Archive for February 2012

West Georgia from Howe eastwards

That’s the 1925 part of the Hudson’s Bay building in the centre of this 1953 image, but everything else has changed. The Bay has recently received a comprehensive restoration of the terra cotta facade of the building designed by Burke, Horwood & White of Toronto. They used almost identical designs in Victoria and Winnipeg at around the same time. The Bay had been at this location since 1893, although they started off in the city further north and east on Cordova Street in around 1887. At some point we’ll post a before and after of the building this part of the store replaced, a brick building from 1893.

The facade of the new (and current) Hudson’s Bay store was supplied by the American Terra Cotta & Ceramic Co of Chicago, and the bit you can see here is the second phase from 1925 replacing the 1893 building, which joined to the 1914 building (which was further east on the corner of Seymour and Georgia).

The next stage of the restoration of the Bay building will be new glazed canopies, signs and lighting, more in keeping with the heritage building and creating a better sidewalk than the current solid canopies. The huge change in the recent picture is the arrival of the Pacific Centre Mall, completed in 1974. This part of the complex was designed by McCarter Nairne with Cesar Pelli working at Victor Gruen and Associates of Los Angeles. The dark tower was the Stock Exchange Tower when it was built. The rotunda entrance is likely to be replaced at some point with a retail use and a revised mall entrance.

Image source: BC Archives



Alhambra Theatre – West Pender and Howe

When it opened as the Alhambra Theatre in 1899 the developers managed to include 980 seats, although the building was only fifty feet wide. It opened with Rice and Dixey’s ten year old comic play Pearl of Pekin.  By 1901 it appeared on the insurance maps as the Theatre Royal, a name it kept until 1903, renamed as the People’s Theatre until 1906 when it was renovated and became the Orpheum.

The People’s  Theatre mostly offered ‘stock company’ productions – short runs of plays by mostly by visiting performers. As the Orpheum it expanded to 1,200 seats and became a vaudeville theatre run by John Considine of Seattle who was partnered with a Tammany Hall politician, Timothy D Sullivan. In 1913 they picked up the former Opera House, a much bigger and grandiose theatre, which they renamed the “New Orpheum”. The theatre then appeared as ‘The Old Orpheum Theatre’ for a year, and then disappears from the directories, the site being described as vacant.

Among the companies who then used the location were a tire company and the Silver Dollar taxi company, but in 1929 Townley and Matheson’s 11 storey Stock Exchange Building was completed. The same architects completed the Dick Building at the corner of Granville and Broadway in the same year, and both buildings show a neo gothic style using coloured terra cotta for ornamentation. The building is still in fine shape, but a recent proposal would see a truly extraordinary intervention with a new 400,000 sq ft office tower built alongside and through the heritage building.

As a bonus, here’s a 1905(ish) shot of the back and side of the theatre taken from the Post Office tower. It looks as if only the central portion of the building is unaltered, so it’s not entirely clear if this is the 978 or 1,200 seat version – it may be a 1906 image, just after the expansion.


Main image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA Bu N424


Hotel Stratford – Gore and Keefer

For a prominent building we’ve been able to get very little information on the Stratford Hotel – or Hotel Stratford as is seems to have been called in 1912 when it was built. By 1972 when this image was taken in was no longer the classy joint that it had been when it was first opened with 200 rooms. The architects were Braunton and Leibert (at least for the building permit, although the trade announcement only identified Hugh Braunton) and their client was listed as Mrs Walter Sanford. As the contact address for Mrs Sanford was given as the c/o the Empress Theatre (which was also on Gore at Hastings) which was run by an American actor identified as Walter Sandford, we can presume a minor spelling error somewhere.

During the 50s, 60s and 70s news reports regularly feature the Stratford Hotel for a series of infractions and criminal acts involving both illegal substances and activities. These were interspersed with regular fires – so regular that it’s a testament to the construction quality that the building is still with us. These days the Stratford is called the Fan Tower, and has relatively inexpensive rental rooms. It’s missing its second floor cornice line, but otherwise still looks pretty good for a century old building.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-450


Posted 25 February 2012 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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Alcazar Hotel – Dunsmuir and Homer

The Hotel Alcazar sat on Dunsmuir Street, close to the Dunsmuir Hotel. Designed by Dalton and Eveleigh, it was completed in 1912 in the boom that saw much of Downtown Vancouver developed. It cost $140,000 to build for Dr D H Wilson and it lasted for 70 years before it was demolished. Dr Wilson was a medical doctor, born in Ontario in 1855, who practiced in Manitoba. He was elected to the Manitoba legislature in 1882 and became Minister of Public Works, got married in 1887 and resigned from politics in 1888. He moved to Vancouver the next year, practiced medicine for another five years, and then retired (again) with directorships in a number of financial and insurance companies. When he died in 1926 his estate was worth $85,000.

The site of the hotel sat for another decade before Musson Cattell Mackey’s postmodern headquarters for BC Hydro were constructed on the site, completed in 1992. These days the front of the office includes a water feature called Water Works by Tokyo-born Tony Bloom that was inspired, it is said, by a traditional Japanese deer scarer, a shishi odoshi. The Alcazar also featured some somewhat unexpected art in the form of Jack Shadbolt murals from the 1940s that could be found in the dining room.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N446.1


Thornton Park and CN Station

We showed a CN station image a while age. Here’s the full panorama, now that the repairs to the station are complete. You can see that it’s looking pretty clean now that stone repairs have been done, and we caught it at dusk when the lighting was coming on. The trees on Thornton Park are a bit bigger than in 1924 – in fact a couple have had to be removed recently after they split and fell over. The original photo is one of a number of extraordinary panorama shots placed on flickr by the excellent Vancouver Archives collection. You can see the other station, Union Station for the Great Northern Railway to the north of the Canadian Northern, designed by local architect Fred Townley and completed in 1916.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives PAN N101


West Hotel – Carrall Street

The West Hotel has been around for nearly a century, and is looking pretty good, considering. As this VPL 1951 picture shows, it did pretty well in the first half of its existence. The huge cornice was still intact and the BC Electric Depot nearby kept it busy (and is the said to be why it was so much bigger than most other hotels).

It was designed by J G Price, and completed in 1913 for Lun Yick Co, a Chinese owned company controlled by Yip Chun Tien (more often called Yip Sang, who also ran the Wing Sang Company).  The size of the hotel shows the resources available to the Chinese merchants in the city in the early part of the 20th Century. The Wing Sang company ran a trading empire, supplied labour and operating fish packing businesses as well as an opium factory (perfectly legally at the time). Today the beer parlour is still downstairs and the upper floors are now a privately owned SRO hotel.


Posted 22 February 2012 by ChangingCity in Chinatown, Still Standing

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Dunsmuir Hotel (2)

We’ve visited the Dunsmuir Hotel before, but here’s slightly different angle, and in colour (on a postcard). Parr and Fee designed the building for David Gibb and Sons, but it was soon acquired by Abraham Grossman, a successful Jewish businessman who from 1893 to 1908 ran the city’s first clothing store, ‘The Hub’. Abraham Grossman was originally from Poland, born in 1820, arriving in Canada in 1884 and his wife Minnie was Russian, arriving in 1880 aged 14. Mr Grossman owned, repaired and had a number of buildings constructed (as well as running a dry goods business), usually employing W T Whiteway as architect. However, when he altered the Dunsmuir Hotel in 1913 he used the classier firm of Russell, Babcock and Rice. Originally from Tacoma they were responsible for one really significant building in the city, the Weart Building (now known as the Standard Building and still standing today).

They had also designed a $500,000 office for Grossman that was announced in the Contract Journal as if it was actually built, at Abbott and Hastings in 1912. (It wasn’t). Mr Grossman did well enough from his real estate and land dealing that by 1914 he was living in Shaughnessy Heights on Osler Street in 1914, the only Jewish family in that neighbourhood. One of Mr Grossman’s three sons, Max, was a lawyer and very active in Jewish affairs. His greatest contribution to the Jewish community in Vancouver was as Chairman and driving force for the building of the Schara Tzedeck Synagogue.

Abraham moved to Los Angeles, as this notice of his wife’s death in the Jewish Centre News shows, as did two of their three sons, but Max Grossman remained in Vancouver.


Posted 21 February 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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Clarendon Hotel – 928 Main Street

The Clarendon Hotel is still standing, and looking better today than it has for many years – particularly in recent years. John McDade was born to Irish parents in St John, New Brunswick, and started working life as a butcher. He joined a party headed to Vancouver in 1893, aged 24, and joined a group led by a member of the New Brunswick parliament who built a stern wheel boat on False Creek that they piloted to The Yukon, reaching Dawson in 63 days – one of the first two boats to successfully navigate the Yukon River from Vancouver. He mined Bonanza Creek and Dominion Creek, and also owned a half share in a hotel on Bonanza Creek. Selling out his goldfield interests in 1906, he leased and opened the Clarendon Hotel in 1907.

We’re not sure if a permit for Westminster Avenue from 1904 is relevant to the current building; it was issued to J R Wood for a stone building costing $3,800 designed by W Blackmore and sons, but it was only on a single lot. We suspect it was substituted with another permit for the larger hotel that got constructed a couple of years later.

Here’s the 1908 ‘Vancouver Illustrated’ coverage in the year that this VPL image was shot. Visitors, tourists and others seeking first class accommodation for a permanent residence or a temporary sojourn will find at the Clarendon Hotel, 934 Westminster Avenue, very desirable rooms in one of the best locations in the city and amidst the most pleasant surroundings. The hotel is a substantial brick building, is new and strictly modern In every respect, is heated by steam, lighted throughout by electricity, and has all modern conveniences, such as are found in all first class hotels. There are at the present time sixty-five rooms, but four more stories will be added to the building and the number of rooms increased to two hundred in the near future. The furnishings, like the buildings, are also new, the house is kept immaculately clean and In splendid condition, and many apartments are arranged en-suite with private bath. There is a bar, barber shop, pool room and cigar store in connection with the hotel which is operated on the American plan, the dining room being one of the many features of excellence. A free bus meets all trains and boats, transferring passengers without cost, and everything tending to make one’s stay comfortable and homelike is anticipated and provided. P. T. Hartney and J. McDade are the proprietors: both are experienced hotel men, and are popular with the traveling public and our citizens and visitors, tourists and others who make their sojourn at the Clarendon can but carry to their homes most pleasant remembrances of Canada’s Terminal City.

McDade sold out to Fox and Dickson in 1910, and opened the Cecil on Granville Street (demolished last year) which he sold a year later. He bought and sold land at a profit in Richmond, buying the Bodega Hotel on Carrall Street with the proceeds, and then selling it to buy a stock ranch in Chilliwack, breeding heavy horse and harness horses for racing.

Over the years the Clarendon became the American Hotel (in 1922) and later started on a downhill path that earned it’s reputation as a pub associated with drugs and violence (a former manager received an 11 year sentence for drug dealing and assault). In 2006 the City authorities stepped in and closed the hotel down. In 2011 under new ownership and with a comprehensive makeover the 42 rooms reopened upstairs, six of them leasing at $400 a month, the rest at what the market will bear. Downstairs the Electric Owl features a bar, off sales and a 200 seat bar offering Japanese Izakaya-inspired share plates from a Vietnamese chef – quite the change from only a few years earlier.


Posted 19 February 2012 by ChangingCity in East End, Still Standing

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929 Westminster Avenue (Main Street)

Initially we thought this must be where the Cobalt Hotel is today – the number on Main Street is nearly right, and the gap through to the yard looks just like that on the Cobalt -one of the few city hotels that still has an archway though to the ‘stables’ behind – although as the Cobalt is a 1912 building it was probably through to the parking. However, we were fooled by a renumbering on the street, and these two building stood further to the south of Westminster Avenue. Seen here in 1895, soon after the second buildings were completed, they were a feed store owned for several years by R V Palmer. The story of his arrival can be found in ‘Early Vancouver’, the City of Vancouver history compiled by Major Matthews. It’s well worth searching out, telling the story of his walking to Vancouver from Stoney Creek in 1885 with several hundred dollars sewn into his clothing, avoiding the Revelstoke gamblers. That’s the edge of Mr Palmer’s house at 931 Westminster on the left of the picture.

As well as the feed store Mr Palmer operated as a teamster – he started hauling wood for the mill in 1886. At the back of the two buildings was a wharf – False Creek used to reach right up to this part of Westminster Avenue, and the street was a promontory that led to the bridge south to Mount Pleasant.




The building had been increased in size in the same year that the picture above was taken. This slightly earlier picture shows half an archway through to the yard at the back of the buildings. It also looks as if the house might have just been moved a bit further south when the expansion took place. The Palmer Brothers are still at the same address in 1910, but in the contracting business, as they were in 1920. Today the site is part of the Citygate project, and this part of Main Street has a non-market housing co-op designed by Gomberoff Bell Lyon and completed a decade ago.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 371-2243


Posted 18 February 2012 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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Second CPR Station – West Cordova Street

Here’s the newly completed CPR station in about 1900. Not T C Sorby’s first station – that lasted a very short time – just over 10 years. This one sat right at the foot of Granville Street, and despite its grandeur it only lasted fifteen years before being replaced by the one still standing today. The designer was a German immigrant, Edward Colonna (who had changed his name from Klonne when he became a US citizen). Colonna came to CP from designing the interior of rail coaches, and before that working in New York for Louis Comfort Tiffany.

On leaving CP in the early 1890s as the railway boom was ending he designed for Maison de l’Art Nouveau in Paris, both jewellery and furniture. He then moved to Toronto, where he worked for 20 years before retiring to Nice where he died, aged 86, having been paralyzed and bedridden for over 20 years. Colonna’s station design was only partly complete when a severe downtown in the economy saw construction halted. The building’s final appearance was completed in 1899 by Montreal based (and born) architect Edward Maxwell, who reworked Calonna’s design but stayed true to its Gothic style. Indeed for the now demolished Ottawa station he adopted a similar chateau style, and for a economy sized version head to The Keg in New Westminster where Maxwell’s $35,000 1899 station can still be found.

Today the site consists of a parkade that’s associated with the offices in the replacement station and the office tower at Granville Square built in the 1970s as one of the few completed parts of Project 200, a huge urban renewal scheme that would have seen Gastown swept away (with far fewer heritage buildings left to feature on this blog). In the background you can see the hotel and office building on Canada Place, a three way design between Zeidler Roberts, an international firm headquartered in Toronto, with Downs Archambault and Musson Cattell Mackey. MCM also designed the 2003 Price Waterhouse Coopers Place on the left of the picture.