Archive for March 2012

679 Granville Street


Here’s another Granville Street Building that’s been swallowed up by a much bigger project – in this case the Pacific Centre Mall. We thought initially that the building dated from 1910. The street directory tells us it’s the Bell Irving Block  and there’s a drawing in the Archives identified as a 1910 Granville Street building whose architects are Dalton and Eveleigh. Henry Bell-Irving was a very successful businessman who had arrived in the city in 1885 and used his training as an engineer to design several of the early buildings soon after the fire destroyed the new city. He shipped the first canned salmon to the UK, and also ran an insurance company among many business interests. He designed the first Bell-Irving block at Cordova and Richards in 1888. Thanks to Heritage Vancouver we now know that this building dates to 1905, and most likely was also a Bell-Irving design, costing $20,000. (The 1910 Bell-Irving building was probably on Richards Street).

The retail tenants here were a series of stationers, first Norman Caple and Co, then the Odlum Stationery Company and later the Gaskell Stationery Company. In 1906 the Province newspaper reported “another $20,000 is being expended on the upper stories of this building in the fitting of up modern housekeeping suites” and in 1908 eight tenants are listed, two of them doctors. By the early 1930s the Great Northern Railway had moved their offices in, and they were still there a decade later. The City of Vancouver in an unusual move in this city expropriated the property to assemble the block to permit the construction of the Pacific Centre Mall.

The earlier iteration of the mall was dark and had a limited relationship to the street. A recent renovation for new tenant H&M saw the street presence brightened up and new display windows installed. The heavy canopies were replaced with glazed weather protection, which will soon be repeated on The Bay across the street.

(We updated the picture in 2020 as we originally had the location of the building slightly too far north)

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives Bu N523


Posted 7 March 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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792 Granville Street

We looked at this block previously, but here it is again quite a couple of years earlier before the Vancouver Block made its dramatic intervention. On the right of the picture, on the corner is 792-798 Granville Street. It was built in 1904 by J Rogers – Jonathan Rogers, a developer and builder who developed the Rogers Building down the street a few years later. He hired T E Julian to design the building. In 1905 he sold it to a Calgary based businessman, and by 1906 it had tenants; Le Patourel and McRae, Druggists were at 792, the Sunset View apartments were upstairs and Joseph McTaggart, grocer was on the corner at 798. It’s likely that Mr McTaggart bought the building because in 1912 he got a permit worth $400 for repairs designed by Thomas Hooper. It’s not clear if he actually completed that work as in the same year the Royal Bank of Canada also hired Thomas Hooper to convert the building to a bank branch at a cost of $10,000, The Bank finally closed in 1961, and looked very similar then to 50 years before as this Walter E Frost shot from the Vancouver Archives shows.

And that’s not the end of the story on this corner. The new Future Shop didn’t appear until 2003, but in the interim another Royal Bank building appeared, that lasted under 40 years. This 1980s City Engineers photo in the Vancouver archives shows it on the left, designed in uncompromisingly contemporary style by Underwood, McKinley, Cameron and Associates and completed in 1963.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 229-09, CVA 447-345 and CVA 772-727


Granville Street – 700 block east side (1)

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.