Union Station – Station Street

Union Station Station St

Here’s Vancouver new Union Station seen perhaps as early as 1917. Completed in 1916 by the Great Northern Railway, it was designed by Fred Townley. It was built for passenger trains operated to Seattle through Blaine and for the Northern Pacific Railway to Seattle by way of Mission and Sumas as well as Vancouver, Victoria & Esquimalt services into the Kootenays and Northern Washington. The Great Northern was J J Hill’s rail empire; initially he was part of the consortium behind the Canadian Pacific, but when he couldn’t get the route linked to his American network he resigned in 1883 and expanded his own system.

Hill died in 1916, the GN scaled back their Canadian expansion, but their Vancouver terminus was already under construction next door to the Canadian Northern station. (completed a couple of years later). Both stations were constructed on the newly infilled eastern end of the False Creek Flats. The Canadian Railway & Marine World reported that the company had filled the area to an average depth of 12 feet. “As the whole property is a fill, the building is supported on a pile foundation, cluster piles being driven and cut off below the line of perpetual saturation. Upon these concrete piers were poured, which support reinforced concrete beams, which in turn carry the exterior walls, columns and floors. The skeleton of the building is reinforced concrete, hollow tile, and concrete floors and roof. The exterior has a granite base, carrying up and around all exterior doors terracotta surbase, and red brick above, with terra-cotta trimmings and cornice.”

The two-storey steel and concrete building was constructed by Grant, Smith & McDonald at a cost of $390,000. The significant expense was partly explained by the finishes: “The main waiting room will be panelled in Alaska marble, 7 ft. high, and will have marble and terrazzo floors and ornamental plaster ceiling. Provision has been made in the plastering of the end walls for placing oil paintings showing the Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.” There were a series of other permits for additional buildings designed by Townley, adding up to over $200,000. One was the power house, located 150 feet east of the baggage room wing, with a brick stack at the east end 90 ft. high. The power house supplied heat to the different buildings through an underground reinforced concrete tunnel, steam to the passenger cars at the stub tracks, and to the passenger car yards. In connection with the passenger car yards there were a commissary building, an oil house, car repairers’ building, car foreman’s building; car cleaners’ building, a carpet cleaning building and a coal house.

By the mid 1930s many of the GN Rail lines had been shut down or abandoned (including the Northern Pacific operation). Passenger service to Vancouver from Seattle lasted until 1971 when it was transferred to Amtrak. The terminal in Vancouver was demolished in 1965, ostensibly to reduce property taxes.

The lot has remained vacant ever since, and is today used as a temporary parking lot and movie shoot base. It is intended to be the future home of the relocated St. Paul’s Hospital.

Photo source: thanks to Arthur Babitz at The History Museum of Hood River County who sent us this image photographed by Alva Day, a resident of Hood River, Oregon, born 1887 died 1955. He took a trip to Alaska in 1917; this may have been photographed as part of the trip. See the photoblog http://historichoodriver.com/ for more Hood River images.

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Posted June 23, 2016 by ChangingCity in False Creek, Gone

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