545 Main Street

Keefer & Main

Here’s a building where our ‘current’ picture is no longer entirely accurate. The 2-storey brick building that we photographed at the end of last year is now being demolished to be replaced by a much more significant condo and commercial project (on our other blog). While there has been some comment that we’re losing some of Chinatown’s history, as our 1970 Archives image shows, the building that’s being demolished has very little original or historic material.

 Although a building was constructed on this site in the 1890s, in 1978 it was almost completely rebuilt. The two buildings that existed (with alterations to link the upper floors into one hotel) were given a completely new brick façade, adding decorative elements that were never on the original building, and replacing all the windows and shop fronts. Almost all the interior spaces were demolished, with a steel frame being built to replace the original brick walls. By 1970 the tin cornice had long gone – the concrete cap to the brickwork was exposed, and the redevelopment replaced it with a new brick cornice.

Winnipeg Rooms (extract)The first building was on the corner of Keefer and Main, and was only 50 feet wide and sixty feet back (half the lot depth). There was a carpenter in the building in 1901, and a plumber and furniture store in 1903. To the north were two houses that by 1912 had been demolished and another 50 feet wide 2 storey brick building was built. The original building’s tin cornice can be seen in this extract from an Archives picture showing the reconstruction of the streetcar tracks down Main Street in 1912.

The 1970 Mayo Hotel was then called the Winnipeg Rooms, a name it kept until the 1940s when it became the National Rooms before the Mayo name was adopted in 1949. J McKune was the proprietor. A year earlier Joseph McKune, who was Scottish, had been a lodger on Hastings Street; J G Thompson was the previous proprietor.

There have been a number of these ‘recreations’ of brick buildings in Chinatown. The TD Bank across the street has been significantly refurbished from its 1901 roots, while the Chinese Nationalist League built a new building to the immediate north of this building in 2000 that looks as if it was designed many years earlier.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-308

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Posted February 4, 2013 by ChangingCity in East End, Gone

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