCity in Altered, Downtown

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Wing Sang & Co – East Pender Street

Chinese merchant Yip Sang arrived in Canada in 1881 (from San Francisco, where he’d been working for 16 years) and headed for the Cariboo gold fields. He had no luck there, but more success when he got work as the supervisor of the Chinese work gangs building the Canadian Pacific Railway. When the line was completed he based himself in the new city of Vancouver, and in 1888 established the Wing Sang Company. A year later he was able to build a warehouse and store with living accommodation, and here he is in 1900 in front of it. on East Pender Street between Carrall and Columbia, with three children, and two wives. A year later he added a third floor, and built eastwards as his business expanded exponentially.

By 1908 he was reckoned to be worth over $200,000 and in time he came to own at least 16 city lots. In 1912 he added a new wing at the back of the Pender Street building to house his three wives and twenty-three children. The original architect of the two storey part has not been identified – although there weren’t too many choices in 1889. The official explanation for the second floor doorway is that goods were hauled up to the warehouse, but with no lifting gear it seems more likely to be an off-the-shelf design that contemplated the possibility of a porch across the sidewalk that was never actually built. There was a perfectly serviceable staircase on the outside of the east side of the building. The Yip family finally sold the building in 2001, and in 2006 realtor Bob Rennie initiated a multi-million dollar award-winning restoration designed by Walter Francl that put everything back the way it was designed (at the front), while creating an extraordinary art gallery from the rear building and the space between.

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 689-52 and CVA 689-91


West Hastings Street west from Cambie

052 Hastings west from Cambie

We’ve skipped back through the 20th Century to around 1898 on Hastings Street. (the records say it’s 1896, but it must be a bit later) Cars aren’t a problem – there aren’t any – but the cyclists have to be careful of what might be lurking on the road surface, and it becomes obvious why cow catchers might be necessary on the front of the streetcars.

On the right hand (north) side of the street is the single storey Great Northern Railway offices where R Campbell and Sons were also based. It was called The Arcade and designed by John Parr for Harvey Hadden. Next door is the 1894 and 1898 Rogers Block, built by Jonathan Rogers in two phases with William Blackmore and then Parr and Fee as architects (which is why the picture must be after 1898).

The mix of tenants in there is wide, including the Misses Taylor (Miss Laura, Miss Emma and Miss Bertha) – possibly dressmakers (especially as a year later they had gone, but Miss Martin a ‘modiste’ had arrived). There are two canning company offices, and the Columbia Commercial College, as well as architect William Blackmore (called Blakemore in one directory). A ‘W A Cumyon’ is listed almost certainly Won Alexander Cumyou, secretary of the Chinese Reform Association of Canada and the first Chinese born in Canada (who worked as a court translator).

On the left, just out of the picture is the Courthouse, then the Inns of Court Building (where, somewhat oddly, the Council meetings for the Municipality of North Vancouver were held) designed by R Mackay Fripp and built in 1894. These days a much smaller former CIBC bank building sits on the corner of Hamilton Street, now used by the Vancouver Film School, while the Dominion Building occupies the right hand side. At the end of the street the Marine Building closes the vista – soon to be joined by a 400 feet high curved glass office tower immediately behind it.

Image source: City of Vancouverr Archives CVA Str P317


The Marine Building

In terms of financial supervision, it may not have helped that the owners, G A Stimson and Co, were based in Toronto when the Marine Building was being built in the extraordinary time of only 16 months from start to finish. The design was local, McCarter and Nairne letting their imaginations run riot on this Mayan influenced deep-sea fantasy, with seahorses, pufferfish (and the odd zeppelin for contemporary reference) in the details. But the budget was blown wide open – the cost was over $2.3 million, fifty percent over the original estimate, and if the economy was looking shaky in 1929 when building started it looked positively terrible in 1930 when it opened. So despite the lavish gala when it opened and the beautiful uniformed young women in front of the handmade solid brass elevator doors, nobody was heading upstairs.

By 1931 the owners were willing to let the building go at less than half price as a new City Hall. In 1933 it was knocked down to British Pacific Building Co for $900,000. Fred Taylor, the prime mover of the deal, moved into the penthouse at the top of the building and persuaded the Guinness family to back the investment. Taylor didn’t live there much as the elevators closed in the evening, stranding Taylor and his wife on the 19th floor. In the 1940s it became another office space in a consistently popular building for tenants, and the most significant Art Deco masterpiece in the city, and among the best in North America.

When it opened it stood alone on the escarpment, away from the city (which may have contributed to the difficult of leasing it initially). It was still isolated in this 1945 Williams Brothers image. Now its surrounded on all sides by commercial towers, and an even taller one is just being built immediately behind it by Oxford Properties, who own the Marine Building today.

Image source City of Vancouver Archives CVA 586-4079


Posted January 10, 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Merchants Bank – West Pender and Granville

At first glance there’s virtually no change between this 1922 shot of a 1915 building, and how it looked in the rain on a January weekend in 2012. But looking closer, there are differences, and they reflect an evolving role for the building. In 1916 this was the new Merchants Bank, designed by Somervell and Putnam, both Americans who worked in Seattle before Vancouver. For young, recently arrived architects they picked up a remarkable set of important commissions in a very short time, and in turn delivered a set of buildings that are among the best that were built in a fiercely competitive period of growth.

The Merchants Bank was one of many trying to tempt new clients, so the building had to show style while implying solidity. The architects went with a classical theme – a temple bank of three storeys (pretending to be two). By 1923 the Bank of Montreal had subsumed the Merchants Bank, and Kenneth Guscotte Rea, their architect, was given the job of doubling the size of the bank, which he achieved almost seamlessly. That’s when the doorway disappears – the older picture shows the entire building, the contemporary image only half the building.

By the 1990s the Bank of Montreal had no future use for the building, and it sat unwanted, and with an uncertain future. In the early 1990s Joe Segal, Vancouver businessman and property developer bought the building, donated it to Simon Fraser University, and kick-started a restoration fund that raised nearly $20 million to convert the building into the Segal Graduate School of Business. Extensive and sensitive renovations and restoration, designed by Merrick Architecture, now see the building with a solid future to match its architectural integrity.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N341