881 Granville Street (2)

881 Granville 2

We looked at today’s Venue nightclub’s earlier incarnation as the Plaza Theatre in an earlier post. Here’s how the building started out, designed in 1908 by Norman Leech as the Maple Leaf Theatre. This is possibly the architect’s first work in the city under his own name – he arrived in Vancouver in 1906 and initially worked for Thomas Hooper as a draftsman. The ‘Construction’ magazine, in 1908 noted that “Dr. Good, of Winnipeg, has purchased the site of the Maple Leaf theatre at this place, on which he will erect a modern building.”

This picture probably dates from 1926 when ‘The Golden Strain’ was playing, a silent movie directed by Victor Schertzinger. It was a western starring Hobart Bosworth, Kenneth Harlan, Madge Bellamy and Lawford Davidson, based on a novel by Peter B Kynes. That year the theatre was operated by Robert J Dawson, but it had a series of managers over the years including Harry Bell in 1921 (when Mr Dawson was managing the Kitsilano Theatre). Before that, from 1914 to 1920 William Brown was running the theatre for the Lipsin brothers (Abraham and Hyman) who were the owners.  

In 1913 William Hansher was shown as owning the theatre and Hyman Lipson (sic) managing it, but there’s also a building permit issued that year to William Kilroy and Frederick W Morgan (who also owned the Bayview Hotel down the street) to add two floors of commercial space, or apartments – a plan that was never built. In 1912 William Brown was managing the theatre for Thomas Carroll (who owned it from 1908, and presumably developed the theatre) Carroll was an Englishman, aged 46 in 1911 and living with his wife Mary. He may have also owned the Maple Leaf boarding house at 1327 Granville Street. In 1909 and 1910 John Muir was listed as the proprietor (in other words, the manager – in 1909 he was also running the Rose Theatre, another movie house, at 126 E Hastings). That was probably when the Quann Brothers were owners – they also owned the Rose, the Majestic and several of the city’s hotels.

It’s ironic that the film showing in 1926 was silent, as the Maple Leaf had one of two rival ‘talking picture’ systems installed very soon after it opened – the French developed Chronophone system that had two gramophones amplified by compressed air. It was supposedly the first time the system had been installed in Canada. An operator was expected to switch records while trying to match the recording to the action on the screen, (which would have been almost impossible to achieve) and the system had other problems as well – particularly in filling a 500 seat theatre with sound from a gramophone. The system was removed for a while, then reinstalled – but it seems to have gone by the spring of 1909. (More detail at pasttense).

The theatre also had an organ, and the first Unitarian service was believed to have been held at the Theatre  in early 1909. It has been suggested that the theatre opened with 500 kitchen chairs, but by 1913 it was advertising it’s fine seating, and had 693 seats.

The Plaza theatre a 924 seat Odeon house replaced the Maple Leaf in 1937. We found the image of the Maple Leaf on the cinemaplace website.

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Posted January 8, 2015 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Gone

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