31 West Pender Street

Here’s the Pender Hotel in 1977, although at that time it was called the Wingate Hotel. Today it has a new name, Skwachays Lodge, and it’s effectively a new building. It was first a new building in 1913 when it was called the Palmer Rooms and it was an investment property designed by W T Whiteway for Storey and Campbell. They were owners of a manufacturing company making saddles, harnesses and trunks, with a new warehouse and manufacturing building just up the street on Beatty Street. We looked at the owners of the company when we described the history of that building.

This was a $40,000 investment, which was only a fraction of the budget that the same architect had three years earlier for the World Building, (today known as the Sun Tower), just across the street. Whiteway still managed to add some fancy architectural details in terra cotta with some elaborate pressed metal work on the cornice. Structurally the building wasn’t sophisticated – steel columns supporting millwork floors. In 1946 it was acquired by Lai Hing, who lived in the building and operated his hotel business under the Wingate Hotel name for over 30 years.

More recently it was acquired by B C Housing, one of over 20 SRO buildings that were bought to stabilize the stock of older, cheaper rental space, and to improve the state of the buildings, both structurally and in terms of facilities. After years of neglect (and with some harrowing stories of former activities in the building), the Pender Hotel was the only one found to be beyond repair. Instead a completely new building was constructed in 2012 behind the original (and now seismically stable) façade. Joe Wai, who designed the adjacent native housing building to the east, was the architect.

Today the building is run by the Vancouver Native Housing Society, and provides 24 housing units for artists and 18 hotel rooms, each one designed by first nations artists on a specific theme with names like the Hummingbird, the Moon and the Northern Lights suite. They’re available for first nations medical stay guests as well as tourists. As a social enterprise, the hotel needed at least 50% occupancy, but initially that wasn’t being achieved. The idea of adding the themes made all the difference, and now the hotel is recognized around the world and in high demand. As well as the first nations designed rooms there’s a sweat lodge on the roof, as well as a totem pole called ‘Dreamweaver’, carved by Francis Horne Sr, and a Haida designed screen by Eric Parnell as well as a Fair Trade Gallery at street level.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 1135-19

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Posted August 17, 2017 by ChangingCity in Altered, East End, Victory Square

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