Pemberton Building – West Hastings Street


W A Bauer developed this eight storey building in 1910, and completed it a year later. Standing on the south-east corner of Hastings and Howe, the owner hired W Marbury Somervell of Seattle as the architect, and called his new $225,000 asset ‘The Pacific Building’. Mr. Bauer wasn’t a novice at real estate investment; he had acquired a large chunk of North Vancouver in 1905, and had developed smaller buildings, but nothing on this scale. This wasn’t his first idea for the site; in 1909 he had obtained a permit for a $150,000 hotel designed by Parr and Fee, but never followed through. He used the most up-to-date method for the construction of the building, hiring  the Ferro Concrete Co (headquartered in Cincinnati). We’re not sure why the postcard artist changed the top of the building, but it never looked like this.

Unlike many residents with a German sounding name, Mr. Bauer retained the spelling of his name throughout the war. That might be because anyone who heard him would not think him German – he was born in Brisbane, Australia, where he became a railway engineer. He was also well-known in the province; he had been the Dominion and British Columbia Land Surveyor, having arrived in 1891. He also married well; his wife was Ruby Springer, daughter of Ben Springer who managed the Moodyville Mill and then turned to real estate development in the early city of Vancouver in conjunction with Captain Van Bramer. In 1901, before his marriage, William Bauer was shown in the census living with his mother, Anna, who had been born in England, and his sister Maud, who was eleven years younger (if her age was recorded accurately – which would have made her mother give birth at age 51, which seems unlikely). In 1911 he was recorded as ‘Bower’ , aged 43, with Ruby, 28 and their son Benjamin who was aged two and 11-month daughter Frances Maude. There were two domestic servants living with them in their Seaton street home.


The Pacific Building was sold on the quality of its construction. “The outer walls are of brick and concrete, finished on the exterior with handsome pressed brick and terracotta. The floors are of solid re-inforced concrete, and the entire structure sanitary, clean, warm and absolutely fireproof, affording every security against damage by fire, and minimum insurance rates. The Pacific Building is of an architectural type remarkable for its simple elegance of treatment, resulting from the artistic contrast of light and shade, and the fact that it is not overburdened with detail. The entire exterior effect is pleasing and elegant in the extreme. The central location of the building, its attractive appearance, and the fact that it towers high above all buildings in the neighborhood, gives it a distinct advertising value which is too important to be overlooked by those in search of offices. The main entrance hall is finished in selected, handsomely-veined marble, producing a handsome and impressive entrance. The corridors are tiled and finished with a specially-designed wainscoting four feet in height, with a beautiful marble base. The floors are laid in rich ceramic mosaic tile.” The advertising even went as far as claiming that the building was ‘earthquake proof’ – fortunately never put to the test. In the 1990s a complete seismic analysis of the building was carried out and a partial upgrade saw shear walls being added at the building’s basement perimeter.

W A Bauer hired Somervell and Putnam a year later to design his new $20,000 Shaughnessy home, and a garage a year after that that cost $4,000 (more than many houses cost to build). In September 1918 things went very sideways for the Bauer family. The Yorkshire and Canadian Trust Company made a claim in the Supreme Court seeking $47,717.50 from William A Bauer, comprising commissions owed to the company by Mr Bauer, and loans made by the company on his behalf. He also had tax arrears in Richmond for three properties in 1918. In January 1919 he moved to Chilco and Nelson from his Shaughnessy home, which he presumably rented to help cover his debts. In early 1919 it was announced that the family were leaving town “Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Bauer and family have left to make their home In Vernon, B. C, on their Coldstream ranch” In May 1920 the Daily World reported that the family were returning from the Okanagan, having purchased a house on Cedar Crescent, and presumably the financial crisis had been overcome as Mr Bauer built a garage there in 1921. That same year the paper reported that “Mrs. W. A. Bauer, Coldstream, Vernon, arrived In the city on Wednesday morning and has taken up residence on Shaughnessy Heights”. They don’t seem to have stayed long: in December it was reported that “Mrs. W. A. Bauer and two sons have left for Vernon, where they will reside. They spent the past six months In Vancouver.” Two months earlier it was reported that “Mr. Dudley Dawson, manager of the Dominion Bank, who just recently arrived In the city, has leased the home of Mrs. W. A. Bauer, Shaughnessy Heights.” There are mentions of visits in 1922, but nothing suggesting the family in residence; instead the Bauers appear to have continued to live in Vernon, growing fruit.

In 1927, when this Vancouver Public Library image was shot, this was still called the Pacific Building and housed dozens of offices, with a Turkish Bath in the basement and the American Consulate on the second floor. By the 1950s the building had been renamed the Pemberton Building, although today it seems to have reverted to it’s original name.


Posted 12 December 2016 by ChangingCity in Downtown, Still Standing

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