Archive for April 2012

Hotel Vancouver laundry and power plant

For once we can’t post a current image here. For the 1916 image on the left we would have to be in the tower of the Vancouver Block, looking at the unintended green roof of the Sears portion of Pacific Centre Mall. For the one on the right we think we would have to be up in a room of the third Hotel Vancouver – the one that’s still standing. While there are hundreds of images on the internet taken from the hotel, curiously none seem to be of Sears. Similarly we can only get glimpses of the power house in the past – and only thanks to the fabulous high resolution images just made available on the City of Vancouver Archives website.

What we’re identifying here is the building on the far left, and behind the York Hotel on the right. It’s the power house that was erected in 1912 at a reported cost of $215,000. Almost certainly it’s the building that was described as a factory/warehouse in the $120,000 permit issued to architect W S Painter in 1912. There was a laundry, with a huge chimney, on the site from the 1890s – it’s frequently discretely removed from photographs. It was rebuilt as the hotel was enlarged and altered. A 1913 edition of the Contract Record described the building; “The power house, which supplies both heat and light to practically the whole block, was then erected. The upper portion of the power house is used for laundries, and employees’ quarters. The lower part, containing the boilers and engine room, goes down nearly three storeys underground. There are three immense boilers, capable of using either coal fuel or oil fuel. Oil fuel is being used at the present time. The auxiliary engine room extends from the power house to the motors, hydraulic pumping and refrigerating machinery. Tunnels are run from the engine room and power house containing the pipes for heating and pumping purposes. Opening off from the auxiliary engine room is a large incinerator for the purpose of burning all rubbish. The engine room of the power house is located just below street level and is fitted out with the latest recording instruments, showing the consumption of fuel oil, pressure of steam, thermometers, etc., all working automatically. The power house is finished throughout, both inside and out, with cement.”

As well as supplying power to the hotel, the Vancouver Fire Service used it as a reliable source of power for the Fire Alarm System that was located in a nearby Firehall. “The Fire Alarm Office (FAO), located on the top floor of No. 2 Hall, on Seymour Street, received more than 80 percent of its alarms via telephone through the emergency number, Seymour 89. The system had 318 boxes on thirty-seven box circuits and all alarms came through the fire alarm system and were relayed by the central station operator to the firehall due to respond. The four operators on duty operated two large switchboards, one of which was always recharging. When the operators were alerted by the electric master clock that the board in operation had to begin its recharge cycle, then the changeover to the charged board took place. Power to recharge the batteries on the DC system was supplied by the power plant at the nearby Hotel Vancouver, and should that fail, there was a gas engine-powered generator in reserve.”

Image sources: City of Vancouver Archives: View from Vancouver Block 1916 CVA  PAN (extract) York Hotel 1931 CVA 99-3994, West End and Hotel Vancouver 1929 CVA Van Sc N63 (extract)


Posted April 11, 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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Second Hotel Vancouver – Granville and Georgia

The history of the redevelopment of the second Hotel Vancouver is surprisingly complicated. The CPR opened the first hotel in 1888. In 1893 the added a new wing known as the Van Horne wing on Granville Street, and then another completed around 1904 on Georgia Street at a cost of $100,000. This was designed with the intent of setting the style of the new, much larger hotel. By 1908 Eric Nicol noted that the Hotel “had 205 rooms, 75 with bath connections – a ratio bordering on hedonism”.

In 1910 the CPR excavated on Howe Street and in early 1911 built Honeyman and Curtis’s Annex. Meanwhile, at the end of 1910 the new CPR architect W S Painter obtained a building permit for $2,000,000 for an ‘Addition to hotel’. In January 1912 it was reported that a $1,000,000 14-storey replacement hotel would be built for the CPR. It wouldn’t just fill the Granville and Georgia corner – as the 1917 image above shows it filled the block all the way back to Robson and Howe.

In May under the headline ‘To Start work on CPR Hotel in Fall’ the Contract Record said ‘The latest advices from Montreal by the C P R inVancouver state that the board of directors ot the railway company have approved an appropriation of  $1,200,000 for the proposed reconstruction of the Hotel Vancouver, and another $215,000 for the power plant in connection with the hotel The latter building is now in course of erection.

The main hotel building will occupy the site of the hotel office or central section and will be extended south as far as the Opera House lane. It will be at least twelve stories in height, and two additional stories will be added to the Georgia st wing completed about eight years ago.

When completed the hotel, it is said, will have the largest ground floor corridors  of any hotel in existence. Construction will be started late this fall as soon us the rush of tourists is over. The plans are now being prepared by Painter & Swale, Metropolitan bldg.’

In October the Daily Building Record reported “Plans were filed with the building inspector yesterday for the proposed rebuilding of the Hotel Vancouver, corner of Georgia and Granville sts, at a cost of $800,000. The structure will be of steel and concrete with terra cotta facings.

The bldg will be heated by steam and all of the partition walls will be fireproof. Hardwood floors are specified also 3 passenger elevators and one for freight. The central portion of the bldg will be 14 storeys in height with wings on either side, the New Orpheum theatre, which is now being erected, being in the nature of a wing to correspond with the railway company’s main hotel bldg. Painter & Swales, Metropolitan bldg. are the architects. A contr has not been let as yet.”

By November 1912 the architects (who had moved offices) were looking for suppliers of the terra cotta and the steel contract was let to J Coughlin at a cost of $200,000.  Then everything slowed down. In 1913 reports covered a revised version of the plans “The Canadian Pacific Railway recently deposited plans for four additional storeys to the central portion of the Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver, and for the east wing fronting on Granville street, at an estimated cost of $1,100,000. The estimated outlay on the work of reconstructing the central portion of the hotel, calling for twelve storeys, was $800,000, so that with the addition of the work now proposed, the ultimate cost will not be far short of $2,000,000. According to the plans, the central part of the structure will be sixteen storeys in height, and the east wing will be eleven storeys, with the exception of the centre, midway between Georgia street and the Orpheum theatre. Here a large hall will be situated, for banquet purposes. The entrance to this hall will be 87 feet by 59 feet, and will be from Granville street. The whole structure will be of reinforced concrete and steel construction, faced with pressed brick.” Painter and Swales obtained another permit – this one for $1,100,000, and construction started. The various replacement sections, additions and the extra height were now said to be costing $2,500,000. By the time the project was being built the architect was Francis Swales; like Francis Rattenbury who was the initial choice for the new hotel, W S Painter had abandoned the task.

Even then, everything wasn’t complete. The Granville Street wing was the last to be added, replacing the Van Horne wing, and completed in 1916. The company confirmed that year they would be adding 250 more rooms but not until the war was over. The company said the hotel had already cost $3,000,000 and the addition would cost $750,000 more. That part of the project never happened. Even as it was being planned, a long term future of the project was in doubt. In the meantime, the most remarkable and expensive building that the city had seen was open for business, with fabulous views out to the north shore mountains from the sixteenth storey roof garden and terrace. We’ll return to the story of the hotel’s future in a further post.

Main image source: City of Vancouver Archives, Second Hotel Vancouver CVA 677-969


West Hastings and Richards – sw corner

Back in 1889 this corner (the southwest corner of Hastings and Richards) seems to have M Reynell and Co as tenants. They imported Japanese goods into the city, although they were shown in the street directory as being at 422 Pender Street. In 1890 Fred Cope and Cope and Young were here, both importing dry goods. (Cope and Young had the middle store in the photograph). By 1895 the Bank of BC had premises here, and by 1900 the Royal Bank had taken over. By 1905 all the tenants had changed again – they included the Board of Trade saloon, Mortimore Bros, tailors and the Colombo tea Co. In 1908 there were a number of real estate offices including those of C T Dunbar and Count A V Alvensleben, as well as William E Green’s timber lands office. In 1910 and 1911 the Bank of Ottawa are on the corner, and the Regent Hotel has been established on the upper floors. And then it’s gone – in the 1913 directory it’s called ‘new building’

The building was one of a series of buildings in the city designated ‘The Ferguson Block’ – Mr Ferguson seemed to like to have his name associated with all his developments which gave him name recognition while causing some confusion for researchers today. This Ferguson Block was built in 1889 and the architects were the Fripp Brothers who designed a lot of buildings in the city in only a couple of years from 1888 to 1890. They also designed both the Boulder Hotel (for Mr Ferguson) and Dougall House on Cordova Street.

By 1916 the new building was listed as the Standard Bank Building. It was briefly known as the Weart Building named after its promoter, J W Weart, but it quickly got named after its most important tenant. Like the Birks Building and the Yorkshire Building built in the same period the Standard Bank Building was supplied with ornamental ironwork from the Chicago Ornamental Iron Co. The steel frame was tested by The Robert W. Hunt & Company Engineers’ Bureau of Inspection, Tests and Consultation, of Chicago, (as was the Hotel Vancouver and the Bank of Ottawa). Seattle architects Russell Babcock and Rice carried out the design.

The new building had a variety of tenants – there was the Venetian barber on the main floor, a tea room on the second floor, and the Canadian Red Cross had offices on the third floor, as well as Brighouse and Brighouse, dentists. The other floors had a thorough mix from lawyers, accountants, steelworks offices, lumber mills offices, a fish company, a creosote company and up on the fifteenth floor J W Weart’s own office as well as Winifred Kindleyside’s public stenographers.

Today, with no Standard Bank left in town it’s just the Standard Building, and at 100 years old showing absolutely no sign of being irrelevant to the 21st Century city. The Ferguson Block lasted 25 years. So far the Standard building has 100 years on the clock, and looks good for 100 more.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives, Ferguson Block 1901 CVA LGN 707


First Hotel Vancouver, second addition

We have shown this image as it looked about three years later already, but the trees in that picture pretty much obscure the third addition to the Hotel Vancouver. In 1901 The Canadian Pacific Railway again hired Francis Rattenbury to design a new wing of the hotel. It took a while to build, but apparently opened around 1904.

It was in an Italianate style, and from the postcard here it rather looks as if they expected to demolish the first hotel designed by T C Sorby. But as the picture above shows, the eastern wing of the addition was never completed. Instead it was cut off rather alarmingly and there would be a nearly ten year gap before the CPR were ready to replace the hotel and the first addition, also designed by Rattenbury. When they did that, they brought in new architects, initially W S Painter and later Francis Swales, who prepared a series of different designs all reasonably similar in style to the second addition which was incorporated into the final building. Both parts of the hotel had postcards celebrating their appearance.

Today as we have noted several times recently we have the Pacific Centre Mall. The second addition sat where today the TD Tower is located. Cesar Pelli designed the two dark towers (they’re brown, but appear almost black unless the sun is shining on them).


The Opera House – Granville Street

Pretty soon after the Hotel Vancouver was underway the Canadian Pacific Railway sought to make their part of the new city even more attractive by building a theatre next door to their hotel (to the south). Grandly (but fairly inaccurately) called The Opera House it was designed by Montreal architects John and Edward Hopkins, a father and son team who also picked up another CPR commission for the Lord Elphinstone Block, an office designed in the same year as the Opera House, 1888. Confusingly there was another Opera House built at the same time, the Imperial Opera House on Pender Street – and there was also Hart’s Opera House on Carrall Street, the oldest of the three, but that was described as a ‘glorified shed’ with burlap walls and doubled as a roller rink – the CPR’s was easily the classiest.

The new street railway conveniently ended in front of the Opera House, completing in 1889 not very long before the Opera House opened in early 1891. It cost $100,000 to build and apparently was run at a loss, but that was made up for by the passenger traffic it attracted. Mr A P Horne of the CPR Land Department  recalled the first year of operation in a conversation with Major Matthews.

 “We engaged Sarah Bernhardt, the famous European actress, for two nights and one matinée, that was in 1890, and then again we had another play, ‘Willing Hands and Honest Hearts,’ in which John L. Sullivan, celebrated prize fighter, was principal. It was rather funny, one morning when we presented to Mr. Browning, as he insisted we do, a statement of the expenses and receipts, he picked up the paper and remarked, ‘Very satisfactory, you made quite a profit,’ and I, just a young man, perhaps thoughtlessly remarked the John L. Sullivan had been quite an attraction. Mr. Browning replied, ‘There was no fighting, was there?’ and I answered, ‘Yes, in the third set. He brought someone with him to knock out.’ Mr. Browning was astounded, and said he did not know what Mr. Van Horne would think of it; that he would have to tell him; but we never heard any more of it.”

In 1894 the Imperial closed, and the CPR had a monopoly. They ran it until 1896 then handed management to Robert Jamieson who managed several other BC theatres. While serious drama often played to a limited house (with 1,200 seats a small audience was noticeable) the Province newspaper in 1898 “complained about the vulgarity of ‘Leavitt’s Spider and Fly Burlesque Company’ while conceding that “a good many people appeared to enjoy themselves immensely”.

In the same year, 1898, the Savoy opened as a music hall, and a year later the Alhambra opened as a theatre. By 1906 US interests were booking the Opera House and by the time the Pantages Theatre opened on Hastings Street in 1908, Vancouver was an integral part of the North American touring circuit. There was a major refurbishment and enlargement of the theatre in 1907, started in May and completed in September, designed by E W Houghton of Seattle. The proscenium arch was widened by seven feet, the posts supporting the balcony were removed, the back of the theatre shifted into the foyer to add five extra rows of seating (bring capacity to over 1,700), and the front-of house space was rebuilt and widened. Despite this, the CPR were thinking of offloading the theatre, which they did in 1909 for $200,000 to a local consortium, who promptly flipped it for $300,000 to US based Sullivan and Considine.

The new owners as the Orpheum Theatrical Co brought in world class acts like Anna Pavlova and Ellen Terry who both appeared in 1910. They hired local architect James J Donnellan to expand and rebuild the theatre in 1912 at a cost of $160,000 after a fire destroyed all but the walls. The new design added offices on Granville Street and lasted until 1969 under a variety of changing names until it was demolished as part of the site assembly for the Pacific Centre Mall

Image source: Opera House, Library & Archives Canada, City of Vancouver Archives, Opera House 1891 CVA Bu P509



Posted April 5, 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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First Hotel Vancouver – Granville & Georgia

The Canadian Pacfic Railway needed a hotel to serve the passengers arriving on their trains at the station located at the foot of Granville Street. T C Sorby had designed the station, and he got the job of designing the hotel too. It was up Granville – not too far, but enough to leave some space for new CPR sponsored commercial buildings, and to pull some activity away from the earlier city centre to the east, where there were already plenty of hotels (none of them on CPR land).

Sorby’s hotel opened in mid 1888 to a design that even he didn’t like – complaining of CPR cutting what they considered to be superfluous details – which in those days were what architecture was often about. (That’s it on the left in about 1890, soon after it was completed.) The CPR were supposedly equally unimpressed – Sir William Van Horne, the CPR President is reported to have said to Sorby “so you’re the damn fool who spoilt the building with all those little windows”. One local newspaper even likened the building’s design to a workhouse. An 1897 newspaper, ‘The Ledge’ published a story which ran “The Vancouver World publishes a long letter from the executive agent of the C. P. R. to the city council, requesting exemption from taxation for buildings proposed to be erected for a passenger station and warehouses. The World publishes cuts of the proposed structures which are said to be in the Queen Anne style of architecture and are fully in keeping with that monument of external ugliness, the company’s hotel Vancouver. The architectural illustrations in the World resemble a compound of a decayed grist-mill with bits of the bastile and the tower of London added.”

Presumably looking for a better response the CPR hired Francis Rattenbury to design the 1893 addition to the south. Rattenbury was only relatively recently arrived in Canada, but at the age of only 25 he had just won the competition for the new parliament buildings in Victoria. In Yorkshire, where he had arrived from, he had been designing buildings in the ‘model’ mill town of Saltaire – or so he told the Vancouver Sun, although actually he hadn’t even been born when that development had taken place. His design for the hotel extention didn’t really have much to do with the original building – that’s it to the left of the ‘before’ image above from 1904, five storeys high. Although Sorby’s hotel was identified for replacement as early as 1900 it was still around for a few more years.

Rattenbury was hired to design a further extention to the original in 1901, which he carried out in an Italienate style that isn’t so very different from his design for the city’s new courthouse five years later. Rattenbury fell out with the CPR, and anyway was busy with other projects including the Empress Hotel in Victoria, so in 1910 architects Painter and Swales were hired to replace a much bigger and more elaborate replacement for both the first hotel and the 1893 addition which was eventually finished in 1916. We’ll feature that building in a future post or two.

These days the site has the Cesar Pelli / McCarter and Nairne designed Pacific Centre Mall which is now anticipated to see a major redesign in the near future with Sears having confirmed their intention of leaving later in 2012.


York Hotel – 790 Howe Street

The York Hotel sat at the corner of  Howe and Robson. It first appears in the street directories in 1930, and was still going as the York Motor Hotel in 1968, just before it was cleared away for the Pacific Centre Mall project, where the City of Vancouver used compulsory purchase powers to assemble the double block needed for the underground shopping mall thought necessary to compete with new suburban malls.

The York doesn’t look like a 1930 building – and that’s because it wasn’t. It was built in 1911 as an annex for the Hotel Vancouver at a cost of $190,000. It seems likely that it was built to maintain a CPR hotel presence while the first Hotel Vancouver was demolished and the second Hotel Vancouver – the more flamboyant one – was built. That hotel was demolished after the Second World War. The Honeyman and Curtis designed annex was more restrained, and eventually it lasted longer.

The designer of the postcard for the York were using their artistic licence to its full extent. The cloudy sky to the north is added to cover the much larger and flashy Hotel Vancouver, and the massive laundry chimney that gave the block a distinctly industrial feel. Amazingly the flag that appears in many similar postcards really was on the building – which is by no means true of every appearance. The top of the Vancouver Block on Granville Street was also carefully removed.

These days the much unloved Sears building, designed by Cesar Pelli while working for LA architect Victor Gruen sits on the site. Owners Cadillac Fairview have paid a small fortune to buy the Sears lease to allow the building to be reconfigured. Current rumours suggest a new major retail tenant below, and the top four floors of retail turned into 300,000 square feet of offices around a new atrium. As much of the concrete wall would be removed and replaced with glazing as can reasonably achieved.


Posted April 2, 2012 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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