Devonshire Hotel – West Georgia Street

Devonshire Hotel

It took two years to build, and when it was first completed in 1925 the Devonshire was the big kid on the block. It soon became far less significant as the Hotel Georgia was built to the east two years later and the Georgia Medical Dental Building (by the same architects as the Devonshire) to the west two years after that; both several storeys taller. It wasn’t really a hotel at that point, but rather an apartment hotel. It was designed by McCarter Nairne early in their career and set them on the road to success and even bigger buildings (especially the Marine Building).

Kingsway @ Clark 1931The Devonshire advertised for tenants – here’s a billboard at Clark and Kingsway from 1931. In 1930 there were engineers, a stenographer, clerks and a seamstress – but the directory also shows there were nearly as many maids and other staff (including two telephone operators) working there as there were tenants, suggesting it was already more of a hotel than an apartment building. The hotel advertisement said it was “Canada’s Finest Apartment Hotel” with “Modern and luxuriously comfortable Kitchenette suites and Hotel rooms, all with bath . . . just a few minutes walk from the stations, waterfront, and the glorious Stanley Park.” The hotel offered free telephone service, and charged $3.50 for a single and $5 and up for a double.

In the early 1930s the manager was T Karl De Morest, who also ran the Devonshire Cafe, while the Devonshire Cab Service was run by Messrs Brown and Walker. DeMorest could well be Thomas DeMorest, born in the USA and living as a child in the Okanagan in 1911. In 1937, quite early in his career, CBK Van Norman designed alterations and additions to the building, almost certainly when it became simply a hotel.

Hotel Georgia, Devonshire & Dental MedicalThe Devonshire was never a huge success, overshadowed by the grander Hotel Georgia and Hotel Vancouver, but it had a popular bar. Our image shows it in 1974, but this earlier postcard shows the relationship to its neighbours. In 1977 Eleni Skalbania took the hotel on and managed to generate a profit before moving on to the Hotel Georgia. In July 1981 at 7.05 am the hotel was imploded with the help of 100 lbs of high explosive – (you can find the video on youtube)

Not long after the dust settled, many publications will tell you that work began on building the HSBC Bank Canada building. That isn’t completely accurate, what was really being built was the Bank of BC Tower designed by Webb Zerafa Menkès Housden Partnership. The second bank to bear the title (the first having disappeared in 1901) it was founded in 1966, the creation of Premier W A C Bennett. By 1986, following financial difficulties arising from poor management, HSBC was allowed to rescue the company. It’s a post-modern stumpy block covered in granite supplied from Quebec. A huge internal public atrium is lined with granite from South Dakota – over two billion years old – featuring Alan Storey’s ‘Broken Column’ pendulum artwork.

Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 780-30

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