We looked at an image of this Courthouse building a couple of years ago, but from Pender Street, looking down the hill of Cambie. Here’s a postcard from around 1908 of the north face of the building, facing West Hastings. This shows N S Hoffar’s 1893 Provincial Courthouse addition – although it was actually twice as big as the original (and more modest) building designed by T C Sorby in 1889 and completed in 1890, which was located closer to Pender Street. From this angle, that building sitting behind the addition, almost hidden by trees but just showing on the left. On the right is a picture of the building in 1890. The maple trees on the Pender Street frontage are among the oldest in the city, planted in 1897.
Once the new courthouse was completed a few years later, on West Georgia, there was some debate about what to do with the old building. Despite its impressive appearance in the postcard, as a May 1909 Daily World letter suggests, not everybody was in love with the building. “With regard to the court house itself, they all knew it was one of the most disgraceful buildings that existed in the province. It was more or less in a foul and filthy condition all the time, but no blame could be attached to the officials. It was simply an incommodious and inconvenient building. Certainly it had been a standing menace to the health of the judges, juries and officials generally.”
Mayor Douglas suggested it might make a good City Hall, but the general view seems to have been that it wasn’t big enough (and presumably letters like the one above also had some influence). Instead it was decided to clear the structure and create an open space, which was named Government Square. During the first World War the site was used as a recruiting office, with a number of tents and temporary buildings. An Evangelical Tabernacle was also created as a temporary structure in 1917. The park was given the name Victory Square in 1922 and two years later the Cenotaph, designed by G L Sharp, was built through public subscription.
Image source (1890 image) City of Vancouver Archives Bu P390