The area around this part of Dunsmuir Street was once the location of several churches – Holy Rosary is the only one still standing. The multiple denominations found here may be why this is wrongly labeled in the Archives as St Andrew’s Presbyterian which was on a corner of Richards Street on the same block as Holy Rosary, but at Georgia Street. This image dates to around 1900, when the church was a very new structure. It was the second church built here; the first was much more modest. The construction of the church began in 1899 on the site of an earlier structure by the same name, which only lasted 12 years before being rebuilt in the French Gothic Revival style, designed by T E Julian (with H J Williams). This view only lasted a few years – by 1908 David Gibb was planning the Dunsmuir Hotel, designed by Parr and Fee.
The project was managed by the parish priest, Father James McGuckin, who took over the project in 1897, and despite the parish already being in debt managed to see it completed; the religious order McGuckin belonged to (the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate) mortgaged their headquarters in France to pay for it. It was initially known as “McGuckin’s folly” because of the financial strains that accompanied the construction, but the rapidly growing city ensured that the Church of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary was an appropriate scale for the congregation.
It was elevated to a cathedral in 1916, and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate withdrew in 1927 (partly due to the financial circumstances that continued to cause them problems). A Catholic church can only be consecrated when it is free from debt – so the cathedral did not have its rite of consecration held until October 3, 1953, fifty-three years after it first opened. The construction is Gabriola sandstone on a granite base: the sandstone isn’t tremendously well bonded and the cathedral has needed repairs as details of the carving have been lost and some parts threaten to break off.
Image Source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 466-23