Randall Building – 535 West Georgia Street

535 W Georgia

In 1929 the brokerage firm of S W Randall Co saw their new office building completed on West Georgia. The designer was R T Perry; the building has elements of gothic and some art deco, and a somewhat unusual arrangement of two double bays of windows to the west and a single, slightly offset bay to the east. It bears some resemblance to Townley and Matheson’s Stock Exchange Building, completed a year later, and there are several other buildings by other architects, all taking the same gothic theme, and built around this time. Originally intended as a 10-storey building, as built it’s more modest, although still costing $50,000

Sam Randall was born in Ontario in either 1878, 1881 or 1882, (depending which record you believe) and probably arrived in Vancouver in 1914. (One version of his biography says it was 1908, but the 1911 census shows him still in Ontario). He was initially the sales manager of a hardware company, Fittings Ltd, and lived at the St Regis Hotel when he first arrived, but soon found a house on Main Street. By 1920 he had become president of the Canada Pride Range Co, and had a house on W 49th Avenue, and he was still in that same house and holding the same job in 1928. That same year he established his own brokerage company, having been a member of the Vancouver Stock Exchange before 1927.

Randall’s main passion was horse racing, initially entering the business in 1919. He became the dominant figure during the 35 years he directed the Ascot Jockey Club of Vancouver and the Vancouver Thoroughbred Association. The long-time operator of Exhibition Park, formerly Hastings Park in Vancouver from 1920, he also operated Lansdowne Park on Lulu Island from 1924, and managed the Willows track in Victoria until 1947 and also operated Brighouse Park in Richmond and Colwood on Vancouver Island. Randall was the first Canadian track owner to adopt the photo finish and the first western manager to install an electric starting gate 1939.

This wasn’t his first property development; in 1926 Townley & Matheson had designed a smaller building on Richards Street for him. He sold Lansdowne Park and the Randall Building in 1945, reportedly for a million dollars, to the BC Turf and Country Club, concentrating his efforts on the Hastings course. He retired due to ill health in 1955, and died in 1961.

In 1991 jeweller Toni Cavelti gave the building a comprehensive but completely sensitive upgrade, adding a penthouse floor (set back from the parapet) in the process. The project, designed by Blewett Dodd Ching Lee, gave the building an almost identical appearance to our 1929 image. Only the recently restored mural of medieval goldsmiths on the east side of the building in 1993 (often credited to Kitty Mykka, but actually by created by Stephen Hinton and Nicola Kozakiewicz, of Streetworks Design, with Kitty helping paint the mural), made the building look any different. In 1999 Cavelti sold his company to Henry Birks who still sell Cavelti designed jewelry, and now Time and Gold operate in the store location.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 99-3763.


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