The Birks Building ranks, we would suggest, alongside the second Hotel Vancouver was the saddest loss of a heritage building in the city. Unlike the hotel, there haven’t been any suggestions of shoddy construction or any deal that it had to be closed because a newer version had been constructed. It was a “10-storey reinforced concrete office/store” costing $550,000 in 1912, designed by Somervell and Putnam for “Birks, Hy. Ltd” as they were described on the building permit. Henry Birks and Sons were based in Montreal and their Vancouver store was veneered with white terra-cotta. It was one of the most elegant carefully proportioned office buildings designed for the city, still looking good in this 1946 image, and its loss was compounded by the simplistic replacement – the Vancouver Centre.
Birks were complicit in the demolition; they teamed up with the Bank of Nova Scotia to redevelop the north end of the block with an office tower, a parkade, and a store (now occupied by London Drugs) completed in 1974. The parkade has a redevelopment proposal as a second office tower, but the prominent Georgia and Granville corner has yet to see anything better proposed than what’s there now – the design of the Webb Zerafa Menkes Housden Partnership of Toronto.
Image source: City of Vancouver archives CVA 586-4399