It’s unusual for us to have three (almost) lined up images, but here’s the east side of Granville Street around 1912 when the new and very impressive Vancouver Block had just been completed, looming over the much smaller two and three storey brick buildings. Faced in terra cotta, the Vancouver Block was designed by Parr and Fee for Dominic Burns who ran the BC arm of the family meat business established by his Alberta-based brother, Patrick. P. Burns & Co became western Canada’s largest meatpacking company and eventually Burns owned 700,000 acres of ranch land. Dominic looked after the British Columbia part of the business, and was wealthy enough to fund the $400,000 Vancouver Block in 1910 (with completion in 1912). Dominic moved to the top floor penthouse where he lived until 1933.
In the same year the more ornate, and more expensive, Birk’s Block was completed just to the north on the same block, but that was lost in the mid 1970s to make way for the Vancouver Centre. Both buildings had a large number of small companies operating from the building. In the Vancouver Block there were as many as 17 different businesses on one floor.
The rest of the block included the Windsor Hotel (later called the Castle Hotel) and the New Orpheum Cafe and Grill, while the building on the corner of Robson was for many years the Royal Bank. In 2003 a new 3-storey retail store designed by Studio One Architecture was completed, with a top floor Winners store and a Future Shop below it, and a number of smaller retail units on the Granville Street level. The middle picture shows the old version of the transit mall soon after the new retail block was completed; the newly designed street has vertical white low-energy lighting, and at this point in the street the street trees were not replaced.