600 block – West Hastings Street (1)

Here’s the 600 block of West Hastings early in 1910. At the eastern end of the block, on the corner of Seymour Street the Bank of Ottawa is under construction to the design of W Marbury Somervell, one of only two buildings he designed before he teamed up with fellow American John Putnam (although a 1911 building permit has both names attached).

Their design was quite similar to – but somewhat taller than – the Darling and Pearson designed bank on the other end of the block. This Bank of Commerce commission was completed by the Toronto-based architects in 1908. Today it is home to Birks jewelers, with a more recently recreated ‘heritage’ interior designed by Oberto Oberti in 1994. Next door was the Canada Life Building, completed in 1910, and next door to the east was the Strand Hotel, in this picture as it looked after it was remodeled in 1907 to J S Pearce’s design. There’s a permit issued to ‘Darling and Pearsen’ for a Canada Life office in 1910, but all the contemporary records of construction progress reference A A Cox as the architect – it’s probable that Cox was the local supervising architect of Darling and Pearson’s design (although Cox also designed buildings of a similar scale on his own – like the Carter Cotton Building).

Today both the Bank of Ottawa (which soon after became the Bank of Nova Scotia) and the Canada Life building are still standing. Or at least, the building frames are still standing; both buildings were increased in width and given a contemporary skin. The Canada Life Building was rebuilt in 1952 and the Bank of Ottawa earlier, in 1950.

Picture source City of Vancouver archives CVA 371-2426

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